In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,
There was no miraculous breakthrough that afternoon, unless it was the ordinary miracle that comes with any attempt to create something.
Creating any piece of writing out of nothing is a genuine miracle, I really believe that.
Okay, maybe not writing a sentence on a piece of paper, that’s not a miracle. But creating a story from scratch with three-dimensional characters, a compelling story, high stakes, genuine tension. A story that never existed before, that was only a blank page before, and is now a small part of the world, something that came out of your vision and imagination.
I’ve written so many stories throughout my lifetime I often forget how much of a miracle it is to create something out of nothing. To have something that only exists inside your head for the longest time, then put on the page in a way that allows others to discover that world and those people.
On June 2, 2019, a story about a girl who’s allergic to water and her friendship with a boy suffering from a tragic loss was just in my head. Nobody knew of it. Nobody but me had that small world figured out, and the series of events from chapter one to chapter twenty.
Now, just a little over a month later, that story has been created. Those characters are now alive in a way. No matter what happens next, that world has been created for all of you to discover, and there’s something truly extraordinary about that. Whether only a few people end up reading it in the years to come or millions.
It exists now. It exists when it didn’t exist before. How cool is that?
But there is one great thing about these miracles: you get to keep refining them as long as you need to.
If all we were allowed to create was first drafts of everything, I wouldn’t really call these novels miracles, I would call them tragedies. Boy, oh, boy, are first drafts messy. You put so much of your heart and soul into these things, and when you finish, you’re so proud of the actual creation that you think what you’ve done is great, especially when you got everything on the page you wanted to in the best way you knew how.
You come back six weeks later or two months later or whatever it is and start reading through your first chapter hoping for the project to wow you, but, at least for me, it never does. You see the problems with it right away, and as you go through your second draft, you wait and hope for at least one chapter, at least one scene, that’s working really, really well. And those are few and far between, sad to say.
But then you complete the second draft, and the third, and the fourth, and you get some people to look at it and give you feedback, and after a great deal of time, that manuscript turns into something incredible. It turns into something that’s exactly or at least close to the initial vision you had of it in your head long before you ever wrote a word down.
And that is just another reason why every new story or novel is a mini-miracle.
Unless you’re one of the really, really lucky ones, you’re going to hit hardships in your writing life. You’ll struggle to sign with a literary agent. Your first book might not find a home with any publishers. Some of your books will sit in the drawer forever, and aside from self-publishing, there won’t be anything else you can do about that.
But remember this, always: creating anything as a writer is a genuine miracle. Many, many, many people out there have thought about writing a novel, for example, and never have. Many others have started writing something but never finished it.
My great-grandfather wrote a novel in his seventies, and although he never found a publisher for it, he wrote an entire 82,000 word novel. He’s the only person in my extended family to ever do so, and I always feel so proud of him for that. He had a story to tell, and he did it. He actually did it. How freaking cool is that?
No matter how much struggle you face in your writing life, get up every day and keep focused on completing your latest miracle. You’ll be glad you did!