The Light at the End of the Rough Draft Tunnel

This morning I reached the end of the verbal vomit brain dump that is this current work in progress rough draft. There is light at the end of this very long, often uphill, tunnel.

The light at the end of the tunnel is just the light of an oncoming train.

Robert Lowell

Yes. The light is an illusion. The end I reached this morning isn’t the finish line. Revisions and edits await here on the other side of my tunnel. I can feel the rumble of that oncoming train in my bones. The baggage that needs to be packed for these characters to become fully fleshed humans with their own motives and agency and mistake-making potential. The track to be laid to pull the tension throughout each scene. The stakes that need to be shoveled into the belly of the beast to power the story forward.

That train is coming. And right soon. But it will wait. For a moment so I can bask in the bright light of the other side. What, just a few short weeks ago even, was a faraway pin prick of light has grown into a widening circle. I have completed a huge task. Nearly 100,000 words of text that will split and divide and eventually become the story.

The tunnel is all part of the process. Writing a rough draft, with or without (points at self) an outline, is exhilarating and scary all at once. You trust the tracks you’re on as long as you can, but it’s dark and dank and sometimes the train stops for no apparent reason and the claustrophobia of writer’s block settles around you. At this point, you look around for an emergency hatch, a secret passage to crawl up and reach daylight again. But in our rough draft tunnels, there is no hatch. There is only the writing. Writing is your only way out. So you keep writing, pushing the little story that could out into the daylight.

And then, one day, there it is. The other side. The journey isn’t over, but perhaps it will be a little easier in the light of day.

Published by Monica Cox

Monica is a writer, mom and unabashed Tar Heel.

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