Originally Published on December 5, 2017 on WordPress.
Hanging out on one of my favorite Facebook groups the other day, I read a plea for help. It went something like this:
I am a terrible author because I never have the time to write. I’m raising small humans and have a lot of other responsibilities. I want to write. But I haven’t published in forever and I will take at least a year or two or three or six to finish my current work in progress. Should I just give up and admit I will never be good enough? That I am not serious enough?
As you can imagine, the responses to this kind of question run the gamut from kindly sympathetic to abrasively rude. (Hint: rudeness never helps anyone.)
“Go easy on yourself,” said the kind people. “We all go through this!
“Write or don’t. Stop crying about it,” said the cynical.
I’ve been where that original poster is/was, and I had people heap both sorts of advice onto my head. But the best advice I ever got was in the form of a question.
“Why does writing matter to you?”
This is a huge question. It’s really the question every writer should pose to themselves during one of those long dark tea-times of the soul.
Are you driven by sugar-plum fairies to jot down witty tales? Is it therapeutic? An escape? Do you need a source of extra income? (Don’t laugh, some authors make it big.)
Determine why you write. Because when you hit that wall, you’re going to need to know the answer.“What do you mean, a wall?”
I mean when you come up against a very solid reason to give up writing, you need to know why you’ve got to go up and over that reason.
Your reason-to-stop-actively-writing might not even be a bad thing. There can be good reasons to step back. Like you get an amazing job with amazing pay and it fulfills you, or you get a new family member (spouse, child, pet) who needs all your time. Maybe you find another creative outlet (painting, blogging, scrap-booking), or you win the lottery and have to spend all that cash!
There are sad and serious reasons, too. Death of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a relationship, poor health, or having absolutely no time to breathe, let alone write.
These are the walls. You may run into many. But what is going to get you up and over them?
Ask yourself why you write. Now, write down the answer. Explain the answer the way you would explain it to your best friend, your mom, and a stranger on the bus.
Write it again. Write it using the most beautiful words you know. Or the simplest.
Is it real, your reason? When you read it to yourself, does it resonate?
Good. Now put it somewhere you can see it. Make a snazzy graphic and set is as the background on your phone/tablet/computer screen. Tape it to your mirror/fridge/lamp. Read it every time you stand in front of it. Make it your mantra.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a single sentence or a paragraph, it might not be profound, or it might sound generic. Doesn’t. Matter. It’s your reason. Own it.
I’ll share my reason with you. I don’t even care if you laugh.
I write because I’ve told myself stories since childhood and I want those stories to be accessible to the people I love. I write because the stories have always been there. I write because I know my stories bring me happiness and I want to share that feeling with as many people as I can. I write because I love to create with words.
Whatever your reason, it’s a good one. Love or money. (Or why not both?)
Confession Time: My Wall
My latest wall was my pregnancy and the first year of life of a tiny human being. All the joy of writing left during my pregnancy. I joked that the baby was using up all my creativity. But I secretly worried I would never find the desire to write again.
That was the indication that this wall would not stretch before me forever. I worried that part of myself was gone. I was concerned. I cared.
I remembered my reasons for writing. It took me nine months of pregnancy and twelve months of caring for a tiny person, and the rest of my family. That’s 21 months lacking the desire to write.
But it came back as a flood of ideas, hope, and energy. I didn’t even DO anything to get it back. It was just there, suddenly, and I knew I was ready to write again.
But that was a long dry spell. A long time staring at a wall.
There were other things going on in my life, needing attention, care, and love.
There are seasons to our lives.
“Write or don’t,” is the most ridiculous thing you can say to someone staring at that wall.
Why do you write? If your reason matters to you, it’s a good reason, and you will be back. The wall will come down, or you will climb over, or perhaps blow it up. But if you want to write, you will. Eventually.
Give it time. Plowing into that wall is only going to hurt you. Sit. Think. Wait. Study. Take care of what needs your attention. You’ll get that tingly feeling in your finger-tips again, when the time is right. And remember the wise words of a man who didn’t make it big in life, but loved what he did:
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