Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Upside of a Meltdown

For three years, I have been living the writing life, filled with hopes and dreams, energy and imagination, and queries and the fun-filled (like, not so much) pursuit of an agent. Before that, I wrote a lot, but not with focus and determination in equal measure. I’ve mentioned before that I write every day and that writing is the best part of my days. I work a full-time job, and that time in the evening when I settle in to live characters’ lives and discover the soul inside fiction is like a drug. It’s not a chore, but it is work. For three years, I’ve been filled with faith, so much that rejections became just part of the process. The agents’ notes, full of compliments and comments about how I was just so close, but not quite what they were looking for, became barely speed bumps, just fuel to keep writing new stories and putting them out into the world to see what came back.

For three years, I believed.

And in one day, I didn’t.

I started taking days off from writing while on vacation in August and enjoyed not writing every day, seeing other things, doing other things, and sleeping more. The world wasn’t quite as bubbly, but it wasn’t stark either. Turns out, when you have more time on your hands, you do more. I would still dabble in my current story, but days would pass between visits. And then last week, I reached into my faith well, the place where all my belief about being a successful, published author one day lived. The well was empty. Instead of feeling horrible about the whole thing, I felt relief, not having noticed that, for years, I’d been carrying the untenable weight of believing.

Within myself, I hadn’t acknowledged the letdowns, the close-but-no cigars, that had become common along my journey. The fulls that agents never responded to (and yes, I requested status updates, several times over many, many months). Watching and being ecstatic over friends’ successes, only to wonder when I might have a turn. Believing is truly a heavy burden, and freed of that weight, I got mad. Furious with everything: myself, the universe, the publishing industry, Borders for closing, the people who don’t read, and my puppy for chewing on my curtains. It was sort of a free-range rage.

A friend asked how it felt inside when I spewed my venom. My answer: delicious. It truly felt wonderful to give up the Pollyanna and get going with the Captain Pissy Pants. It still does a little, but as with all life lessons, there is really another side to all of this. An upside.

Yes, I’m on a writing hiatus, but I’m living more. Without my shot of pure happiness found in my writing, I’m looking around at my life and I can see other dreams and hobbies. I’m going out with friends more. Walking dogs more. Going to a shooting range to do my part to deplete the Zombie hordes (so, I discovered there are Zombie targets at the gun range and can’t get enough... I even shot a Zombie warthog-looking thing). I’m thinking about my career and other goals that I hope to accomplish in my life. I’ve thought about going back to school. I’ve made some new friends and reconnected with others. I can breathe a little more... and clean my house.

I can see a real future because I’m not so addicted to living in fiction.

What this means for my writing I don’t know. I know I love it... like I love nothing else. I know writing brings me a kind of connectedness I rarely feel in my life. So, I would guess I will get back to it, maybe even write in some different genres to cleanse my palate and vary up the marketing experience. I’m not sure and I don’t really enjoy how that feels, but I’m glad I’ve found that the upside to my writing meltdown is a healthier, more balanced life.

Quote for the Day from Charles F. Kettering

“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.”


Bluestocking said...

I'm sorry to hear you've become so disillusioned with your writing journey. I am glad you are leading a more fulfilling life and catching up on activities you gave up.

I think writing is one of those things that you have to keep going despite the narrowing marketplace, the slushpiles, the no response means no...

The good news is it sounds like you were close. Really close, given the agent feedback. Don't give up. Don't stop writing.

Achieve a better life balance--that's a smart, healthy thing to do--but don't turn away from writing completely, not when it matters so much to you. Writers write, no matter their publication status. Best of luck!

Laura Marcella said...

I have a quote that goes perfect with your post today:

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ~Henry David Thoreau

It's important to take a writing break when your heart and soul is yearning for one. Now you have time to fill up the well and get excited about your writing again. Have fun and enjoy!

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

A brilliant and thought-provoking post. I love the Thoreau quote Laura mentioned - ain't that the truth!

I love you and am here for you anytime of the day or night. Be at peace, my friend, and love with your whole heart. Those are the things that truly matter.