No, I’m not gone, and despite the rather thick layer of dust everywhere, I haven’t abandoned this blog. This is one of those periods of radio silence I mentioned way back on Day One…it’s just gone on a bit longer than I’d been thinking these types of spells would.
That isn’t to say that this post is a “hey everyone, I’m back, expect multiple posts per week from now on” piece. I honestly have no idea what will be going on here and when for the near future. The day job is slow now (though looks to be ending up rather manic shortly, all the way until late spring), but there are other things taking a sizeable chunk of my attention span: books to read, games to play (got a PS3, finally, and there’s a metric shit-ton of games to catch up on), evolving family dynamics that are important to me, that I want to be present for and not regret missing later on.
Mostly, though, I hit a point late last year where I was able to come to peace with some things that were starting to rear their heads again.
Put simply, I love writing. Fiction, non, whatever. Short pieces, longer pieces, Lakers pieces, all of it. Falling through the hole in the page and being utterly and completely present in the moment, with the external censors and observers turned off, is a transcendent, ecstatic experience for me. My understanding of the process, and my experiences with it, have done more to shape my understanding of the world and my own spiritual and religious outlook on the world than all the reading, praying, fellowship…ing, etc., put together.
But it’s not a compulsion for me, at least not usually. I don’t feel “wrong” if I haven’t written on a regular basis recently (again, at least not usually). The love of it is always there, but the alignment of my priorities and the net gain when weighed against the other things I’m not doing when I’m writing is something that ebbs and flows.
Up until about a year ago, it had ebbed for nearly ten years, and then last year was a definite case of flow. I wrote half a dozen new short fiction (the microfiction this blog is named for), two much longer stories (edging into the realm of short novellas), and over 50,000 words on a new novel, the longest single piece of work I’ve ever put down on the page (even if it’s not done yet). Not to mention what is close to 100,000 words worth of posts here on the blog. For anyone not named Piers Anthony or Stephen King, that’s quite a haul, and compared to the years-long dry spell preceding it, it was astonishing.
And then—partly due to external events (like changing my job and career path), partly just due to the tidal flow of these things that I’ve come to accept within myself—it began to ebb again. I have a new story, longer than the microfiction, shorter than the epic genre pieces of last year, that’s about 2/3 done…and has been in the works for almost two months, off and on. I have the scattered notes for the second part of my essay on Grace spread across two different notebooks and a partial Google Docs file…and it’s showing no signs of coalescing in the immediate future. I even figured out a solve for a major issue with the novel that was one of the reasons progress on that came to a halt (I couldn’t muster the effort to keep bricklaying on new chapters until sorting out that major structural flaw)…but have no real compulsion to try to get my head around the effort it’s going to take to write the remaining 40k or so words that it’ll take to finish the book.
See, while it rarely feels wrong for me to take a break from writing (even if that word, “break”, is a bit longer than what other people would consider using that word for), what does feel wrong to me is to feel bad for not working when I don’t want to.
I know I’m going to piss off anyone reading this who’s done any sort of work towards becoming a writer themselves, especially if they’ve taken a class, or a workshop, or read books on the subject. Because beyond style, beyond how to find an agent, or use of adverbs, or proper manuscript formatting, the one thing they will all tell you, relentlessly and with zero pity, is:
– Doesn’t matter if it’s great, just get it down on the page (or “Don’t worry about getting it right, just get it written”).
– Write every day, no matter what.
– You can’t call yourself a writer, you either write or you don’t write.
And, hey, that may work for some people, probably even most, it just doesn’t work for me. I’m not setting aside every other effort in my life to make writing my primary path. Writing is, for me, ultimately, fun. It is a good thing, a benefit that enriches my life beyond the daily work to be happy and healthy with my family and home. It is, in other words, gravy, desert, a bonus bit that helps the sum of good things equal something great.
And I refuse to view it like taking my vitamins. I refuse to feel guilty for not having written X-hundred words every day. I refuse to beat myself up because this weekend, just like last weekend, I’m going to pleasantly descend into the proper gaming posture and spend multiple hours “wasting” time that could better be spent on something “more important”. Like writing.
Writing isn’t important in and of itself. It isn’t some holy task that we—even those of us who love it and are really good at it—are obligated to complete on a regular basis, like attending church or changing your underwear. It is nothing more than scribbled symbols on paper (or the electronic facsimile thereof).
Its value comes first and foremost from the benefit it brings to the person making those scribbles. If you’re lucky, someone else will gain additional value from it later when they read it, but sorry, that’s a downstream consideration, not the reason pen first gets put to paper. And it loses all value for me when I start beating myself up for not having done it. I’m okay with the notion that I may, at times, be suffering a lower level of amazing greatness in my life than I could, under ideal circumstances, if I found a way to incorporate writing into that ideal circumstance. But I refuse to take a net loss from a happy baseline just because, at that particular moment, writing was not a part of forming that happy baseline.
Imagine if the money in your pocket was worth 20% less because it was all ones, fives and twenties, and without some tens in there, the rest of it just didn’t mean as much.
That’s horseshit, and something I will not have in my life anymore.
Not to say that a regular regimen isn’t a good thing for many, even most other writers. And truthfully, when the compulsion to scribble on the page is upon me, it helps to have a schedule, even a quota, to make sure I keep myself organized, because under those circumstances, a lack of writing is a bad thing, not because I was supposed to and didn’t, but because I wanted to and didn’t manage to make the time for it. It’s when I don’t want to—and note, this is not an active “I am really opposed to writing right now” but a sated “I don’t feel a strong urge to write right now” thing—that beating myself up for doing something I do want to do instead of writing just seems absurd to me.
And I’ve now spent almost 1300 words writing out why I don’t feel like writing. And I’m okay with that contradiction. To sum up, I’m not gone for good…just not entirely sure when I’ll be back.
See you soon(ish).