Monday, January 25, 2016
Through: The Only Way Out
Note: This should have been Friday's entry, but (as is probably going to happen from time to time for the next 18 weeks) we got combo-attacked here at The Hall of Rectitude. The Contrarian got sick and couldn't do normal child care, and chemo hit harder than anyone was ready for. When Uberdude went back to work, I was needed for monumental amounts of tag ins and help. So....late post.
I know a lot of writers who don't really write. They express a florid love of writing. They wax prolific about their deep commitment to their craft. They seem to have no end of ambition to be writers. But they don't do a lot of actual writing.
If that's you, that's okay. I won't tell. I'm not the writer police. You decide your own level of involvement in writing. If it brings you happiness, then it has achieved everything that art should do. I might arch a Spock eyebrow if you complain that you're not a bestselling author, or are bitter that you can't pay the bills on three hours a week's worth of effort. But if you're happy with writing when the mood strikes, then more power to ya. Seriously.
But this post is not for you.
This post is for those who sit down every day and write. For those who carve out the time from even the most dogged of schedules. Not because of some newly polished commitment to be better about the discipline of writing in hopes of achieving its far flung accolades of wealth, prestige, and groupie threesomes. Rather for those who get antsy if they skip a day. Who begin to feel frustrated and emotional if they miss two. Who will be a total emotional wreck if they skip a week.
For you all I have something to say.
For you all I have something important to say.
For we talk a lot about habits and discipline. We talk a lot about the cost of even the tiniest measure of "success." We talk about sitting down every day, preferably at the same time every day because that's how writers carve out the kind of prodigious body of works upon which a career might be formed.
We also talk about not letting our writing lapse. For sometimes writing is hard. And sometimes its a burden. And sometimes we'd rather be doing something else like scoring critical strikes on super mutants in Boston. And sometimes we have to do something else like sit in a hospital and curse the gods for the day they thought of cancer.
But deep down in places that sound to maudlin to express, we know that writing–for us–isn't just some long slogging path to a milestone of success. It's not some grueling pace we put ourselves through that can be taken or left if we decide we have better things to do that week than trying to Become Writers™. We don't write because we're going somewhere. The writing is not a means to an end. The writing is the end itself.
I don't know what's going to happen to you, but the way life works is that it will. For me it was my girlfriend of ten years getting stage two lymphoma and a tumor the size of a softball. For you...I don't know. Death, disease, injury, illness....there are so many possibilities life has to throw at you.
But here's the important part. You have to keep your relationship to writing in mind. If you can take it or leave it before tragedy strikes (and it will) you can probably take it or leave it when you're dealing with the tragedy. You don't suddenly transform into another creature when crisis hits. You aren't magically someone who is just fine not writing for days or weeks at a time. You can't suddenly put it off to the side because life is more important.
For you, everything everyone is saying around you about self care or possibly about not being able to help others if you aren't taking care of yourself goes for writing as well. Right under "eating" and "getting some sleep," you have to add "Write a little."
This isn't optional. This isn't an indulgence or a frivolity. It's not decadent and it's not selfish. It's how we process. It's how we align. It's our therapy (or some of our therapy). And in a very real way it's how we meditate, our fingers flying over keys as our brains spin our emotions and nebulous into words.
This is what you need to keep going. Not want. Not "if there's time." Need. It's as important as your calories and melatonin to your proper functioning. You have to sit and write a little. It doesn't have to be six chapters of your magnum opus. It could be an email to some friends or a few minutes in a journal. Just a little. But you have to do it to be okay, and whatever this tragedy is, it did not change that part of you. Your relationship to writing doesn't simply end because something's come up.
For us, writing is our lifeline. And take it from someone who forgot for a few days and kind of broke down a little until he sat and wrote and felt at least like he had enough gas in the tank to keep going, you have to do this. Eat. Sleep. And write a little.
For us, writing is the way through.