Actually, that isn't just a greeting. It's the topic of today's post: How IS it going, this writing thing? In fact, IS it going at all?
Because I have a number of clients in From Shadow To Shelf and Doorways, it seems there is always at least one in the Writing Pit of Despair. We've probably all been there --
"I'm doing everything BUT writing. Seriously, who alphabetizes their spices when they don't even cook?"
"Every time I sit down to write lately, all I can do is stare at the screen and think about enchiladas."
Please feel free to write down your own wail. And once you've written it down, why not just go ahead and post it in a comment? The old adage is true: misery really does love another miserable person to sit down and commiserate with over coffee. The intriguing thing about that, though, is that pity parties for two or more often result in the participants deciding maybe they'll give it one more go.
That's my FIRST SUGGESTION for pulling out of the Why Am I Torturing Myself Spiral. Remember that tribe we talked about last week? Now -- when you're close to deciding you have no talent, no future, no self-discipline, nothing important to say (you get the idea) -- is the perfect time to call, text or email one or all of them and say, "Do you have a minute to talk me down out of the Crazy Tree?"
We've all been up there, myself included. After the 2007 recession, the Golden Era of Christian Fiction began to rust and corrode. The 100+ books I'd had published made no difference in getting a new contract. "That last one didn't sell as well as we'd hoped" precluded new books. The day I realized the season of bliss was really and truly over, I started calling the members of my tribe. Paula. Dale. Father John. To name only a few. Granted, it took me another year to settle into a new season, but here I am. Writing. Mentoring writers. Looking at a new market. Thanks to the folks who gathered at the bottom of the Crazy Tree and talked me down.
And if you haven't quite found that group of supporters yet? It is quite possible to be your own supporter. My SECOND SUGGESTION is one that worked like the proverbial charm after the Young Women Writers Retreat last month. Being there was a high for all of us. Everybody was pawing the ground to get home and put all that great stuff they learned to work. Yeah, well, we'd all had that high before and we all knew how quickly you can come crashing down when faced with kids, stopped-up toilets, grouchy bosses, etc. SO -- each writer decorated a blank note card found in her goodie bag and addressed the envelope to herself. On the very last day, each person wrote herself an encouraging letter inside, specifically naming the things she'd learned, that had inspired her, as well as her next steps. They sealed them up and gave them to me. Two weeks after the event, I stamped them and mailed them out. SO many of them have contacted me with these reactions:
"This came at EXACTLY the right moment."
"I was feeling like, 'what's the point?' and then I got my own letter and it changed everything."
"I checked the mail every day, waiting for it. I did the happy dance when I got it. I can do this."
It works. The next time you're feeling pretty good about your sweet writer self, write yourself a note and seal it up. When you start to spiral down into the Pit, either open it up or mail it to yourself (if you can wait a few days). Seriously, do it. Because down in that space where your soul dwells, you KNOW you were meant to do this. You KNOW you can. Why not be as encouraging to yourself about that as you would be to a writer friend?
Now, sometimes the descent to the Pit has some evidence behind it. I wasn't getting contracts. No more requests to 'please write a book for us.' Fewer and fewer requests to speak. Clearly I had to find a different direction. One that still involved writing, just not the kind I'd been doing so successfully for 30 years. Maybe what I did can help you if you find yourself in the place of "This just isn't working."
SUGGESTION #3. Ask people who know you well what they see in you that is creative. That isn't a narcissistic question; you're gathering data. Fellow speaker Dawn Moore puts it this way: "What am I your go-to person for?" I was intrigued by the answers I received. They were enough to get me moving toward more exploration. I'm still doing it.
SUGGESTION #4. If nobody's buying your work right now, write anyway. If you're even reading this blog post, I can safely say you can't not write. Journal. Finish that novel or short story or poem or non-fiction piece just because you want to -- not necessarily because somebody might publish it. Seriously, even if you're under contract, there is no total guarantee that your book will see print (publisher goes out of business, that kind of thing). If it does reach the shelves it might not be a best seller. We could all what-if ourselves endlessly ... or we could just write.
SUGGESTION #5. Do what GLORIA and ABIGAIL G. did recently. If you're stuck in the "Oh the heck with it" mire, call a writer friend and invite her to do a "Writing Sprint" with you. Hang up, set a time for 15 minutes and write without stopping. Then get on the phone/Skype/Zoom/Facetime again and compare. It worked wonders for them. I can't wait to try this at a retreat ...
SUGGESTION #6. See that blank diagram at the beginning of the post? It looks like you feel, right? -- gray, complicated ... How take a look at this one.
The possibilities that lie within a funk are really pretty creative and interesting and motivating. I did a whole BUNCH of self-exploration like this when I was floundering -- and the inspiration still hasn't stopped coming. I'm off to Concord, MA, next week to do research for my novels. A colleague and I are developing a program for non-fiction writers. Mentoring becomes more creative all the time -- because God and I looked at me and said, "What else ya got?
Ladies, you got a lot. Come on up out of that spiral. Get down out of that crazy tree, or shout to us to help you. We're all in this together.