Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Why Am I Doing This?

A popular post from October 2008

I came close to ruining some hopeful author's dreams a few months ago while I was running my little store. She was a customer and saw my laptop sitting on the counter (I own the store, so no one is going to fire me for writing on the job). We talked about writing, and the whys and hows, and she said something that indicated I should feel *so* accomplished by being a published author. She very nearly gushed.

Feeling grumpy over the stock market, the fact that I *hadn't* been writing, and the fact that dirty dishes were piled up in my sink at home, I said, "Yeah right. If you ever want to have a wretched self esteem, be a writer."

Her face fell--almost like the light went out.

Curse my unthinking tongue! Sarcasm in light of someone's dreams is never a good idea. I backpedaled and talked about my positive experiences writing. I talked about the youth groups and schools I've spoken to, and how incredible it was to be able to connect with the youth on such an intimate level. I tried really hard to recall my words by covering them over with others. That's the biggest problem with the spoken language over the written. There is no delete button, no time for editing . . .

And the thing is . . . it's not totally true. I mean--yes, rejection letters, writer's block, and bad reviews are part of the writing world, but so are accolades and applause. It is an amazing trip to be a published author and I do not have the right to dampen someone's dream just because I didn't get my dishes (or my writing for the day) done.

I went through almost a complete year without writing anything new. It's a horrible thing to confess here, but I was in a weird place and couldn't seem to pull myself out. I started all sorts of things, but couldn't finish anything. I'd get to page twenty and think, "Meh. This is lame." Then I'd walk away.

While speaking to one of my best writer buds, J Scott Savage, I spent a good deal of time whining about my inability to create. He asked me what I was working on. "Nothing," I replied.

And it was mostly true. Twenty pages of this and that every now and again hardly equated to writing. It was more like dabbling. "You're not having fun anymore, are you?" he asked.

I wasn't. I was worried about the market, and the publishing industry, and what my publisher wanted, versus what my audience wanted. I was simply worried. Writing became a job, rather than something I did for the sheer joy of it. It was like drowning in the ocean, the weight of water crushing everything worthwhile out of me, the inability to draw a breath.

This conversation spurned some introspection on my part. I stepped away from the novel I'd been tinkering with, and wrote something I WANTED to write. I wrote for me. The heavens opened; the angels sang. I could breathe again. Oh, that's right . . . writing is fun! How could I have forgotten something so simple, so amazing, so worthwhile.

My work in progress is a joy to open up in the morning. Does it have a place in the market? Is my publisher going to want it? Will it do well? I don't know. And I'm not that concerned. I'm having fun, falling in love with my characters, feeling their pain, discovering what makes them tick. I'm writing . . . just because it's fun.

When I told that hopeful author that being a writer is a great way to get a low self esteem, I was lying. Being a writer who doesn't write--THAT'S the way to get a wretched self esteem.

Remember why you're doing this, guys. Keep it fun. Fill your well with wonder and dive in.


Stephanie Humphreys said...

Thank you for reminding me that it is supposed to be fun. Sometimes I get caught up in the whirlwind of life and finances and think I shouldn't be doing things that don't help my family more. I feel I should spend my time doing things that will actually help pay for the groceries. Writing doesn't fall under that category, so then I feel guilty for even taking the time. Really takes the fun out of it. Since my husband fully supports the writing, it is silly to feel that way. I guess that doubt and guilt are some of the devil's best tools, and he uses them so well to keep us from reaching our full potential.

Curtis said...

Nice post, Julie. I've been burning the candle at both ends for awhile; working a full time job, struggling through full time school, and trying to balance that out with being a good husband and father, (two jobs that I feel like I'm totally failing), making mortgage payments, car payments, heat/electricity, fuel, heat, AARRRGGGHH!!! Stop me before I jerk the wheel into an oncoming truck.

Anyway, discouragement has been afflicting me as well. Thank heaven for great writer friends, and good blogs.

Josi said...

Fun--huh. That could be my problem. Great post, Julie, and great reminder. I NEED to enjoy this or it just isn't worth it.

Julie Wright said...

Curtis, I am so on your same page. I work full time at eBay as an investigator, own a grocery store where I put in full time hours, have three kids, one husband and two dogs. I feel overwhelmed at every turn. There's so much to do every day, it takes a lot of effort not to sit and rock in a corner.

Don't turn the wheel into oncoming traffic, for you are in good company. I find I am more pleasant when I am writing, more patient, more understanding--a better wife and mother--a better person.

If I can do it, so can you! :)

Julie Wright said...

Oh and Curtis, the red sox lost ~sniff!~

Kimberly said...

Wow Julie...this hit home for me in a myriad of ways. I can identify with the fragile ego, the ups and downs of it all, the way it just stops being fun sometimes. Losing that joy is losing the whole point really, isn't it?

Thanks for the much needed insight!

Sue said...

Loved this post Julie. Lately I've been spending a lot of time writing fiction purely for the fun of it. I write it late at night, silly, shallow little nothings that make me smile. It's mostly horrible dreck that I would never want to publish, but it's so much fun that I almost don't care.

It's been really refreshing and has given me new enthusiasm to finally finish my idling manuscript.

R.D. Ward said...

I think I just remembered what it's like to be a writer.

Heather B. Moore said...

Thanks Julie--this made me smile. EXACTLY what I need as I start editing . . .

Celise said...

"My young nieces took parts of your book and put on a play at their church".

"My son wants to know when your next book is coming out."

"My 13 yr old thought that kissing might not be that bad after all after reading your first book."

"I love your blog because you motivate me."

It's comments like THAT that remind why I'm doing this.

Julie Wright said...

Oh Celise, you are so not kidding! Those comments go a long, long way down motivation road.