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Don’t Be Afraid of Hard

by Anne Mateer

It’s inevitable, I think. At least I hope so. Otherwise it’s just me. But I choose to believe that every writer hits that book that spins them round and round and upside down. Maybe it’s an emotional theme that requires you to reach into depths of yourself you had no desire to explore. Maybe it’s characters that hold their secrets close, don’t reveal themselves to you right away. Perhaps it is experimentation with a new POV style or a tangle of subplots or a bit of research that eludes you.

This past year, I’ve been wrestling with such a book. And every time I think This time I’ve got it right, I find there is more work to be done. I’m not gonna lie. It’s been hard. Maybe one of the five hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. But here’s the kicker: I’ve lived to tell about.

After seven months of grueling intensity with the story, word arrived that another round of revisions was needed to make it sing, I wanted to cry. I did cry. I threw myself an enormous pity party! But in the midst of feeling sorry for myself, I remembered my son. He’d just finished his junior year of high school, endured a long season of basketball, mounds of school work, a grueling schedule with his job at a local grocery store, weekly piano lesson and playing keyboard with the youth praise band at church and school. Toward the end of basketball season, he rolled his ankle, played hurt. They made the playoffs, and while he knew they didn’t have a huge chance of winning, he determined to give it his all. Exhausted, he continued on into baseball, churning through days and weeks of practices and games. Until finally, finally, it came to a close and he could rest.

Writing the hard book required that same type of focus my son had through those tiring months, the type that ignores the pain and keeps going. That shakes off earlier failure with a determination to do it better. That studies the craft-again-with a heart humble to learn. The type of focus that puts commitment before personal pleasure and realizes that every act is an act of worship and therefore worthy of my best, no matter how difficult the task or how exhausted I am.

Have you hit your hard book yet? The one where your critique partner or your editor keeps sending it back because it just isn’t right?


Anne Mateer has a passion for history and historical fiction. After writing seriously for ten years, she received her first book contract. Anne and her husband, Jeff, live in Dallas and are the proud parents of three young adults. To find out more about Anne and her books: www.annemateer.com

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3 Responses to Don’t Be Afraid of Hard

  1. Elaine Stock says:

    Anne, thanks for the encouragement. I’m currently working on my “hard” book, hard because of the research that has to go into it and then backing that up by stretching my imagination. Your perspective has added the gentle reminder that: hey, this is what the writing life is about and that I WANT the writing life. And, that God is helping me, something I need to focus on more. Just thinking about that recharges my battery.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Becky Wade says:

    Wonderful post, Anne. Thank you.

  3. Cathy Gohlke says:

    This is a wonderful post, Anne! I’ve hit my hard book–am pushing through the middle as we speak, and would so appreciate your prayers. You’ve surely captured the challenge, and given the prescription. There are no shortcuts, but the journey is blessed even when it’s painful.

    God bless you!