Writers & Feelings

Writerly Feelings (1)So this new WIP I have going on. It’s a whopper, y’all. It’s making feel all the feelings–in the universe–all at once. I alternate between giggling and happy to morose and wanting to never see the written word again for as long as I live. I’m not an “overly emotional” person by most people’s standards, so this is new territory for me. To be honest, if this WIP didn’t encompass a social issue that I happen to care deeply about I don’t know that I’d put myself through this.

And heaven knows I’m having to push. I have to force myself back to this thing over and over again. I’m ashamed to say I’ve tried to quit writing it completely not once but twice. Yet here I sit, back at it again. This is the story that’s demanding to be written–the issue that’s at the center of my heart.

So it’s no wonder an article titled, “20 Great Writers on Motivating Yourself to Write, No Matter What” would catch my eye today. Sure enough, I was nodding in agreement at the first author’s words and was so moved by the time I got to the fourth that, well, I started writing this blog post. A few of the quotes struck such a personal cord with me that I’m including them here, but if you’re struggling with forcing yourself to write every day the way I am–just go read it. It’s so worth it.

Colson-Whitehead-007“Most people say, “Show, don’t tell,” but I stand by Show and Tell, because when writers put their work out into the world, they’re like kids bringing their broken unicorns and chewed-up teddy bears into class in the sad hope that someone else will love them as much as they do.”

–Colson Whitehead

Ain’t this the truth? (Sorry, my Southern slipped out.) Maybe part of the reason we (I mean I) have such a hard time putting words to paper every single day is because we’re wrestling with that voice that says: “This is stupid. No one is going to like this. You’re wasting your time–people are going to read this and know you have no clue what the hell you’re doing.” It’s no different than the child who second-guesses their decision to bring their chewed up teddy bear to show and tell for fear the other children will say, “What is that?”

dinaw mengestu“Don’t think about how your characters sound, but how they see. Watch the world through their eyes–study the extraordinary and the mundane through their particular perspective. Walk around the block with them, stroll the rooms they live in, figure out what objects on the cluttered dining room table they would inevitably stare at the longest, and then learn why.” 

–Dinaw Mengestu

This particular quote stopped me cold. It’s especially applicable to the story I’m wrestling with now. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever attempted to write and, well, I walk with my character all the time. I sincerely do that part. But do I see what they see? Do I pay attention to the things they pay attention to? Or do I try to force them to see what I see? If I’m only seeing my world through my characters eyes, why am I even bothering with this? I would have a hard time not hugging Mr. Mengestu if I passed him on the street right now, and I am most decidedly not a hugger. Thank you, sir.

RobinBlack2014“And if there is one here, it’s this: I am emphatically not an example of someone who first was too busy with her kids to write, and then finally wasn’t too busy with her kids to write; so wrote. I am an example of someone who was a complete self-sabotaging head case, blocked, miserable, wasting days, years, despairing, depressed, mistreating the people around me, mistreating myself, certain that in old age I would feel a regret so keen that I feared that emotion more than I feared eventual death.”

–Robin Black

I identify with this on so many levels. Most days I feel miserable with myself for taking so much time away from my family to write and chase my dreams. It’s so easy for me to forget that by doing this thing I do, I’m simultaneously giving my loved ones the permission to do the same. Yet it’s that last line, if I’m being completely honest with myself, that resonates with me the most.

anne lamott“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction — and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.”

–Anne Lamott

Yes, all of that. I can’t even add to it–what if, indeed, Anne. What if, indeed.

jami attenberg“And we all get mired in the bullshit, the personality quirks, the personality disorders (ours and everyone else’s), the jealousy, the disappointment, the blocks, the financial struggle, our egos, I do it too, I do it too, but if you can’t remember it is all about the work and nothing else then I can’t help you and you can’t help yourself and you will lose. I promise you. You will lose.”

–Jami Attenberg

My God. It’s like Jami Attenberg was peeking in my living room window yesterday. I got my feelings hurt by another writer’s personality disorder less than 24 hours ago. I dunno, maybe it’s just a personality quirk but it sure felt like a disorder when I read what I read. I had a little of this chat with myself this morning, but it sure was nice to see someone else say it, too. It’s about the work, the words, the writing, and the art of story telling. Nothing more.

octavia_butler“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

–Octavia Butler

Yes ma’am, is all I can say. I couldn’t ask for more perfect words to end this post. It’s about the world my characters see, their feelings, their motivations, not mine–and inspiration may or may not come–but I can be persistent in my practice because that’s what matters.


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