So You Haven’t Been Writing

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Confession: I haven’t been writing everyday.

I haven’t been showing up. I haven’t been sitting at my desk or in a café or in my window seat at Barnes & Noble. My laptop has been dead for days. I literally had to dig my backpack out from under laundry and empty candle packages.

Honestly, my mind is a little cluttered these days:

  • Will George R.R. Martin finish A Dream of Spring?
  • I can totally go one more day without washing my hair
  • We’re short-staffed again.
  • I’m sorry, but your story became too passive.
  • They won’t loan you money to open a bookstore with this much student loan debt
  • He’s not good for you anyway
  • Don’t let them see you angry
  • Why, yes, that is a cheese stain on the page of my book
  • Maybe if I just add a dragon to this story, it’ll be more exciting
  • I’ll just eat my feelings today
  • I’ll write tomorrow

And on and on it goes. Sometimes I find it hard to cut through all of the noise in my head. Halfway through Camp Nano, I’ve lost almost all of my steam. I’m not even a quarter of the way through this draft and I don’t know what it is, but something’s not right.

I have this problem: when I give myself to something (someone), I give it all without a second though. I fall madly in love with that project, that place, that person, that book, that idea, and usually, by the time it’s finished, there’s nothing left of me at the end. But it only occurs to me after everything’s said and done that I somehow lost myself along the way. And writing usually helps me discover who I’m supposed to be now, to get back those pieces that I threw to the wind.

It hasn’t happened with this project yet. I think it might be because my brain hasn’t wrapped entirely around the plot. Contemporaries are so hard to write because they rely so heavily on the characters and the emotional pay-off. And recent feedback on my last novel really has me frozen because all I can think about is agency. But maybe I’m thinking too hard about the plot, about the characters, about what I want the final draft to look like.

But maybe it’s also exhaustion and frustration and staying up late after working on my feet all day and not getting enough sleep even when I’m not staying up to read (or write) and drinking too much coffee and worrying too much about the future and feeling like a constant disappointment and a failure and like I can’t take care of myself because of a) my anxiety and b) there are just so many life things I have to do that writing can’t always come first.

Not writing makes me feel guilty. It’s self-inflicted and hard to put aside.

I honestly thought that maybe I would write an inspirational post about how you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself when you step away from the page. Like maybe I would say things like: life gets in the way, you can take a break to breathe, it’s better to focus on yourself than the story in your head, let it come naturally, you will write again, you will achieve your dreams, you’ll find your way through this roadblock. I even thought I’d mention at least once that it’s not worth it to hold it against yourself, that living is apart of writing, as is reading and exploring and falling in love with yourself and the world and others. It’s okay to step back and let life run its course and the story to draw you back in at a later time.

But the truth is, I suffer for my art. I hold it against myself when I remember to just live, when my thoughts are more on friendships that are beginning to crack, how to not hold on so tightly to people who will never stay, how to just ask him to stay, how there is too much comparison happening, how things don’t just happen at your will, how dreams take time.

The thing is, there will come a point in the future when I sit down and write. I won’t think much of it then, probably not until after I’ve returned to the finish draft. Those months will feel like magic, a breeze against my cheek in a room with all of the windows closed as I reread those scenes: a guy in a bookstore with his hands on her face, a conversation she had with her father at the kitchen table, an elderly man paying for a cup of coffee with pennies, looking at a summer sky through a moonroof, fireflies in the yard, Google searches that lead to rabbit holes, late-night conversations with him about his favorite author and the book he hoped to one day write, fighting with friends via text, losing yourself in a job you don’t enjoy, crying in a Starbucks bathroom.

And it might take a few moments or months or years before I understand where those all came from and why they took me so long to write in the first place.

The Bright Side

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So…it’s been awhile.

I know at the beginning of January, I had all of the intentions of posting weekly, but I started a new position at my job that quickly deterred me from a lot in life (and ate up almost all of my free time). It’s not glamorous in any way, and more often than not, I’m left exhausted and angry at the end of the night.

Let’s just say that 2019 isn’t exactly turning out to be the year of my dreams.

If anything, I’m quickly realizing that this might be the year that challenges me, that will continuously ask me how far I’m willing to go and how much I’m willing to sacrifice to achieve these dreams.

I’ve been holding onto a lot of rejection lately, which has led to a lot of dissatisfaction about my current place in life. After feeling incredible about the interview I had with a publishing house in New York, I ultimately didn’t land the job. The last agent who had the full draft of my last book didn’t want it. These were two things that could have changed the trajectory of my life. (I should be clear to point out that all I really want right now is some form of stability, which only one of these could have truly offered. I’m well aware of how competitive the publishing field is and I’m so grateful for these opportunities.)

Anyway, it felt very much like the publishing world wanted nothing I had to offer.

Admittedly, there was a lot of anger and frustration and many tears because these are things I’ve wanted since I was a child. Things that I have spent more money than I will ever have in order to be educated to increase my chances, to have internships, to have spent time writing, to buy books. Things I had romanticized as an escape from this very present stuck feeling that I cannot shake no matter how hard I try.

I am ridiculously hard on myself. Failure is a word that makes me deeply uncomfortable, but I have always gotten back up. Sometimes, I just power through it and suppress any and all emotions until fate brings them rising to the surface and I have no choice but to confront them.

So, this time, I tried to deal with it. I felt it all. I spent the Friday evening that both rejections landed in my inbox at home alone. I read my book, pretended it didn’t hurt, dug the knife in deeper by telling myself I’d never get my foot in the publishing world door and that I wasn’t good enough to be an editorial assistant or an author anyway. I watched too many episodes of Bob’s Burgers and cried through the funny parts (because losing out on both opportunities felt like going through a break up), and then I took a bath and went to bed.

It’s been about a week now, and I feel a little better. I talked to a friend about it, someone who has always been upfront with me, whether it was about my manuscript or life. She told me about a friend of hers that made her realize writing/publishing could be a career. But this friend ended up taking every rejection very personally and just gave up.

That’s something I refuse to do. Even when I feel I’m at my worst, at my lowest, I will always try to stand back up. It might take some time, but I’ve learned through the years of rejections arriving in my inbox that this is proof that I’m trying. And, yes, it’s extremely hard to look on the bright side when you feel further from achieving your dreams than ever before. But isn’t it worse to just walk away? To not keep trying?

Because in the publishing world, all it really takes is one yes.

And it was that alone that made me sit back up. Yesterday marked the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve been sitting on a third of a draft for some time, but have hardly written anything in months. But I woke up yesterday morning with one thing on my mind:

it is time to begin again.