Today's guest post comes to us from YA author Kayla Olson, whose debut novel THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE is slated for publication in summer of 2017 from HarperTeen.
Endurance: Tunneling Through Mountains with Plastic Spoons
Four years ago, when I was writing the first pages of the first draft of the novel that would go on to land my agents, I was a sleep-deprived new mother who wasn’t sure if she’d ever find the time to write again. My little guy was one year old at the time, and while I was sure he was the most adorable thing to ever grace the planet, he also hated to sleep. I couldn’t focus for the life of me.
He’d nap for twenty-seven minutes at a time (yes, twenty-seven minutes, exactly and consistently), so for months, I’d have to work in these tiny little bursts. On days where I fell down a ten-minute Twitter hole, well, there went my productivity time.
It was one of the most challenging times I’ve endured as a writer. It also, in the long run, was one of the best.
It takes effort and discipline and determination to come back to your desk, over and over, to sit down and create when all you really want is a nap. It takes strength to go deep into a story when you’d rather surf social media, to do this every time, every day, for as long as it takes to finish.
It takes endurance.
And not just with the time itself—with the work, too. There are days when the work is daunting, when you feel like twenty-seven minute bursts will take you nowhere. There are days when it feels like you’ve been asked to dig a tunnel straight through Mt. Everest and the only tool you’ve been given to do it is a plastic spoon. So you spoon the dirt, tiny bit by tiny bit. Sometimes it feels like you’re just putting the dirt behind you, trapping yourself in.
Your effort will add up. Your endurance matters.
Four years ago, when I was writing the first pages of the first draft of the novel that would go on to land my agents, a friend sent me a motivational pep talk John Green had written for NaNoWriMo one year. In it, he references Robert Frost, and adds his own take to one of his poems: “There is nothing magical about how you get from the middle of a book to the end of one. As Robert Frost put it, ‘The only way out is through.’”
I immediately wrote that quote on an index card and put it front and center on my desk so it would stare at me, day after day as I drafted that book. Everyone has mountains, I realized. Mine felt daunting, but so what? No one has an easy time tunneling through mountains with plastic spoons. But I pushed through, spoonful by spoonful, until I saw the light on the other side.
And after I’d rested for a little while, I started all over again on the next mountain. I’d done it once before, so I knew it wasn’t impossible.
The mountain range never becomes any less daunting. But over time, after enduring for a little while, after seeing the light at the end and building your muscle and feeling the reward that comes with pushing through, the digging gets a little more manageable.
Press on, writer friends. Press on until you finish.
(And pack extra spoons. Plastic ones sometimes break.)
About the Author:
Kayla Olson lives in Texas, and can usually be found in near proximity to black coffee, the darkest chocolate, Scrivener, and an army of Sharpie highlighters. Her novel, The Sandcastle Empire, will be out Summer 2017 from HarperTeen, and has been optioned for film by Paramount, with Appian Way/Leonardo DiCaprio to produce. Find Kayla on Twitter @olsonkayla, on Facebook @authorkaylaolson, or at her desk with a French press of coffee.
The Sandcastle Empire on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28895610-the-sandcastle-empire