I am a quitter. There, I said it. I tried to teach myself how to play the guitar, and I quit. I did the same with the piano, and I quit. For twenty years, I set out to write a book, my lifelong dream, and I quit every single time. It was so much easier to go find a distraction than to push through the callous-building phase and get good at something. Abandoning my dreams was far simpler than realizing them.
The reason I was so good at quitting was because I never knew what the reward for success felt like. I had never finished a novel, so how could I convince myself that the goal was worth the work required? I couldn’t. No one can know. So let me attempt for a moment to convince you. Because I don’t want you to quit writing until you’ve reached the end of your story.
Forget about what comes after: the revisions and the edits and the challenge of finding readers. Right now, at this very moment, a unique story exists in your head – a book lives and breathes only in your imagination – and whether or not it survives is completely up to you. If you push through that next scene, meet your word count goals, and make sacrifices, a new work will exist for all of time. And it won’t matter if anyone reads it. All that matters is that you accomplished your goal.
When I finished my first novel, I experienced a high like no other. It was like reaching the top of a mountain and finding oneself exhausted, exhilarated, and with the satisfaction of knowing that there wasn’t another step to take. I had done it. As an avid reader, I had always wanted to write a novel, and now I had. I went to dinner that night with my wife, my mother, and my sister. We celebrated. My novel sat on the dinner table in a thumb drive, and nothing else mattered. I had written a book.
Every story I complete fills me with the same sense of satisfaction. As a lifelong quitter, I am now addicted to the feeling of completing my goals. And my goals remain simple: Write every day. Write because I love it. Make my works available to whoever might care to read them.
Many of you have completed previous NaNos and know what I’m talking about. Maybe you feel the same urge I do to tell complete strangers that I just finished a novel. I want to shout it to the heavens when I wrap up a story. It’s that euphoria that we chase as we start our next work. But for any of you who have given up or haven’t had this buzz – take it from someone who regrets the years I wasted. It is completely worth the sacrifice and the heartache that writing a novel requires. It’s one of the most satisfying feelings you’ll ever enjoy. To believe me, you’ll need to feel it for yourself. So what are you waiting for? Stop what you’re doing and go write. And keep writing until you get to the end.
Hugh Howey is the New York Times bestselling author of WOOL and SHIFT. He worked for a decade as a yacht captain before falling in love with a girl and following her into the mountains of North Carolina. There, he pursued a lifelong dream of writing a novel. He’s been writing ever since.
Find him at www.hughhowey.com.
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