To Write or Not To Write?



So, here I am again—at the BUT.

Excited that my manuscript is in the final, final stages, I dread the line-by-line grammatical correction that stands between me and completion. (My critique buddies know what that means for me). It is a grueling chore. BUT, the anticipation of sharing my work with carefully selected agents and editors has me plugging away at the task.

BUT, there is that little twitch in the deepest recesses of my mind. Where do I go from here? Is this it? Am I done? I have invested so much. BUT, nothing is published. Should I bother to start another project? It’s a huge commitment. BUT, I’ve invested so much, learned so much, made so many woimages-1.jpegnderful contacts and friends. BUT, what for? Because, I love it? Is that enough? I don’t love correcting grammar. I do love creating the story, giving the character’s voice a platform, journeying with them, and helping them find their way. BUT, it would be so easy not to get caught up in another story. BUT, would it really? No, BUT . . . I could work more, clean the house more, visit elderly relatives more, read published works more. BUT, . . . yup, back at that BUT, again.


Have you been here? I’m guessing we all have at one time or another. What has pushed you past the BUT?

Two years ago I finished the umteenth version of my middle grade historical fiction, Powder Monkey, just in time for quick queries at the NESCBWI conference. I’d had ideas for River Runner bouncing around for months and months, BUT, did I want to commit to the next project? Well, as anyone who has ever attended will attest, the conference is a great motivator. As a matter of fact, if you’re going this year (and why wouldn’t you be going?), do yourself a favor and block out some calendar time the week after (May 2-7) for follow-up activities. There will be things to read, exercises to try, edits to your work that just can’t wait.

So, don’t let the BUT stop you. Remember what a great man, (my Dad), used to say . . . ‘50% of every task is simply to start.’

Right now, I don’t love the job at hand. BUT, when I finish, I need to start.  I’ll outline my new ideas and just let the words flow and hey look at that, the project will be 50% done—because I started—TO WRITE!


What motivates you when the dreaded BUT comes along? Do you take a break when you complete a project or just dive into the next? Or, do you juggle multiple manuscripts at one time? Feel free to share your secrets for keeping at it, or simply getting started. We all need a little motivational tug at some time or another.



  1. I have one main project (and it’s currently in the loving care of a ”coworker”. I wonder how it’s fairing). But when I’m away from it (away from the physical paper, I’m editing it on or like now, when I don’t know what will survive the scrutiny), I have many, many stories I’m working on. One of them is already 40 pages in (and some are nothing but a title and a lot of thoughts) and I’ll soon have enough poems to send them to be scrutinised as well.

    So I suppose, this is my answer:
    I’m never done writing, I never stop at the end, because there is no end or beginning, there is only the next unfinished, already begun project. And personally, I love that. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life, no doubt whatsoever.

    BUT the prospect of publishing leaves me with this doubt: will anyone actually like my writing? So there I do pause, go do other things, while I try to convince myself, that the only way to find out, is to send to someone.

    And I fear the reactions, once, by the grace of whichever God is real and a brave publisher, my stories get out in to the world and I can no longer craddle it in my arms and tell myself, that I’m fit for this job, this enormous task I’ve set myself on.

    But I know, that there is only one, terrifying way to find out – so I keep writing and keep sending my writings to people, never stopping.

    Keep going, never stop.

    I won’t call this advice, because it might not work for anyone but me, but that’s my method.


  2. I juggle multiple manuscripts at once, Marti. Then when motivation strikes, I can work at whatever is calling me. Thanks for your inspiration. And start that next project as soon as you can. That’s what will keep you going!


  3. Hi Marti. Your dad’s advice is the best – just start. And the quote about whether to walk away or try harder is pivotal. There was a sign on the wall at the Museum School to the same effect. A blank canvas poses the same problem to an artist that a blank page or screen does to a writer. To succeed in this children’s book business requires two things: the willingness to work and a deep belief in our creative instincts. If you have those, you can’t help but keep going. The ideas are there and demand to be written. The trick is getting the world to listen to what we have to say.
    But what is lost by continuing? Nothing, because the more we write or draw, the better we get. thanks for a good post and for your commitment to those good stories of yours!


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