(This sounds like an excuse, doesn’t it?)
I’ve heard/read many say that you should write even when you don’t want to, force yourself into a daily routine and stick to it no matter what. But I’ve seen just as many others claiming that sometimes, there are more important things than writing.
I figure that it all depends on what you expect to gain from it. If you want to be published, but spend more time socializing or procrastinating in other ways, then hell yes, get your butt into a seat and get writing! Chase your dreams and make them happen, because you deserve the very best this life has to offer.
I personally don’t have “published writer” on my list of things to achieve – not yet. I don’t think my writing is nowhere near to being shared with the public yet, not to mention I’ve barely finished the four first drafts I have now, and I’ve yet to even think about editing them. As of now, I have a lot of fun writing all the new stories as they come to me (although I admit there’s a fair amount of jumping from one story to the next) and this is probably a good thing, since it’s recommended to take a break between finishing a story and starting the editing process.
But back to the point of why it’s okay to stop writing. I’ve had this realization during July’s CampNaNoWriMo, which started out well and then went to hell less than two weeks into it. It wasn’t really that I didn’t have enough interest in the story anymore, but that life was throwing curve balls at me and I found it difficult, or rather impossible, to cope with it all and also build up this fictional world on top of it.
It sounds so dramatic in hindsight, but at the time, I felt like I was going through an existential crisis that I felt too young for. I had plans, and the next couple of years had been set, and when that fell away, I felt like I was standing there with nothing. No future, no job, no goal in life to pursue. I’ve been struggling, and continue to struggle, with the feeling that I’m not particularly good at anything. I have a lot of interests (most of them in the area of handicrafts) but I don’t actually know how to do most of them. I don’t feel like I’m a very smart or knowledgeable person, in that I was a mediocre student in high school and only got decent grades during university because I studied a major that I liked, not one that’s of any particular use. I kind of slid into my current job with more luck than experience, as I got hired straight out of university, and I’d started to think that I’d like to continue working there for several years at least. It’s a fun job, though some co-workers can be really tiring and like any other company, there are some things I just find really stupid. But overall, I can definitely see myself doing this for a long time.
I, and a few other co-workers, had a job interview at the company for a promotion of sorts. I was worried, because I hate interviews or just generally being somewhat at the center of attention, but everyone assured me I’d do just fine, that it was mostly just protocol and I’d get the job, easy. I guess I jumped the gun, started to think about all the things I could do when I get the job – move out from company housing into my own apartment, use some of the vacation days for actual travel and all that – so it was a very unexpected slap in the face when I was not among those that got promoted. So there went my future, up in a giant ball of flame.
And thus began my spiral into the existential crisis, full of bitterness, whining and worries. “What will I do with myself now,” “I’m not good at anything else, I don’t even have any experience for other companies to want me,” and similar thoughts ran through my head several times a day, and I fully admit that I threw myself an enormous pity party. I also admit that I don’t think I was mentally well, because I was feeling like a failure and even little things would cause anxiety.
My mind was full of bad thoughts, even hateful ones, and I was so worried about my future, that CampNaNoWriMo was forgotten. Or well, not really forgotten but simply discarded. After all, how could I make up a fictional world and write about the problems of a female vampire in a supernatural love triangle with her vampire mate and werewolf ex-boyfriend when I couldn’t even figure out my own life? I hadn’t noticed before, but I’d just always had a lot of good luck and things just seemed to fall into place without me having to worry too much. So this rejection, if you will, turned everything upside down and left me in the middle, unsure which side was up and where to go.
I was questioning every decision I’d ever made in my life, questioning every thought, and just about everything made me really anxious. I thought about quitting everything and just crawl somewhere where no one would bother me and stay there until it all went away, but that would be running away like a coward and I’d have to be an adult sometime, right? I think I totally exasperated my friends by whining all the time, or ranting (I was so irritable during that time, almost everything seemed to annoy me and make me go off on a long rant that would last several minutes) but they indulged me, stood by me, and I think I’m getting over it.
I didn’t catch up on all the writing I missed, but spent the rest of July plotting a little here and there so now most of the story is complete in my head and I “just” need to write it all down. I will – once I’ve finished this rewrite that I randomly started, just because I got the sudden inspiration to.
Wow, this turned into a really long, personal rant, didn’t it?
In any case, I realized after my own incidence that it absolutely is okay, even necessary, to stop writing sometimes. There are more important things than hitting your daily word count and finishing your novel. Now, what exactly those things are is different for everyone, I guess, except one thing: your health, both physical and mental. It can be really cathartic and satisfying to channel feelings and put them in your writing, but make sure you’re taking care of yourself, and not letting the writing consume you. Stop to let your mind breathe a little and let it, and yourself, recharge often.
Writing may be your life, but you’re more than just your writing. You’re a beautiful, inspiring person with a tremendous amount of talent, but writing doesn’t define you, not all of you. I agree that it’s a big part of our lives, greater for some than for others, and thus a big part of our happiness. But it’s not all we have and all we deserve.
I guess what I’m actually saying is, is this: Don’t let anyone or anything – writing, a job, whatever there is – define who you are, because it’s not all you are or all you can be. Life is made up of so many aspects, some great and some not very much so, and I don’t think it’s fair to let one single thing take control over everything else.
I’m just getting the hang of this myself, trying to take things in stride and not despair when things don’t go as planned. After all, if I ever decide to pursue publishing, I have to get used to rejections and drawbacks, right? I won’t get everything right, but I don’t have to. I’m allowed to fail, because that will help me be better and improve, and that’s what’s important.
Failures and mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of, because in the end, that’s how we become stronger and better.
I hope that if you went, or are going through similar struggles (whether they’re personal or professional) like I did, this helps to let you know you’re not alone in this. At the very least, I hope I didn’t sound like I’m preaching at you. These words, encouraging myself that it’s okay to fail, are easier to say now, and I wish I’d been able to tell myself all this when I was feeling low. Who knows, maybe when life hits me again, I’ll read this post and smile, because I’ll know that it’s okay to let go?