For the Times When You Want to Give Up on Writing

May 27, 2015

It's one of the most common questions to writers. Why do you write? ask fellow writers and confused family members and school children and crit partners and fans and random people on the internet. People write blog posts and have Twitter conversations about it. We try to explain it to family members who don't quite get why we spend so much time cross-eyed in front of a computer.

One of the most common answers to that question is, "I can't not write!"There's something inside us that drives us to tell stories and drives us crazy if we don't. It's a matter of soul. We are writers and storytellers at heart, and we can't ignore our heart.

Well. Yes. And no.

I've been writing literally since I could hold a pen. Pages and pages of circles on lined paper before I could form letters, and pages and pages of cat and unicorn and alien stories after I could make words. I have always written, always read, always loved stories. It truly is a part of who I am, a part of my soul that tugs at me. I understand when other people say the same thing, whether they discovered that part of themselves long ago or just yesterday.

But there will come a time when you can not-write. When you want to not-write, when you won't be able to bear anything at all except not writing. I'm not talking about a few days of writer's block. I'm talking months or years.

Those are the months and years of illness, both physical and mental, both yours and loved ones'. The times of financial troubles and relationship troubles. They are the months and years of discouragement and disappointment and rejection and fear and the feeling that you've done everything right, but everything isn't doing right by you. They are the months and years that drain you and wear on you and you just want a break. You want to do anything but put words on the page. That soul that craved writing so much has lost its voice, and it isn't calling out to you anymore. Writing is the hardest thing you can think of doing.

That's when what really matters is that you choose to write.

There's a reason a story really starts at the moment a character chooses to follow the path that's been set out for them. It's because stories imitate life, and in life, it's the choice that matters. It's a moment when we take ownership of a thing. We pick it up and say, this is mine. I will do this. There's a power in that, in openly acknowledging how much this thing matters to us. We're not just being pulled along by the whimsy of a soul anymore. We chose to follow the path that soul is giving us. And when the fire in our soul sputters, the choice is what gives us the power to keep following our path in the dark and the cold if we have to.

Because it gets dark and it gets cold on the writing path. But the other wonderful thing about choosing to go on anyway, is that following that path is one of the only ways to find the fire in our soul again. Instead of your soul tugging on you to keep writing, you will be the one tugging on your fallen soul until it gets back up again.

So if writing is what your soul is driving you to do, if it's the thing you really want, then choose it. This minute. Acknowledge that this is what you want, this is what means something to you, and that you will write your stories. Even if that path changes in the future, choosing this one is what will lead you there. Then when your path goes dark-- even if it's gone dark already-- you know you can keep going. You'll know how to wake your soul up when it's worn and tired.

As for me, I think I've finally gotten to the point where my writer's soul is opening its eyes again. And with the light coming back on, the path is looking beautiful.


Neurotic Workaholic said...

What a nice post! And I know what you mean; when I'm not writing, I miss it. I find myself looking longingly at my journal or my laptop. I haven't been able to write anything but my dissertation for the past few months, and I'm eager to get back to writing what I like to write, rather than write chapters with fifty or more footnotes apiece.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Loved reading your post Shallee. When I am not writing, I not just miss it, I also feel irritated that I have not added any new words to my MS. I hate being away from my writing.

Caryn Caldwell said...

Thank you for this encouraging, inspiring post! You're right; writing may choose you at first, but sometimes you have to choose writing. I think it's something that doesn't get talked about enough, and something that makes it hard on people who have those dry spells, so thank you for acknowledging it.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

"They are the months and years of discouragement and disappointment and rejection and fear and the feeling that you've done everything right, but everything isn't doing right by you... That's when what really matters is that you choose to write. There's a reason a story really starts at the moment a character chooses to follow the path that's been set out for them. It's because stories imitate life, and in life, it's the choice that matters."

Those words really speak to me today, Shallee. Thank you. :) Today I will choose to write, even though I've been feeling discouraged this week and wondering why I bother. I will choose to start a new story. (Or even take an old one in a new direction.)

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