For a few days towards the beginning of the summer I truly thought I would get a lot of writing done, that I would somehow cobble together a rough-rough-rough draft of the novel I’m working on. But summer’s over and, oops, I am nowhere near that; I didn’t even come close. It’s okay, though.
I’ve had a kind of psychological shift in how I approach/think about my writing recently. When I decided to get “serious” about fiction, I was in my mid-twenties and I wrote almost maniacally to meet internal deadlines I’d set in my head. I wrote and wrote and wrote and I sent out stories before they were ready and I took workshops and classes and sometimes I was lucky to get published, and then, a few years later, I was so incredibly lucky to find an amazing publisher that believed in my stories and helped me form them into something more solid for the public. After it came out I continued to write and write and write and after a few years (ugh, years? really?), I completed a novel that I still dearly love: my first long work, something I’d never put so much thought and time and effort into. Since its completion, it’s been in limbo – my agent is doing behind the scenes work and I’ve gotten some nice rejections, but as any writer knows, a nice rejection is still a rejection. Books are hard to get published. At this point I’m not sure what else to do about it other than wait, patiently, and keep writing and writing and writing like I did before.
Which sounds like a good plan, except for a while I just stopped writing. It was weird. I went from being someone who was annoyingly productive to… not at all. I wondered if I really cared so much about writing? I’d always thought that the thing I wanted to be most in the world was writer and then I realized that maybe it wasn’t what I wanted, and what was it instead? And what if whatever else I wanted to be was also some kind of unattainable goal? Everyone faces this at some point and I suppose my turn was up. So I stopped writing, but I was busy figuring out other things in my life: I was moving cities, I was changing roles at work, I was seeing doctors, I was spending time with friends, I was being lazy, I was going through things that ate into the psychological space writing used to take up in my life.
I do believe that if you’re a writer, you’ll write through any upheavals and that if you’re in it for the long run, you’ll figure out ways to shoe horn it into your busy/emotional/lazy/fun life. But I am in it for the long run and, I see now, I needed a break. The week that I spent on the island in May was a good reset: it reminded me how much I do love writing, how much I need it and even if it’s not necessarily the most important thing, it’s one of the most important things.
A few months ago I saw that Jessa Crispin was giving astrological chart/tarot card readings for creative projects. I know half the people reading this will roll their eyes at the concept and the other half will lean in closer. I am of the latter group, and I signed up for a reading. One Saturday morning the two of us met on Skype and she talked to me about my chart and we did a reading, and so much of it made sense in a creepily accurate way. It helped me realize things about how I should currently approach my writing, the biggest message being that I was likely at a stage where work would come to me slower than it did before and that I should enjoy it, take advantage it, rather than beat myself up about not being “productive”. At the same time, I still had to be diligent about not being lazy – there’s a difference between taking time to do work and simply not doing it. Most of this could be gleaned without any chart readings, but hey, you do what you do. I didn’t take a writing workshop this year; instead I got a tarot reading, and came away equally inspired/motivated.
So, yeah, in the end I didn’t write much this summer, although the bits I did write I’m proud of (a short story of mine got shortlisted for the Matrix Litpop contest and I’m now writing food book reviews for Bookslut). But I do wish I’d written a few more pages for my novel. Because the fall always feels more like a new year, I want to commit to pushing myself more. I want to write more fiction and go to more literary events — Toronto has such a great community and I’ve been a bit of a hermit. So I’ll put this up on my blog as a reminder. I also want to remember this feeling — this vagueness, this uncertainty — so that later I can remind myself it’s okay to feel like this, that I am in it for the long run, even if I sometimes need a break.