“I’m sick of working on my novel,” I complained to my writing coach recently. “I feel like it’s a thousand-pound weight on my shoulders.”
With the Zen-like patience befitting her status as a literary guru, she responded, “I don’t think you need to assign it such a beastly quality.”
“But it is a beast,” I whined. “It’s the beast that’s ruining both of our lives.”
“It’s certainly not ruining my life,” she said. “But if you feel like it’s ruining yours, I think you should write a blog post about it.”
“Fine,” I said. “And I’m going to call the post ‘I Hate My Book.'”
“Go for it,” she said.
So here I am, trying to turn petulance into petunias.
To be fair, I don’t really hate my book. It’s more like a frenemy, one of those maddening companions who have the power to both inspire you and torment you, make you feel proud and cut you down to size, keep you up till all hours in an intoxicatingly deep conversation or force you to hide under your bed because you can’t bear to hang out.
This kind of ambivalent relationship is always confusing but usually seems to shake out one way or the other: either you drop the frenemy because she’s causing you more suffering than happiness or you figure out how to focus on her positive attributes and steer clear of the negative ones. In either case, such a resolution rarely happens on its own but rather requires a conscious choice. And despite my grousing, I’ve already made that choice about my book—the choice to finish it, no matter how achingly slow the process is, no matter how clumsy I sometimes feel when I’m trying to put together a chapter, and no matter how often I wonder whether anyone will even want to read my story once it’s written.
When I was learning to surf, one of the best pieces of advice I got was “The only way to become a better paddler is to paddle.” Well, the only way to become a better writer is to write, and as much as I’m grateful to my coach for being patient with me when I want to vent, I know that complaining and self-doubt will only hinder my progress in the long run. And having completed forty-two of fifty-four chapters, I can safely say there’s no turning back now.
Every time I sit down to write—even if I manage to eke out only a single paragraph—I’m honoring my choice to reach the finish line of this marathon. And when I do, will I raise my fists in anger and scream out, “I hate my book”? Obviously not. I’ll immediately start feeling empty as I wonder what the heck I’m going to do with all my newfound free time.
And that’s what frenemies are for.