Posts

Sometimes I Hate Writing

Note from Christa: This was my post from last month’s Girlfriends Book Club blog. I’m one drool away from smashing my forehead against my keyboard, but I wanted to make something new-ish appear here!  So much to catch up on, so stay tuned…

Years ago, before the release of the movie it inspired, Simon Birch, I read A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Over a decade later, it’s still on my top five favorite books of my so-far lifetime list.  (Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels is also in that number. If you’ve not read her novel, stop reading this…buy it now…and be prepared for a beautifully written, searingly haunting, and heart-exploding redemptive novel.)

I binged on Irving novels for a while after that until I read A Widow for One Year. Three-fourths of the way into the novel, it seemed as if he grew weary because the remaining one-fourth went by at warp speed. I remember closing the book wondering what caused him to gobble up all the lose ends of the novel with one gulp rather than allowing us to savor what remained.

Now I know.

I’ve written five novels, and I experience the same angsty impatience three-fourths of the way to the finish. I hate my characters; they’re whiney relatives who came for a week and stayed for a month.  And when they’re not whining, they’re mute or engaged in a gab fest entirely unrelated to anything I ant/need them to discuss. I hate the novel. I wonder why I thought it was brilliant 300 pages ago. I want to curl into the fetal position inside a cloaking device and become invisible because, when the book releases, everyone will finally know what a fraud I am.

So, anytime I’m near the end of the novel, and I’m scurrying about like Chicken Little’s twin sister, I remember Irving.  And I breathe, then call a friend who can walk me off the ledge. I make sure I have a case of Coke Zero, boxes of Mike& Ike, and I allow those insistent, annoying characters to take me where they want to go.

Sometimes, they’re actually smarter than I am.

Is your passion worth sacrificing?

Perhaps if I wore a latex bikini and waved around an oversized foam finger with one hand while I tapped on the keyboard with the other. . .I could make money as a writer. The first two seem to be working for Miley Cyrus. And she probably doesn’t have a clue that twerking became popular while she was still in diapers.

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Show

(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for MTV)

I seem to have a knack for choosing creative pursuits that aren’t lucrative…like teaching high school, bagel-dipping in Nutella, and writing. Maybe I should have actually read the book Do What You Love, The Money will Follow. But since I’d already discovered outlets that “fulfilled my needs, talents and passions,” I didn’t require direction, just affirmation, so I didn’t read more than the title.

Maybe I could write Fifty Shades of Blue Because I Didn’t Think of Fifty Shades of Gray Before She Did. Or The Sun Before Twilight. Or a prequel to the Harry Potter series. But that would be as successful as me at the age 61 attempting to twerk on-stage with Robin Thicke.

Word to the unwise…back away from your laptop if you’re pursuing fame and fortune as an author. I’ve experienced the wiggling excitement of being offered representation by agents, book contracts, seeing my name on the cover of a novel, finding myself in a bookstore and on Amazon. Yet I’ve invested oodles more in marketing, classes, and conferences than I’ve earned.

So, why do I continue to write?

Because I can’t not write, and that’s never been so clear to me as it has recently. I’d been officially retired for five months after having taught high school English for 25 years when my husband decided to open his own business. He’s a veterinarian.

This is what I do while I’m at work: I smile and say, “Hello. How are you?” or Hold on” and/or “I’ll find someone who can help you.” I’m entering inventory and clients in our database, shelving drugs with unpronounceable names, counting pills for prescriptions, mopping the floors every morning so the clinic won’t smell like the population it serves, answering the phone, leaving the house every morning at 6:30 and not returning home until after 7:00 pm, taking emergency calls with him and working almost every Saturday and often going in on Sundays to catch up from the week.

My consumption of Blue Bell ice cream is increasing in an inverse proportion to my hours of sleep and direct proportion to my depression. I went to bed at 7:30 last night and woke up at 4:00 in the morning to write this post. It’s the first writing I’ve attempted outside of chart notes and prescription labels in over thirty days.

When your passion is suddenly taken hostage, you eventually find a way to survive. To entertain it in your mind where it can’t be constrained. I mop and spin ideas of women once wealthy and powerful who assume false identities and hide out in low-end jobs to escape someone or something. I devise stories around clients who own ten dogs and/or cats. I name future characters after some of the clients’ pets. . . I try to not dwell in the land of, “if I’d written a blockbuster before this, I wouldn’t be wiping up unknown glick on the floor.”

I hope to be ransomed one day. In the meantime, I’m following the advice of my writer friends and keeping a journal. Maybe the glick on the floor will lead to a break-out book. Maybe not. But this I’ve learned: you can’t sacrifice your passion on the altar of someone else’s dreams.

Do what you love. If the money doesn’t follow, your sanity will.

What about you? Doing what you love?