What was it Stephen King suggested? Oh yeah: do nothing but write. All day, every day, just write. Take no breaks, unless it’s to use the bathroom. But even then—don’t. Hold it if you can.
That’s all well and good, and I’d love to achieve that one day, but for the time being, I’m still human, and I prefer not to get a raging UTI.
I’ve read a lot of things that left me with the impression that if I didn’t dedicate every waking moment to writing, I wasn’t a “serious” writer. You know the type. They don’t have kids, maybe they’re not married, and they don’t have a hundred other things to get done in a 24-hour period. They eat, breathe, and sleep writing. They are… “The Serious Writer”.
Hey…I eat, breathe, and sleep writing, too. But I’ve got other responsibilities. I’ve got a husband and children whom I adore more than writing and breathing and sleeping and eating. I’ve got other duties that must be tended to each and every day. I’ve got stresses. I’ve got worries. I’ve got life oozing out of my ears, and sometimes that life doesn’t allow for writing. Sometimes I even get run down. Shit happens.
I know you, my fellow writers, will understand. You can have an awesome run. Maybe one week you’re a frocking powerhouse of talent, cresting the rim of your writer’s mug. Nothing can stop you, and if someone tries—watch out—’cause you’re on a roll. Those are the great weeks when everything lines up perfectly, the writing Gods bless you, and you make massive progress. It’s a pretty fine feeling. But then the next week rolls around and that heaping pile of feces hurls right into your fan. Maybe you get sick, the kids get sick, or a sudden, unforeseen worry falls upon you. I mean…come on, it’s life. There’s a virtual smorgasbord of crap that can drop out of the sky at any moment, and when it does, maybe you’re like me and your creative juices go dry, as arid as the damn Mojave on an August day. The question is: what do you do with those days, or weeks, or months?
I feel guilty when I neglect my writing, when life gets in the way and I can’t muster the motivation to clobber away at the keyboard, or even formulate an intelligent sentence. The worst part is: those are the times when stinking doubt and, dare I say pessimism, drop by for an unannounced visit. They raid your fridge, leave stinky drool stains on your guest room pillows, leave wet towels on the bathroom floor, and just before leaving—because your defenses are down and your hopes are in the toilet—they bend you over and screw you up the back side. That’s right. Pessimism just raped you, and it didn’t even stop to think about your feelings.
Okay. Maybe that’s a bit on the dramatic side. But hey, we writers are working on nothing but faith and hope that all our hard work will pay off. We pour our blood, sweat, and tears into huge undertakings, all without the promise of success, a paycheck, or even a pat on the back. So, when pessimism comes around and wipes our stock of confidence off the shelves, we’re left with a very clear, very certain feeling that there is no certainty at all. Then the dreaded “what ifs” come into play, because they get along with doubt and pessimism like bath houses and gonorrhea. Too bad doubt can’t be cured with antibiotics?
Yes, we’ve been raped of that essential hope that writers need to keep going. Dramatic or not, that’s what a couple bad weeks can do to anyone, and for a writer—for someone who’s working their heart out without a promise in the world—things can get stormy real quick. We’ve all heard about those artists who use their pain and trials to fuel their work, and maybe that’s what people think we writers do. As for me, I’m not one of those writers. Sure, I use my trials as learning experiences, and later I can use them as motivation for my writing, but I need contentment and a bit of security in order to flourish. Does that make me weak? No. I don’t think so. But it does make me human.
So, what do we do with those weak moments, with those bad days when we can’t find any motivation? For me, I try to remember that this too shall pass. Then I cut myself some slack. Not too much, mind you, because I’m getting back on the damn horse, whether it kills me or not. But I allow a little down time.
I don’t have any magic answers. No one does. Everyone deals with their own struggles in their own time and in their own way. But do know that you’re not alone, you’re not unique, and by God, you are a serious writer, even if you have to take a little break, or if your schedule simply doesn’t allow for 5,000 words a day. You know how motivated you are, you know how passionate you are, and you know how much work is required to breathe life into your dream. But you also must know, as is the case in nearly every situation in life, that you have to care for yourself first or you’ll be no good to your loved ones, to yourself, or to your reader. So, If a break’s in order, if you’ve beaten the proverbial horse into the ground and need to come up for air, jump on the easy train, all the way to restoration-ville, and do it now because your future as a writer depends just as heavily on it as your sanity does. Don’t build your dreams on a shit foundation…because, well…you are the foundation.
© 2013 Sloane Kady