Posted by: jeannineatkins | June 23, 2010

Faith and Writing Through the Rough Parts

Recently my husband was shocked when I used the adjective brutal to describe my writing day. Hey, a huge amount of cutting has been involved. And this was doing away with pretty good words. Just not, unfortunately, words I can use in my revision. Deleting good words isn’t fun.

So I wrote a whining blog, thinking, you know, whining is part of the process. But that got cut, too, you’ll be glad to hear. I’m sequestering myself for part of each day, though the dogs seem immune to the dark cloud I feel emanating from my skin. I’m doing my share of muttering, but trying to keep going when I don’t see whole lot of light at the end of this draft.

But I believe it is there.

Right now I’m kicking around the rubble, then scattering it in new ways, along with a lot of dust. There are few signs of great words, but thankfully I’ve heard some encouraging words about past work that I’m leaning on. Thank you for those, friends, and I’ve cut and pasted a few sweet phrases at the ends of my messy chapters, borrowing your faith. Memory also helps. I know I’ve made my way through wreckage before and come out to some pretty great daylight. I also greet patience, who feels hard to love at the moment, but I try. Things have always moved slowly in my writing world. Hope is flickering when I’d rather it be steady, but I’m trying to get used to that.

Nothing beautiful, at least that I’ve ever made, begins as being beautiful. Quite the opposite. And really I’m the only one who can see the signs of how that might happen. Which is kind of lonely.
I’m moving on amid my grumbling telling myself: this will be all right. With the frank caveat – unless it’s not. In which case – hello, determination – I’ll forge forward another way.

One day, I believe, a bunch of words will start to look a little like a poem. Then more and more the work will start to sort of whisper: keep going.



  1. “So I wrote a whining blog, thinking, you know, whining is part of the process. But that got cut, too, you’ll probably be glad to hear. “

    Hmm… I don’t know… given that it’s something you do so rarely, it might have been very illuminating. Perhaps you should reconsider… — PL

  2. I know your writing partners see the signs of that beauty, too. As do all of us who have read your other books. And, believe me, knowing you’ve done it and will do it again, is part of what makes me keep pushing through the mess I’m in as well! Thanks for posting. 🙂

  3. Becky, your encouragement always means a lot to me. I guess this is part of why we blog and read blogs: if you can do it, I can do it. Which I believe is true. Good luck to us both in pushing through! We can! We will!

  4. Really?!… hmmm

  5. Sometimes it’s hard for those who aren’t intimately acquainted with the writing process, to understand why it takes so long, and why you have to write it over and over and over. It’s so wonderful when they support you even though they don’t really understand it.

    I just looked at your website. Very nice. I particularly enjoyed reading your FAQ’s.

  6. Cana, you are so right that we are lucky to be supported by those who aren’t doing the same kind of slogging — and lucky to be supported by those who are! It can be nice sometimes to run into someone I haven’t seen in a year, or um two or three, and when they ask what’s up, have the name of a new project. Instead of saying, “well, what I told you last time we met.”

    Hope your summer is a creative one! Now, go slog!

  7. I needed to read this today! Thank you, Jeannine!

  8. To borrow a phrase from England, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

    Do you know the origins of that, btw? They were posters made by England that never got hung up. They were made to be posted in the event that England was occupied by the Germans, so they never had to use them. Talk about slogging through ruin . . .

  9. Good luck, Vivian! It seems like a lot of people are having a rough time right about now. I think especially for you with school ending makes for a ragged transition into the summer schedule. But I hope you can get even those fifteen minutes a day to keep things moving slowly forward, and keeping yourself from nagging at yourself if they’re far from perfect. I know: easier said than done, but I’m sending you that wish.

    I have faith in you: paste that into your manuscript!

  10. Got to love those Brits. Maybe I should google those posters. Though you’re right. It’s not like armies are invading around here….

  11. I really needed this today, so thank you. xoxo

    At the end of yesterday, I felt so defeated by the pages I’ve been writing and revising ad nauseum for three solid weeks now (but who’s counting?). But here I am again today. I showed up, and that feels like a huge accomplishment all on its own. Here’s hoping that today–at long last–I’ll find my way into the heart of the chapter.

  12. Oh, how I love this post, Jeannine. I’m just finishing a draft of a book that I love but that at this particular moment in time is nothing at all like the book I am imagining. It is a long way from beautiful, and I love this reminder that all of this is part of the process.

  13. What Peter said.

  14. Showing up is really the best we can do. Everything else takes its own time, for purposes we may never understand. I’m so proud of your patience and determination through the crazy process. And hoping today — or tomorrow — please? — show you some rewards for that.

  15. It’s kind of interesting, if it weren’t so devastating when we’re in the middle of it, how something that looks really pretty perfect can one day seem like just a step. Good luck with this phase, Kate!

  16. Okay, I’m hearing it from the people I trust. Next week, Whining Wednesday could become an official day of the week.

  17. Hang in there! I know there’s light at the other end . . .

  18. Good luck.
    And thanks for the post. The rubble stage is hard. (I’m in some tough revisions right now.)
    Have fun with the process.

  19. I can’t remember right now who said it, but do you know the the quote about sculpting? The artist said he could look at the stone and see the image, then he just took away everything else. I think this part of the writing stage is much like that. Fortunately, what we carve away can be replaced if we shove the knife in too deeply. Keep carving, you’ll find the perfect image in there.

  20. Re: Brutal

    I feel for you. But one poem — yay! And it’s not even the end of June yet. I hope your July and August are full of blooms.

    But if you ever want to whine, I’m here!

  21. Thanks, Tami. I know there’s light, too, but it’s nice to be reminded…

    Glad you’re off to having a good summer: your flowers are gorgeous!

  22. Ah, the rubble stage, yes. Some parts of the process are more fun than others, but this one is getting easier every day, if only in increments. They count! Hope your revisions are breakthroughs!

  23. Thank you for the wise words. I’ve always liked that carving stone image, and have heard it attributed to Michelangelo, but there’s a few hundred years and my porous brain in between so…

    I do believe there’s someone in the stone, so back to kicking aside the rubble, and appreciating your support!

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