Q: I’m beginning to hate writing. What do I do?
A: Keep writing, of course.
One of my writers got frustrated the other day. We’re past the halfway mark in the Bennett Ink 90-day Writing Challenge and finding something to write about for 15 minutes every day was becoming a slog.
I congratulated her.
Yes, because she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be as she establishes her daily writing practice. As Seth Godin reminds us in his brief but wise book The Dip, everyone who tries to do something different goes through a rough patch. Those who persevere will eventually climb out of it; those who don’t get stuck.
Godin isn’t the first person to articulate that concept of the Dip. Writer John Bunyan wrote about it in his famous Christian allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress. Wikipedia tells us that the book, written in 1678, “has never been out of print”—quite a publishing feat. Bunyan called his version of the Dip “the Slough of Despond.”
So just what is this “miry” place, the Slough (rhymes with “cow”) of Despond?
“…it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.”
I added the emphasis there. Does that feel like anyplace you’ve ever been?
Now, Bunyan was talking about Christians’ doubts about their faith—marketing to his niche audience, if you will. But Godin argues—and (big surprise) I agree—that everyone trying something new travels through that dark, discouraging place. The trick is to keep traveling. That’s what Bunyan’s Pilgrim did. And that’s what we need to do too.
Hate writing? Keep writing
So you enjoy writing enough to want to do it every day. Maybe for your own enjoyment, maybe to meet a business objective. You start out full of enthusiasm and then, little by little, you realize the joy has disappeared. Some people will give up.
Other people may get confused: “Didn’t I use to like doing this?” Their memories of past enjoyment may keep them slogging through a little longer. But when the “fears, doubts, and discouraging apprehensions” stick around, they might just give in and give up.
The trick is to know that the Slough of Despond has fixed borders. Keep plowing through and you will get to the other side. Eventually. I promise.
You just have to keep doing whatever it is that landed you in the Slough to begin with. If that’s going to yoga classes every day, then get out of the damn bed and grab your mat. If it’s writing every day, then—love it or hate it—you write every day.
And celebrate the heck out of it when you do.
Write better when you write more often. Join my 5-day writing challenge: Write for 15 minutes a day and I’ll donate your registration fee to a global literacy nonprofit. More info and registration link here.
Also published on Medium.