As someone who has never been married (and has conducted only minimal research), I can definitively conclude that writing is just like marriage.
Like marriage, stories start in the honeymoon phase: the idea. Your new idea outshines all your previous ideas combined. This is the best idea you’ve ever had, the best story you’ll ever write. You start planning excitedly, the opportunities infinite. The words and the characters and everything will work this time, you just feel it. The honeymoon phase is the glory of the initial idea, the sloppy love of the first draft, the adoration of words without the struggle. You immediately drop whatever you were working on last, in varying states of incompletion, and start working on your new story.
The inevitable fall happens when the illusion of the idea fails under your subpar abilities to capture your imagination. You see the story for what it really is: a dumpster fire. You read your first draft—which had seemed worthy of your favorite authors before—and cold dread makes its way through you. The plot holes, the awkward sentences, the grammar errors are circled in an imaginary red felt-tip pen, each glaring mistake a strike to your ego. The story did not go as you planned, and not in a good way. Was the idea too weak, or was it your writing abilities? Who’s to blame? This phase of the writing process is characterized by hopelessness. The story will never get better and you are a horrible writer. You don’t even deserve to try. The story gets locked away deep in a drawer where it will never see the light of day again. You move on to other loves. Maybe you’ll take up piano or art.
After a few weeks or months, after you’ve cleared your head, tried other things, you come back to the story and see it with fresh eyes. It isn’t quite as horrible as you remembered. It’s definitely not good; in fact, it’s still pretty terrible, but you think it could go somewhere with a lot of work. This phase is the most difficult as you systematically destroy and rebuild everything. You try to make the story at least vaguely presentable. You coax the words with cream and pretty ribbons to get them to work for you and align in a lovely way. It’s exhausting. It’s full of long nights critically analyzing every word, deleting huge swaths of text you’d spent hours writing the day before. For every step you take forward, it seems as though your taking a thousand back. Every patched plot hole introduces hundreds of cracks.
Eventually, your story becomes adequate, and you’re finally pleased with yourself. You’ve grown as a writer. You’ve created something better than anything you’ve ever written before, even if it’s not as good as you wanted it to be. It’s when you allow yourself to read the story for the first time as a reader instead of as a writer and you get to praise the lovely phrases, the characters, the plot, instead of looking for what’s broken. This is when the story is finally put away and it stops lingering in your mind every waking moment. The story is closed and filed away and you’re content, and you get to look forward to the next honeymoon phase with the next story.
It’d be lovely if that were the last phase, but for me, at least, it’s not. The stage of being happy with my story is uncomfortably short. It usually lasts a few days and then I’m back to hating the story. Which means that, yes, I say that I love writing, but I spend most of my time hating what I write. Maybe I should take up piano or art.