The Pit of Despair

I’ve been writing seriously for about four years, not counting my years as a grad student when I wrote papers on equivocation in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (we won’t talk about how bad that paper was). The clock started when I outlined my first ideas for what became THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE. During those four years, I’ve seen a lot of days where I love writing, but I’ve also racked up (pun intended) several visits to the Pit of Despair–you know that place from THE PRINCESS BRIDE where Wesley is taken to be tortured, where no one knows he even exists.


My Pit of Writerly Despair is just like this, though mine doesn’t have an Albino. It’s dark and lonely, and it seems I’ll never make it out alive. Crumpled pages of discarded prose cover the floor, there is no WiFi or coffee, and every plot thread ends in a dead end. The only break in the monotony is when someone arrives to crank up the pain machine, smashing my beloved MacBook over and over. I’ve been there often enough, my punch card is almost full. Soon I’ll earn a free trip to Fire Swamp or the Cliffs of Insanity-my choice.

In retrospect, it seems many of my Pit visits came from querying or submission. I wrote a post about it on Brenda Drake’s blog (and there are Buffy the Vampire Slayer gifs – so you know it’s good). These seem easier to overcome as the pain is an external source – remedied by finding that agent or editor who loves your writing.


But the worst trips, the most difficult visits to the Pit of Writerly Despair, are the ones where I sent myself. I recently finished second round revisions on my WIP. This book has not come easily. At least twice during its writing and revision I doubted my ability to finish it or fix it enough that it was worth other people reading. At least twice I thought maybe I was done with writing. Was it worth the doubt, the floundering?

Rather than spending hours in front of my screen scribbling lame ideas and weak characters, I could be cleaning my house, redecorating my bedroom, and volunteering more at the school. I could be devouring my To-Read pile (which is currently these Christmas Trees-yep, I have that many I can make two trees).


Why was I putting myself through this never ending torture? What keeps me coming back to the Pit?

Like Wesley, it’s True Love. At the end of the day, I love writing. I love finding the perfect word, crafting a meaningful metaphor, and, more than anything else, I love my fellow writers. These are my people. And a trip to the Pit of Despair is so worth it. It is this that makes me, more than anything else, feel like I’m following the right career path. This is where I belong.


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Amy Reichert

Amy E. Reichert is the author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, July 21 2015), about food, love, and second chances, and where serendipity comes in the form of a delicious coconut cake. Find out more at

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This article has 4 Comments

    1. No Shelly, it wasn’t. It was the one and only D I’d ever received. I couldn’t wrap my college brain around what equivocation was. I’m still embarrassed thinking about it. Just awful. And I haven’t seen the play, but I’ll check it out.

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