Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing. It’s not that the muse is absent as much as the brain is too giddy. Sometimes, I must search for butterflies. At other times, a horrible malaise comes over me and I have momentary concerns that I am not good enough to do this, and then I say, “Too damn bad. I’m doing it anyway.” Why? Because this is my dream, to be a writer. It’s what I’ve wanted all my life.
I’m lucky because I know this struggle is perfectly normal. I watched my dad do this job (writing/publishing) day-after-day, year-after-year. This is what writers do: they struggle. They show up.
Some days were full of doubt. On those days, my dad looked grey and broken and I worried. He always came around to days of joy and laughter crowing that the “Divine Afflatus” was upon him. On those days, his writing was a breeze.
Though I wanted to write since I was five, I was a perfectionist, and from that vein, I spent years planted in a rut so deep that all I did was wonder. I worried constantly, “Am I good enough to be a writer much less a published one?”
After years of self-inflicted suffering, I decided to write anyway regardless of all the risks, even if I never made money doing it, even if nothing went according to plan. Now, when I succumb to doubt, I use the following reasons as my fail-safe. They keep me from falling into the rut that the work must be perfect for this experience to have mattered.
Writing is Cheap Entertainment
Writing is free fun. Since I started writing, I shop less, enjoy life more, and find richness money can’t buy. While I use a computer, it works just fine with paper, too. Writing is a portable and healthy addiction and it sounds way cooler to say, “I spent my afternoon writing” than to say, “I spent the afternoon playing Candy Crush.”
Writing Provides Value for the Dollar
Writing allows me, both in anticipation and hindsight, to enjoy an experience in what is often a two-for or three-for the price of one. Long lost experiences which seemed like a waste of time or money, regrettable and embarrassing moments best forgotten, can all be repurposed into story or example. Writing makes me appreciate better the life I’ve lived, warts and all.
Writing Captures the Daily Richness of Our World
I’m captivated by wonder yet highly caffeinated as a general rule. Writing stops me dead in my tracks. It pummels me by memory and invention with colors, and sounds, and sensations. It makes me stop and savor all the miniscule things my mind tends to skip over. It satisfies.
It Rehomes Insanity
Before I started writing, I drove my family nuts. I was overly involved in their lives in ways that weren’t always positive, and I am one of the few mothers who needs a Tommy John surgery for her pitcher’s elbow. Writing allows me to disengage in socially appropriate ways and torture a new generation, albeit a fictional one.
You Meet Wonderful People
From my very first public encounter with my writing coach Melanie Stiles at the Fall C.S. Lewis Conference in Houston, to my recent opportunity to learn from novelist Davis Bunn, to my wonderful and somewhat recent close friend Roslynn Pryor, I’ve met fantastic and encouraging people, many of whom are in this group.
You Face Your Demons
I hate to be afraid. For more than forty-five years, I waited for the bogey man to show up, but he never came. Nowadays, I want to face all of my fears, conquer them and suck out their wisdom. Writing is an excellent way to plumb your soul, scare yourself, and forge a new you.
You Belong to a Daring Community
Writers have guts. Most sit down on a regular basis and spend a valuable commodity–time–on an activity which may never pay off. They do it anyway. They are risk takers willing to play with words and ideas, willing to hope beyond reason, willing to dream and fabricate in case it makes wonder. By being a writer you gain access to that brave company.
Writers Are Generous
As such, as true risk takers do, writers practice generosity, sharing willingly their knowledge with other would-be adventure seekers. They understand how lonely, how risky the writer’s life can be, how desperate the struggle to start, how hard to progress through, how difficult to finish the task to produce something others may or may not value.
When I hit the wall and need a stupid catchphrase to crowbar me free, I repeat these words:
When in doubt, write it out!
The reason this works for me is because it moves me from rumination to action.
Barbara Markway, Ph.D. offers a number of other useful strategies to help disassociate from the type of unproductive thinking which stops people from pursuing what they want. According to her:
The difficulty isn’t that we have negative thoughts. The problem comes when we believe our thoughts are true.
For more fun and simple strategies for working with negative thoughts, here’s the rest of her article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shyness-is-nice/201305/stop-fighting-your-negative-thoughts
Finally, Neil Gaiman offers his succinct rules of writing. I highly recommend this. Apply as needed. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/09/28/neil-gaiman-8-rules-of-writing/