I have a work-in-progress and I think it hates me.
Every day I sit down with this project and put in at least an hour. When I sit down with it, I feel it come alive. It is a non-fiction book, so it’s not like it’s alive in the sense of genre or character. It’s alive with the ease (or lack of ease) that comes with the drafting and sculpting of each chapter, the way it seems to fight against me. Some days, it is sterile and compliant; I’m the boss. I put one word in front of the other, much like writing a blog post, and by the end of my hour, I can see the work that was accomplished.
But most days, my work-in-progress is anything but sterile and compliant. It’s the boss. And me? I’m just the miserable minion that has to do its bidding.
Sometimes my WIP is a wild animal. It responds to me with claws and fangs. It hardly comes when I call it. It requires a chair and a whip and possibly raw meat in my pocket. I hold my ground with it, flicking the whip with confidence. I have to remind it that my name is on the contract. (Wait, no that’s not a strong argument. WIP’s name is on it too!)
Sometimes my WIP is a diva. It demands of me to rewrite the sentences that have been rewritten dozens of times. It has high standards that I’m not sure I can meet. It withholds affection from me and turns up its nose at the ideas I bring or the structure I’ve suggested. This IS a book about writing, it sighs to me. How original can you expect to be? And then the dark glasses go on its face and I am dismissed.
Sometimes my WIP is a spoiled teenager. I often sit at my desk wanting to be other places and my WIP (who lives in my computer and never goes out) rolls its eyes at me and whines. “Let’s go swimming!” “I’m so tired of this!” “How much longer do we have to work on this project?” I can beat teenagers at their eye rolling game. I say, “until it’s done. An hour a day in 10 or 20 minute increments.” “Stand up straight”, I tell the WIP. “Let’s get it over with. I’d rather read a book too. And you realize I have a delete button at my fingertips, don’t you?” WIP, in teenage fashion, slams the door behind it.
Sometimes my WIP is an exhausted toddler (which is the same thing as a spoiled teenager, only less articulate.) Tears are usually involved. I can see my WIP holding its fists in anger and screaming. “I DON’T WANNA!” I don’t tolerate this behavior. I didn’t when my five kids were little and I don’t now. I slip into my teacher voice and yank that WIP by the ear and say, “Sit down! Hush! There is no reason to act like that. We are going to get through sixty minutes of drafting and if you give me one more whimper, one more whine, one more tear, I swear to you, I will change the font to comic sans! Do you understand me?” Then the WIP wipes its snotty nose on my sleeve and sits up straight. When my hour is up, I pat it on the head and send it on its way.
Sometimes my WIP is a harpie. This is the worst one of the group. Its only attack is to mock me. Years ago, I would have responded by running away, by quitting, by believing all the lies that it was telling me about how this is a waste of time. It’s not going to sell anyway. How is this book different from what others are saying? They only asked you because they knew you’d work cheaply. After you finish this, you’re done, you don’t have any more projects in you. But I’ve changed. When I see my WIP cross its arms and hold its nose in the air, I stand a little taller. I’ve learned that most bullies back down because they’re cowards at heart. I slip into my best Dirty Harry voice: Get. Over. Here. And then I may or may not slap it upside the head, (depending on how graphic you want this story to be and how believable it is that I actually take a whack at my computer. Hmm. Not very.)
Despite my complaints, I’m blessed and grateful that I have this gig. I’m learning a great deal, growing in discipline and already meeting people who might benefit from this book. But this is hard work. Every day is a battle of will and discipline, and not just mine.
Someday this book will be done and sitting on the shelf beside me. It will be powerless to mock me, torment me or roll its eyes. Instead, it will bring in royalty checks and open doors.
And then the scars, tears, discipline, hard work and ridiculous metaphors will all be worth it.