I realize I haven’t posted on my blog for over a month. It’s hard to find the time during the summer. It’s been a strange season with my writing. I’ve had my ups and downs the past few months when it comes to writing.
Ups (and down, I guess) – A local publisher wanted one of my novels, but had a whole list of major things they wanted me to change. They also wanted me to write another book with such and such concept and then they would publish that, too. I let those decisions steep for a few months. Because it was a small publisher, there was no advance. I’d spend all this time rewriting and creating something new and who knows if I’d even see any pay back. After many phone conversations and lunch appointments, I said “no.” I have a clear direction where I want my writing career to go and for right now, it didn’t include extreme book changes and writing a book that I wasn’t feeling.
Downs – Coupled on top of these decisions, I also had a few, okay many, rejections that made me want to crawl in a hole and give up. Fighting the very real battle of self-doubt. I even wrote a farewell (for now) blog post, but never hit the publish button. I’ve hardly written or worked on anything all summer and late spring. I was done. I hadn’t gone to critique or writing groups. I avoided talking about it. While training for a half marathon, I would debate with myself that being an author is too hard. It was torture. Running should clear the mind, but instead, it harbored demons. This old blog post came to mind and I was frustrated that I couldn’t be happy with where I am.
Instead of writing, I immersed myself with painting, decorating, planting, and my job. All creative outlets that make me happy, and I make money doing so. But the more time I spent away from my true passion of writing, the more I missed words and scenes floating around in my head.
I believe you can smother writing until it becomes silent and it’s like awakening the dead to bring it back to life.
Unless . . .
A spark. A Hidden Gem. A whole story idea evolved from one single text message.
It was a balmy Saturday night. I had run a race that morning, so my body was sore beneath ice packs and Advil.
Ding, text message. Ding, story idea.
All that night and the next morning, my mind reeled, spun wildly out of control. More than it ever had before. I skipped Sunday services and meetings because I could barely walk and because there was a lice outbreak. Gross! Nestled in my home, my fingers frantically tapped my keyboard. A symphony of words evolved, and fast. I didn’t sleep. Who needs sleep? I’m nocturnal anyway. (See post)
I wrote 12,000 words in one day. That is double my best day ever. I don’t say this to pat myself on the back or make anyone feel bad for writing a couple hundred words, or even two words together. I say this because I honestly, honestly was going to put writing on the back burner for an unknown amount of time.
The next day I took my kids to an amusement park. My mind was still so full of my story that I brought a sketchpad. I knew that I had to capture thoughts and scenes and new characters as they came to me. It’s kind of fun to be in a public place where you can people watch and create characters by what you see. When I didn’t want to sit in a barf bucket roller coaster ride, I plotted while watching humanity and their amusing quirks pass by.
So now that my writing is back on track and I still fight against the very real voice that tells me “what’s the point,” I’ve decided something.
Do I treat my writing like a hobby or like a profession?
Do I want my writing to be a hobby or a profession?
I can say I’ve been both and I don’t think one is bad and the other, good. It’s about timing and dedication. I know I’m still in the toddler stage of my writing career and it’s very frustrating. I want to run when I’m still learning how to walk. I see other kids at the playground and I want to be there.
I can also say that I am happier when I treat my writing as a hobby. But learning to run is not a hobby. Professionals don’t base decisions on if they are feeling a novel or not. They just work. They pull themselves up and start again, no matter the self-doubt or the lost muse. We all feel those things at every single stage, even those (especially those) that look like they are having so much fun on the slides and swings.
Not enough of a metaphor to motivate?? Okay, here is another one: I’m a runner, so I should know that “writing is a marathon, not a sprint.” I’ve heard that quote so many times that I want to punch whoever came up with those crazy words. But it’s true. It takes so much time and training to be able to run long distance. Through rain, heat, and pain . . . you continue. If you want to be able to run another race, you never stop training. Never—because you lose those hard earned muscles.
One of my running partners mother passed away the day before our race. She ran anyway. One of my other running partners had blisters so bad that she taped her entire feet. She ran anyway. She lost toenails and ran another race the week after. I get teary eyed thinking about their dedication. These are the amazing people that I surround myself and train with. These are the people that I want to have even just a tiny bit of their work and determination rub off on me.
Writing is just like that. It takes work and determination. You can do it alone, train alone, but it is so much easier and fun to surround yourself with people who motivate and uplift. I realize the first thing I shouldn’t have done is distance myself from the craft and from people who I thought didn’t understand. Writing is a muscle. It either strengthens or weakens.
I know many writers are in the same rut. My social media feeds are full of frustrated, unmotivated authors.
Here is a great article from a fabulous writer and friend on the subject. I like her thoughts on writing just 15 minutes a day if you happen to be in a place where writing is hard. The comment section is great as well.
I would love your comments on the subject. Are you in the same boat? What exercises do you do to keep your writing muscles strong?