Chapter five has been the hardest one yet. I’ve spent nearly two weeks on one single page of text, and I feel like maybe I’m about half-way done with it. Every night I sit down and get maybe two or three sentences written. Or re-written. Or re-re-re-written, and then deleted entirely and replaced with something even worse. Excruciating, actually; and it gets harder each time I sit down to stare at it.
It’s a pivotal scene — one that I’ve been looking forward to writing for months. It is the introduction of one my favorite characters (and Natalie’s), and we really want him to have a grand and unforgettable entry. But I had no idea it was going to be so challenging. I want the scene to be mysterious at first, and then captivating, and then just super fun — the type of scene that kids might like to read over and over again. But it also has to be realistic and believable. And easy to understand without being too wordy. And funny.
Whoo boy, what a challenge.
And, with all this difficulty, I find myself asking once again: is it worth it? Is this really how I want to spend the next year of my life? torturing myself with word-smithing and story-wrangling and keyboard-crunching? Why am I doing this to myself? Is this a profitable use of my time?
And yet, I am addicted. I can’t not write it. To leave this story in my head and not on paper would be even more torturous than what I am experiencing now. And so I push through. There a have been so many endeavors in my life that I have started but never completed — so many unfinished journeys. I’m bound and determined not to let this be one of them.
I am somewhat heartened to note that even Tolkien struggled mightily with writer’s block. It took him seven years to write The Hobbit, and at least 12 more to write LOTR. (Kinda makes my five month struggle look a little puny by comparison, doesn’t it?) And there were many times along the way that the outcome of Tolkien’s trilogy was doubtful. He wrote about one such episode in the Foreword to Book I:
“In spite of the darkness of the next five years [World War II] I found that the story could not now be wholly abandoned, and I plodded on, mostly by night, till I stood by Balin’s tomb in Moria. There I halted for a long while. It was almost a year later when I went on and so came to Lothlorien and the Great River late in 1941.”
And so I, too, will plod on, like the ring-bearer on his quest. Though it takes me to Mordor, I will plod on.
“And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.”