The Instant Gratification of Writing

I know what you’re thinking. There is no instant gratification in writing.

First you have to get the idea. Then you have to write your story. Then you have to revise your story. Then you have to revise it again. And probably again. Then you have to shine it up real nice. Then you have to sell it. You shop it to the pubs or agents and rack up the rejections. If you land an agent, then you probably have to do more edits before they shop it around for you. Then you finally land it somewhere. Then you have to edit it again because whoever buys your story likes it, but it just needs a little (or a lot of) tweaking. Then it finally gets published and you have a finished story in your hands that someone actually paid you for.

There is nothing instant about this process. It takes months, sometimes years from start to finish. It is an arduous journey that can be frustrating as well as exhilarating. And it takes forever.

One thing that’s always been a challenge for me is getting an idea that I know is dynamite and then making peace with the fact that it’s not going to be done NOW. I’ve got this neato idea in my head and I know how it’s going to look on paper and I just need it to go straight from my brain to the page without the time consuming middleman of actually typing and agonizing over word choice. I need to project the images in my head onto my docx.

And that is not how any of this works.

I know there is a distinct chance that I will cool on this idea before I even find time to get the first sentence written. I know that it might turn into a slog. I know that it could take days or weeks or months to get the first draft written. I know that, for me, I have to have a cool down period between a first draft and the revisions. Depending on how I feel about the first draft when I revisit it, the revisions can take a couple of days for a short story or a couple of years for a novel. It just depends.

And even after all of that there’s no guarantee that it’ll ever see the light of day. I may not be able to sell it. Or I may self-published it and it will never sell on its own. All of that time and effort…for nothing.

I know all of this and yet, I also know there is a sort of instant gratification when it comes to writing.

Let me tell you, that first dynamite idea is a rush. When the bits and pieces of character and plot and setting all comes rushing together and you can see certain scenes and you can hear bits of dialogue…holy hell is that a high. Things just click and you jot it all down and you’re excited at the prospect of living in this universe for a while. That is an instant gratification of writing.

When you’re working on a first draft and everything is just zinging and you get in the zone and time just zips by and you surface an hour or two hours or even fifteen minutes later feeling like you’ve just come up from a deep water swim because you were so immersed in your story, that is an instant gratification of writing.

When you’re in the slog of revising and you untangle some plot knot and everything falls into place, that is an instant gratification of writing.

When you’re reading over the story and you hit on a description or a turn of phrase or a bit of dialogue that just thrills you and you can’t believe you actually wrote something so good, that is an instant gratification of writing.

Okay, maybe it’s not really instant gratification in the classic sense, but it is something that happens in an instant, a bell ring of a successful note.

Those instant gratification moments are scattered throughout the long, maddening, entertaining journey. Those moments of immediate satisfaction that tickle those dopamine receptors and make you go, “Ah, yes, this is worth it” are the dots you connect that keep you going from one point to the next until the drawing is complete.

It’s what makes you do it all over again.

The instant gratification of writing.

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