It Gets Fun Again, I Promise

Lilly Dancyger

In our Craft Capsules series, authors reveal the personal and particular ways they approach the art of writing. This is no. 200.

A student of mine recently reached out for advice: He’d lost momentum on his long-term writing project and was struggling to make progress; the spark of inspiration was gone. He was considering setting the project aside to pursue a new idea that was flowing much more freely on the page.

“Yes,” I said, then paused. I wanted to be gentle, encouraging. But I also wanted to express that this is exactly what it means to write a book: to keep pushing forward, despite every temptation to quit. I had to break it to him that I didn’t have any magic solutions to make this next stage of the process easier, only affirmation that seeing a big project through to the end is really hard.  

The beginning stages of a writing project can be thrilling: New ideas jolt you awake just as you start to drift off at night. You scribble or type so quickly that you transpose letters and trip over words in your excitement and hurry to keep up with the flow of inspiration. You feel like this might be the best thing you’ve ever written—the thing you were always meant to write.

But then the momentum stalls. Maybe you reach a thorny section you’re not sure how to approach, or maybe your endurance begins to flag. The flow of ideas slows to a trickle, and you wonder how you’ll ever finish this thing. It’s no longer the perfect book that existed in your mind at the beginning; now it’s messy, full of holes and problems you’ll have to fix at some point—and this task is too exhausting to even think about.

It’s easy to get discouraged at this point. But here’s the secret: This is the most important moment in the life of a writing project. How you choose to proceed at this crossroads is what separates everyone who has ever had an idea for a book from the few people who actually write a book.

If you do decide to push ahead, this next stage will feel very different. You’ll no longer be chasing inspiration, riding a creative high. Now you’ll sit down to write even when you’d rather clean the apartment, catch up on e-mail, or—most of all—start working on a new project. Now you’ll stare down the blinking cursor until you can force just a few more words onto the page. This is where the writing becomes work.

I told my student that, of course, he could switch gears and work on the new idea instead if he wanted to. That was his choice. But, I asked, what would he do when he reached this same crossroads again in a few months or years? Like so many challenges, the only way past this sticking point in a book is to push through to the other side.

After we got off the phone, I realized something important I had forgotten to say. So I sent him an e-mail with a promise, a little offering: “It gets fun again,” I wrote. This is the hardest part, this arid stretch after the initial burst of inspiration dries up on the way to finishing a full draft. But remember: Once you complete that draft you will get to experiment and revise and try out all those cool ideas that excited you so much in the first place, the ones that may have fallen by the wayside while you were struggling to get to the first finish line. You will be able to see the work clearly for the first time, because it will be real: words on the page, not just in your mind. And then you get to play, to shape those words into what you want them to be.

It gets fun again, I promise. You just have to get through this hard part first.   


Lilly Dancyger is the author of First Love: Essays on Friendship (Dial Press, 2024) and Negative Space (Santa Fe Writers Project, 2021). She lives in New York City, and is a 2023 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in nonfiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Find her on Instagram at @lillydancyger and on Substack at the Word Cave.

Art: Alexandre Lecocq

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