If you’ve been following closely, I don’t think it’s any secret that I’ve been having a rough time of writing lately. Slowing down to edit and revise, and the action round times that come with that, has been terribly frustrating.
The cracks in the pavement of my resolve have let a lot of sewage leak up. Imposter syndrome. Depression. Feelings of isolation. Questioning every damned decision I’ve made in 2016 (and in especially dark moments, all the way back to 2003 when I started on the path toward becoming a writer).
This regularly happens in the continual cycle of my writing moods. When it does, those people who love me tend to suggest “I deserve a break.”
Which misses the point entirely. I’m editing, and I want to be writing. But in order to write, I need to wait for feedback. Or I need to get through my editing. Or I need to read a book on craft because I’m looking for more information about a certain point of advice. Or I need to be thinking about the process toward publication. Worry about where the money for my final proof read is going to come from. Or the money to pay the cover artist. Banal, mundane anxieties. Moths that nibble holes in my confidence while I pace, aching to return to nature and be true to my feral creative self.
Sometimes I forget: Every day my skill as a writer is increasing. Independent of my self-confidence in being one. I’ve been writing. I’ve been reading. I’ve been absorbing industry information. Without completing one book, I am more prepared to write another.
There’s no reason to stop. Okay, so I can’t touch Book A because it’s with my editor. Okay, so I don’t want to start Book B because it’s the sequel to Book A and I want to make sure I don’t have to backtrack too much.
So there’s Book Gamma. Book Epsilon. There’s no reason to stop writing. Short stories. Creative free writing exercises. Blog posts. Tweets. Words. Shape them, craft them, don’t stop. Be up to the elbows in words and stories whenever possible.
The process has weigh stations where the semi hauler of a project has to stop and be measured. But we exist in many vehicles, and at those times, we can body-hop to the driver of the Lamborghini that pedals on past that truck stop pressing the limits of the posted speed limit.
Enough with the metaphors.
Last week I felt like shit about my writing. Always it spirals back to the moment where my MS is submitted to my editor and I’m left wondering how it will fare. Where I have to keep my hands off. I managed to put off the low for a week by re-reading the MS myself, making mark-ups. That feels productive. I get to stay in the world a little longer.
Then I was back out. Waiting for something to do. Watching the self-set deadline approaching with no hope of reaching the goal I had. In this case it was finishing FLOTSAM by the end of September. The follow up to that goal was to begin the outline of the sequel on October 1.
I began last week working a planned project for my Patreon supporters, PHANTOM TRAVELER, and felt splendid as I switched to that. I was chuffed with the first story vignette I wrote, and got good feedback (it’s much easier to get family and friends to read 6 pages versus 422). But September 30 was barrelling toward me, and I felt the need to switch back to do something on FLOTSAM.
But what? I was treading water. I started off each morning session with a free writing exercise, to put myself in a creative space. Only from there I had no direction. I worked on reading and critiquing other pieces. That worked well enough one day, but the second day I was too restless. That was my low point. That was the day of my deadline.
Ignoring the voice in my head that told me I had no business looking externally for answers, I reached out to the writing community for support, and I found it. I met with a writing friend at lunch, and vented. I found myself a writing pen-pal from a writing Facebook group I joined earlier this year, and we traded our latest revisions for feedback.
I drank a lot of coffee.
And by the end of the day, I’d pulled up my socks and decided that FLOTSAM’s sequel would get its outline started the next day, right on schedule. There was no reason not to start. I can edit an outline if FLOTSAM requires major shifts in plot or tone. It’s fine. Just do it. Don’t wait for permission. Don’t let the world stop me.
I write for the same reason I eat: to survive. I have to. It’s not an option. I don’t let external forces stop me from nourishing myself. I won’t let external forces out of my control stop me from immersing myself in the act of creation.
Saturday I turned to my next book’s outline. And I felt amazing.