Let’s face it, writing can be a roller-coaster ride. One day you’re up, another you’re down. One day things are going well, the next you’re plunged in a writing rut so deep you think you’ll never get out. Sound familiar? Well, if you’re feeling a bit undone about all these highs and lows, then take heart: It’s all part of the creative territory we’re traversing. And even the most accomplished writers go through exactly the same thing.
Consider Thornton Wilder, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey — one of my all-time favorites. Recently, I came across a very revealing sequence of comments about The Bridge in The Selected Letters of Thornton Wilder. Take a look:
Here’s a moment when things are going well:
“The important thing is that The Bridge is getting along fast and is just filling up with beautiful passages…”
Then he hits a slump, followed by a breakthrough:
“…just when I thought I was frozen over and the Bridge would never be finished, for lack of notions, suddenly I went to a performance of the Ninth Symphony…and was all broke up. I came home and wrote the pages you will someday know as the death of Manuel…and I’ve been writing ever since.”
Then he finishes his novel, but feels it won’t succeed:
“The Bridge is far better than the other, but it is so sad, not to say: harrowing, that I doubt whether it finds as many readers as the other. There is a faint chance that its very earnestness may strike right into the need of a large number…”
What’s our takeaway from all Thorny’s trials and tribulations? I think there are three: 1) every author experiences writing highs and lows — let’s all relax about this; 2) a major slump can be followed by a huge surge of creativity; and 3) even someone who’s written a masterpiece can have serious doubts about its appeal and enduring value. So let’s all take heart — and write on!