I decided recently that I needed to take a break from writing, because it was causing more pain than pleasure. I am a firm believer of the idea that if it hurts when you do something, you should stop doing it, and so I have, for the time being.
Writing for me, in many ways, rapidly becomes an internal battle between what I want for myself, and what I can actually do. I have high expectations for myself; perhaps too high.
For a long time, when I thought about the kind of writer I wanted to be, it was in terms like “published,” or “award-winning.” But I’ve realized that these are desires that are outside my direct control, and attempting to meet these goals is almost impossible.
Instead, I’ve written myself a list; on this list are goals, reasons for them, and actions I think I can take that will help me achieve these goals. I should have done this a very long time ago; I’ve done it in my business. I don’t know why I never put this kind of thought into my writing self. So, here’s the list:
- I want to be the kind of writer who writes every day, or close enough to it that the difference is meaningless. I know that there is pleasure to be found in constant labor. Actually, more specifically, labor alleviates anxiety. To do this, I will require sacrificing other activities and it will require willpower.
- I want to be the kind of writer who gives a story precisely as much time as it requires. I do not want to rush my work because I have imaginary deadlines. In this case, I use the word “deadline” literally. When I write, I can feel Death bearing down on me. In part, I write to run away from the inevitability of my demise. To do this, I will require a new patience and an acceptance of my own mortality, at least temporarily.
- I want to be the kind of writer who is confident in his work, regardless of anyone else’s opinions. This is to say, I want to respect the view of others, but I want my work to stand up to my own self-doubt. In order to do this, I must give my writing the time it requires, and I must be prepared to revise until I can detect no further flaw in the piece. No matter how much time it takes.
- I want to be the kind of writer who receives a rejection letter and is not fazed. Rejection is part of the process of professionalism, and should not cripple me emotionally for more than, say, 30 seconds. In order to accomplish this, I must inure myself to rejection by submitting myself to it repeatedly, without hesitation. I must give my work the time it requires to fully develop, so that a rejection does not shake my confidence in the piece — I must have confidence in the piece before I submit it.
- I want to be the kind of writer who does not concern himself with the successes of others. Specifically, the kind of writer who feels jealousy or envy when someone he knows succeeds where he has failed. In order to do this, I must remind myself that other writers have their brains, and I have mine. I am only able to work with the tools that I have, and until technology is invented that allows me to steal their thoughts and talent, I am resigned to working with what I have. Everyone struggles; I see only the successes.
- I want to be the kind of writer who understands why he writes what he writes. I want to leave the blind stumbling in the dark behind, and write with the clarity of purpose. Purpose serves as a guide post. If a story has a clear purpose for myself, then I can measure its current success or failure against this purpose in order to guide revision. What matters as much as anything else in determining whether a story is a success is whether it says what I wish it to say. And of course, in order to do that, I must decide what I wish it to say. To do this, I will devote the thinking time necessary to decide such things, instead of attempting to rely on gut and instinct.
- I want to be the kind of writer who accepts his flaws and embraces his strengths. I want to be the kind of writer who is at peace with himself, and not distracted by the kind of writer he is or isn’t. I want to simply be, and through being, create entertainment for others. In order to do this, I must remind myself until I believe it: I am good enough to be here. The work will be rewarded in time. There is nothing about you that cannot be changed with enough time and determination, but it will take time. Learn to accept where I am now, and don’t spend so much time measuring the me of today against the me of my aspirations.
What do you think? Think I can accomplish this over time?
I think I can. And when I start taking steps toward this, I will be able to write fiction again with new vigor and a healthy mind.