This will be a crazy day for me. (Update: It HAS been a crazy day!) I leave for the SCBWI National conference tomorrow, so today involves laundry, packing, cleaning, more work on speeches and an entire page of various and sundry errands. My short writing break is not listed on my MUST DO!! list. It is on the much shorter “want to do” list. That is a critical distinction.
I was going to finish the “Think Big, Write Small” post today, but a comment from yesterday took me down a detour, because it was so heartfelt and raw. This is what a
WFMAD participant wrote:
“I kind of feel like a poser. I have no characters fighting their ways out of my mind. I have no settings dying to be painted with my words and syntax. There no plot twists, messages, lessons, stories, anything waiting to be brought to life. No poems dancing across the page, or stabbing through the paper/screen with the truth. I have no essays filled with opinions, noticing, wonderings, or truths. I used to have all of these. Where have they gone? And will they ever come back? I am not sure if I can divorce myself from the teacher inside me long enough to stop saying, “That’s a really nice sentence. I should use this in a craft study on…fill in the blank… . That leaves me wondering if my identity as a teacher is eclipsing every other part of me. Has the inspiration for teaching engaging lessons sucked the life out of all other inspiration in my life?”
THAT, my friends, is why we write; to find our truth. Even when the truth is sucky because it contradicts what we want to believe about ourselves. I completely understand what this writer is feeling. I have been stuck there many, many times. (I suspect everyone who writes for a living runs into this.) She is a writer lost in a soul-draining fog. She’s out of balance. The thing that would help her recenter herself is the thing that feels the hardest: writing.
When I’m stuck in this kind of Pit of Despair, journaling helps me build a ladder that I can use when I’m ready to escape. I write about what’s making me feel bad, mad, sad, and scared. I vent big time about the conditions of my life. I can go on for page after page after page (this can take days, weeks, or months) and then, finally, the fog lifts. I find my rhythm, my voice. Inspiration is everywhere. I see interesting conflicts I want to develop and I can hear the characters. I have once again broken through that chainmail veil that separates this reality from the world of pretend. I feel like a writer again. The woman who wrote the question will feel like that very soon, as long as she’s willing to write about her struggle first.
Ready… Take a moment of gratitude. Be thankful that you’ve found the courage to follow your dream, even though it feels scary.
Set… Make sure your pets have done their necessary business outside, and any infants in your house are fed, dry, and comfy. Make sure that you are fed, dry, and comfy, too!
Today’s prompt: Write for fifteen minutes about what gets in the way of your writing. Write a detailed scene about a time you wanted to write, but then [fill in the blank] happened. Why did you let that happen? What could you have done differently? How can you prevent that from happening again?
Write about how you feel when your draft isn’t flowing easily. And what you are able to write is a stinking turd of a story that seems irredeemable. Why are you being so hard on yourself? What do you get out of pressuring yourself with unrealistic expectations (namely, that writing should be easy and that the quality of your writing should be higher)?
What would it feel like if you weren’t dogged by this poisonous sense of inadequecy and failure? Imagine (and write) what your life would look like – what would be different about your life – if you could find or recover the happiness of making up stories and writing them down. When we find ourselves in the Pit of Despair, it helps to acgknowledge that we put ourselves there. That means we can get out, too. What can you do this week to help yourself?