Claudia Osmond ~ Reader, Writer, and Ruminator

The Gift of Candor

In writing on November 12, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Question: How hard is it to plow through your manuscript or write an inspiring blog post when you’re feeling depleted?

Answer: Really hard.

That’s why I’m so thankful to have woken up this morning to a pep talk from John Green, via NaNoWriMo. I was hoping there’d be a link to it so I could share the entire thing with you, but I couldn’t find one, if there even is one. And if there’s another way to link to it I don’t know how. But it’s just too good to not share, so I’d like to kind of sum it up a bit and pull out some excerpts that meant the most to me.

At the beginning of the pep talk he tells us he’s got this folder on his hard drive labeled Follies. In it he’s got several titles, all unfinished works. Abandoned about half-way through. Why did he abandon them? He says writing them wasn’t fun anymore. And quite frankly, “the story kind of sucks, and it’s hard to sit down every day and spend several hours eating from a giant bowl of suck.”

Wow. Do I hear you.

He goes on to say this:

“You have likely realized that your novel is not very good, at least not yet, and that finishing it will be a hell of a lot less fun than starting it was.

So quit. Quit now, or if you’re among the many of us who’ve already quit, stay quit. Look, we are all going to die. The whole species will cease to exist at some point, and there will be no one left to remember that any of us ever did anything: Our creations, all of them, will crumble, and the entire experiment of human consciousness will be filed away, unread, in the Follies folder of the great interstellar hard drive. So why write another word?

Sorry. I reached the halfway point of this pep talk and tumbled, as one does, into inconsolable despair.”

This made me laugh. Out loud. What a way to drive the point home.

He later went on to say that within that same Follies folder are some other titles, finished ones: Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns. (And if you know John Green you know these are the books that have made him a New York Times Bestselling author.) Of course he doesn’t point this out to imply that if you finish your novel you’ll magically become a bestselling author. Sheesh. Of course not. But you do get the point, right?

Although the above excerpt is tongue in cheek, John Green very seriously does admit to having these kinds of feelings about midway through everything he does. And for those of us who are struggling through our first, second, third, or whatever number novel, it’s a strange sense of comfort knowing that even some bestselling authors are able to truly commiserate with us. Not in an, “Oh, I remember when I was struggling to write my (whatever number) book. Don’t worry, it’ll get better. One day you just might be a bestselling author like me, if you work hard enough,” kind of way. But more like, “Yeah, writing is hard, isn’t it? I feel like giving up tons of times because I often feel like what I’m writing is total crap.”

Following more words of encouragement and wisdom gained from years of hard experience, John Green ends his pep talk like this:

“Go spit in the face of our inevitable obsolescence and finish your @#$&ng novel.”

Yeah! Patooey! Take that! Oo! Oo! Oo! *fist pump*

I think I’ll print this pep talk, tack it on my wall, and read it about a hundred times today. And then about a hundred times tomorrow. And then about a hundred times whenever I need it after that. ‘Cause in my limited experience of being on this crazy journey as an author, I know I’ll need the reminder (and the laugh) often.

John Green, your candor has made my day. My month, even. Quite possibly my year.


  1. Yeah! After seeing his vlog about NaNo and reading this pep talk, I am a new John Green fan. And I’m with you in appreciating that it isn’t only the writers who are relatively new to novelling who feel this way.

    John Green rocks.

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