Welcome to Week 16 of my writing pilgrimage.
Before I left for my month in Italy, I was writing like a steam locomotive, chugging along that track to the end of my young-adult fantasy novel.
My plan was not to look at the thing while I was overseas. I needed a break from it, some distance. I found it surprisingly easy to stay away from it, even though I had a copy on the Cloud and could easily have taken a peek. I wasn’t even tempted. I saw the sights, I read, I blogged, I played the recorder, and I enjoyed my travels as my novel sat aging like a round of fine asiago cheese.
It was a dazzling, delightful month. But coming home was good, too. I was struck by how fortunate I am to be returning to a life I love. Back to my husband, my cats, my friends. Back to lovely, lively Minneapolis, to my sunny house with the waterfalls in the yard. Back to my writing . . .
Oh, yeah, that. My writing. Hear the pretty music scratch to a standstill. See the light dim.
I didn’t feel the surge of excitement I expected as I booted up my laptop my first day back. I'd imagined myself plunging into the work, charged up and eager. Instead, I just felt irritable. Reading through my novel didn’t help. In my head, it was whimsical and fresh, but after a month away, Chapter 1 sounded writerly and strained. Chapter 2 rushed, Chapter 3 poorly structured. All of it is fixable, but I’d had the idea I was almost finished, and there’s just so much work left.
And then, there’s the anxiety. Because I know too much about publishing books to go into this with the wide-eyed optimism of a neophyte. I know how hard it is to get a novel published, no matter how sparkling and original it is. I know how many published books—even books put out by major publishers—languish unsold. I know the odds, and the odds are against me. Against all of us.
This was what was going through my fevered brain my first week back at my desk. And then I thought, What is going on here?! Writing is supposed to be my calling, my joy, the one thing in life I was born to do. Didn’t I write a whole book called Writing as a Sacred Path? Didn’t I say in that book that writing was a spiritual vocation? Nothing felt sacred about writing at that moment. It all just seemed like a mammoth pain in the prefrontal cortex.
So I decided it was time to do some thinking about the writing life. To get back in touch with the pleasure and excitement it can bring. That’s what I’ll be blogging about this week. Ways to reconnect with the satisfactions and delights of this strange, adventurous path we have chosen.
Here’s a confession: I almost titled this week’s pilgrimage, “Surviving the Writing Life.” That’s where my head has been lately. Fortunately, I thought twice. Instead, I’m calling it “Thriving in the Writing Life.” Because that’s what we all want to do, right? Not just cope with the frustrations and disappointments, but live our writing lives with joy.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...