If you’re tired of hearing about my Italian adventure, you’re not alone. I’m tired of writing about it. At first, it was so difficult, it was funny. Now, it’s not so difficult and not so funny. Now, it feels like the long haul. Day after day of figuring stuff out, making mistakes, taking baby steps forward while sometimes losing ground.
A lot like writing a novel.
My biggest challenge right now is learning Italian. La lingua italiana has me thrown to the ground and is kicking me in the stomach. I have committed to myself to spend three hours a day on learning this language. Holy clocks, Batman, that’s a lot of time.
Certain wise friends mention gently that it’s really hard to learn a language when you’re older than—say—five. Or at least older than—say—twenty-five. But, I’m not listening to them. Why?
Because I’ve written a novel. A whole 100,000+-word novel all the way to the end. No, it’s not published, and yes, it probably needs some more polishing, but it is written to the end.
And that, gentle readers, changes you forever.
I am serious. If you’ve written a complete novel, then you have super powers. You are unafraid of the challenges that other people don’t even consider trying because they’ve heard that it can’t be done or it takes too much time or whatever. You scoff because you know the secret. A huge project, whether learning a language or writing a novel, happens day after day after day. And if you take a bite every day, you can eat a dinosaur. With sides and dessert.
My second novel went faster because I knew more about what I was doing. It got closer to finding a publisher. This Boccaccio novel is on track to be finished by spring. This could be the one. Or not.
But if I never get published, I am so much better for having written these books. They have taught me the power of process. They have taught me that success comes from a plan, a routine, and dogged perseverance.
Every day, I read Italian for an hour out loud, I spend an hour reviewing my text book, thirty minutes working with my tiny flash card app, thirty minutes working with a deck of 150 Italian verbs printed on 3 x 5 cards. I do this every day.
Yeah, I’d rather go to Florence and buy a purse. Or see wax models of plague victims—darn, that’s fun. But here I sit, conjugating verbs. Why? Because I had good reasons to learn Italian:
- my research will benefit;
- I’ll gain the ability to see better into another culture;
- my brain will benefit from the exercise;
- I won’t accidentally buy a can of octopus.
All seriously good reasons. And those reasons didn’t go away because the going got tough. Don’t ever forget your “why,” someone told me. If you keep your “why” in front of you, you’ll find your “how.”
So just keep plodding forward and finish your book or something equally huge. And for you, what is that huge thing? Name it! What have you wanted to do/learn that you thought was too big? Or maybe there is a big thing that you can name that would benefit your writing.
Once you finish one giant thing like a novel—once you see the (super)power of the process—nothing can stop you.
Piano, piano si va lontano.
Slowly, slowly, one goes far.