Looking back at this blog, i see my last substantive post was in June. It’s been a weird trip, confusing, lots of good, lots of bad. I’ll probably do another post after this to go over trip highlights since Kazakhstan, but this is more about … well, the place i’m in now. I’m not 100% sure what i’m doing next.
I had a wonderful meeting with my goals group, all my best writing friends. (Well, in Eugene at least.) There were a few tears. Most of us were feeling pretty unhappy with the past few months in relation to writing and career. It was good to get it out.
My favorite part was when Damon said the best decision he’d made in a while was to quit writing.
He said it didn’t last terribly long, but letting go gave him a break and helped him to stop hard-timing himself. It opened new possibilities. Now he’s actually enjoying writing again. I don’t know if i’m fully ready to quit, even symbolically, but i certainly need some kind of change. Normally in these situations i make big proclamations on the internet, create a goofy persona and work really really hard till i have something to brag about. The last couple of times i’ve tried that haven’t worked all that well, so …
First i’ve been evaluating.
Here’s me as a writer, so far, give or take: Looking through my files, i see that i currently have 3 novels in the trunk (2 terrible, but with potential and 1 probably readable, but also fatally flawed.) I also have 2 other novels initially plotted and with less than 5000 words written on each. For short stories i have 15 published, 5 stories in the mail, 22 stories that should be in the mail, 60 stories that are half to completely done (but need revision), 207 story-starts and 77 things that are so sucky that i’ll never look at them again. I also have 2 completed screenplays, and a comic book script.
Whew, ok, so i’ve got a lot to work with, but i haven’t been doing much working in the last 6 months. So …
Thinking about the problem.
I haven’t been happy writing, but i haven’t really been happy not writing either. I still have huge aspirations and i know i have a lot to say, but the actual writing process is ripping me up. I can look at past stuff i’ve done and see some quality there (or at least i’ve gotten some positive feedback,) but for the life of me i can’t remember how i did it. What’s up with that?
Yeah, what’s up with that?!
I’ve felt for a while now that i’ve lost my Beginner’s Mind. Wordos, Clarion, Writer’s of the Future, it’s all been good for my skills, analysis and self-esteem (at least temporarily), but it’s been nearly impossible for me to just, well shut up and write. Part of me thinks that i’ve probably garnered enough craft and knowledge to trust most of the stuff i write will work on some level, but the rest of me thinks nothing i write is ever good enough.
Part of me wants to just throw away everything i’ve done before now …
… figuratively. I’m not stupid …
… but just start writing and learning and taking everything that comes out of me at face value. I know i still have a problem with endings and i see that i seriously shy away from dialog, so maybe some exercises are in order. And, sure, i like being extreme and setting challenges for myself. I like pulling off stupid stunts, but i want to do that stuff because it’s fun, not to save my flagging writing career. I also think i’ve been putting huge pressure on my writing, thinking that i wont be as cool if i don’t write, thinking S won’t love me as much if i don’t. It makes it all not very much fun.
The Ideal Life.
The last 6 months have been necessary. I needed to get out there and see things. I needed to work out stuff about Jai. It hasn’t always been fun, but i feel like the last 6 months have been the transition i needed. I still don’t know where i’m going from here, but it’s been educational.
Today i started by thinking about what i want my life to look like. I’ve been thinking about my ideal day, what i want short term, what i might like long term. It’s scary and uncomfortable, but i feel a lot less like i’m drifting.
So, i’m getting back on, and if i fall off again, i’ll get back on and again and again.
Wow. Remember your highest-priority writing instrument is not your computer, it's your soul, so take care of it.
Oddly enough, Matt (Rotundo) just recently posted something similar on his blog about needing a break or change of direction. I've gone through the same thing, so I've stepped well out my comfort zone and started writing a romance – just because I never have. It's quite good fun actually, and because it's new I have no expectations about it being any good.
From talking to Steve and Sean last year, I got the impression that this is something that commonly happens to WotF winners in the year or so afterwards. No longer beginners but maybe not confident enough to consider ourselves professionals, or simply not sure if we want to make the step from fun hobby with bonus beer money to potential career.
In the year since our Clarion, I and some of my classmates have been floundering off and on. It's probably part of taking a step up and having higher standards for our work than before. I think reassessing as you're doing is the right approach and will help you get back on track.
In your position, I usually go find some good fiction to read. And then let myself spend as much time daydreaming as possible. Long drives. And then… well, the trick is to remember that this is fun.