The Definition of Insanity

This is one of my favorite quotes (attributed to Albert Einstein, but for all I know, it was originally said by some ancient Greek philosopher):

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

Sometimes I feel that I am insane when it comes to writing. If something isn’t working, I rewrite the draft. Then I usually find that something else isn’t working, and I rewrite again. So I go through cycles of rewriting over and over, which leads me to believe that I am not making any progress. My fellow blogger Emily describes this feeling very well in her post here. You eventually hit a wall, then lie down exhausted because you keep hitting the same wall. I go through a phase basically every other week in which I feel as though I should give up writing completely and find a new hobby.

Then I have to think back to where the stories were before I rewrote them and rewrote them and rewrote them, and I try to turn my thoughts around. I remember that with each rewrite, the stories are getting better and closer to how I envisioned them. The first draft of STEPHEN that I wrote back in 2006/2007 is not at all the same story that I’m working on today. I know my characters, and I know where I’m going with the story with much more certainty. XIII is millions of times better than the stacks of handwritten notes that it used to be back in 2004 and thousands of times better than the dreadful chapters I used to post to FictionPress back in 2008/2009.

I also try to remember that writing is like every other element of life (relationships, work, etc.) in that there are naturally good and bad times. It’s not realistic to expect it to go well all the time. So it might not feel like I’m getting anywhere, especially when I imagine the whole scenario from the eyes of an outsider who might be wondering, “She’s still not published yet? She’s still wasting her time on that same story?”

Maybe being a writer is all about being insane. Makes sense, ’cause people have been calling me crazy since I was in elementary school, but of all the types of crazy there are in the world, I prefer my version. 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Definition of Insanity

  1. Well, if you’re doing the same thing over and over, and the writing keeps getting better (even if it’s slow sometimes), that’s a good thing.

    Writing rewards the long game (we were talking about this over at Kristan Hoffman’s blog: It’s different than pop music, for example, where people often master it pretty early in life (and then sometimes fade pretty fast — though sometimes not). Mastering novel-writing is a lifetime process.

    Not to dismiss music (I’ve written a lot of songs, and it’s every bit as difficult as writing novels), but it’s like sports. Some sports have 13-year-old champions, and some have great players in their forties or older.

    Robert Hunter, the lyricist for the Grateful Dead, was asked once wheher he’d every write prose fiction. I don’t remember his exact words, but his response was something like, “Writing prose? It might be a few more years before I’m ready to do that. I think I’m still too young.”


    1. Yep, it’s definitely a marathon rather than a sprint. I think it’s the instantaneous “do it right now” society that’s getting to me.


  2. You know, I don’t think there’s one right way of doing it. Some writers spend years and years perfecting that one story they need to tell. Others bounce from project to project. Some write short stories, others work on one long series of brick thick novels. Regardless, they’re all writers, and so are you. 🙂


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