Writing is a Tough Gig at the Best of Times
I have a love/hate relationship with writing. I love it when it’s there, flowing through my veins and out of my fingertips like some kind of alien writing monster (let’s face it fellow writers, we are a different species).
I hate it when writing leaves me and I cannot grasp it. This is what happens when you battle depression and, frankly, a shitty year of badness, including the terminal diagnosis of your mum’s cancer.
Trying to write up against all that was so hard. It just didn’t happen.
Maybe you have been in a similar place or are there right now.
2016 Began Amazingly Well for My Writing
I finally took the plunge to write. Write I did, and then some.
I practically whacked out the first draft of my novel with such aplomb I scared myself with this writing hoodoo. Who was this woman who was writing with reckless abandon and finally, after decades of convincing herself she couldn’t, produced a whole freaking novel?
The husband and I celebrated. We were winning. This was our victory because he had given me the courage to begin writing and put up with the hysterics and self-doubt that accompanied the ride.
We had done it. Just the small *coughs* matter of revising and editing, and then I could unleash my work upon the world. We were golden.
Then the Storm Hit
Depression came so fast. It felled me. I was slammed hard by the Mental Illness Express. I could barely brush my teeth let alone write, revise or edit.
The novel felt like it was dying, alongside its creator. As I lost the will to live, I also could not find the will to write.
To be honest, I didn’t care. I didn’t want to write.
I hated being reminded that I had once possessed such joy and a reason for being through writing. I didn’t want to be reminded of better days. I just wanted to curl up and disappear.
I unfollowed many writing-related blogs. I unliked some writers’ Facebook pages. I unfollowed certain writers on Twitter. I felt like a knife had been pierced into my heart every time I read of others’ writing victories. I wasn’t jealous. That would require a desire to be writing too. I felt like a failure.
When You Cannot Write Every Day as the Foolish ‘Rule’ Suggests
The worst of it all was the constant, incredibly damaging writing ‘rule’ that at least one writer would advocate on a daily basis: ‘You must write every day’.
That is bullshit.
You may disagree with me. You can tell me that you’ve had depression or tragedy in your life and that you found writing daily got you through it. I’m genuinely pleased for you. That, however, is not a truth for everyone.
When you are profoundly depressed, the soundtrack to your life is one of pessimism and self-hatred. You have so much vitriol for yourself that when it seems like you’re being judged against the gold standard of writing every day, and find yourself failing, you deem yourself a useless writer and substandard human being.
We all know the adage of walking in another person’s shoes. I don’t want that for you if you’ve never had depression. I don’t wish for my fellow writers to ever know such futility and darkness that you want to claw your skin off, turn it inside out, and hope that you find something in there that will inspire you to write again.
That is how hard it was. I didn’t need to be told every day that I must be writing. I was busy working on the living part.
The Difficulty of Writing in Recovery
Strangely, now that the recovery process has started, it’s harder to deal with not writing.
When you’re depressed you have the perverse luxury of not having to do or care much about anything. It’s par for the course. You expect it and so do the more informed around you.
There are no expectations. You can just curl up into a blanket bundle and sleep the badness away, as much as you possibly can.
Recovery is hard. Addicts will tell you it’s so. Those coming out of mental illness episodes will agree. It’s often the most difficult part.
You find yourself on the precipice. You tilt on the cliff’s edge, being pulled by depression that wants you to linger in its dastardly comforting ways. It seductively whispers that this is where you belong and that it will take over. All you need to do is fall backwards.
Then you have real life and recovery pulling your hand in the other direction. You’re not sure if that grip is secure or maleficent. Does recovery want to put you into unfamiliar and risky situations, or is it offering you another chance to stand on solid ground? Can you trust it?
It’s a wrench. It’s therefore no wonder that in the beginning of the recovery process, relapses occur along the way. I know. I’m riding that sickening, wonderful roller-coaster right now.
With recovery comes a new hope. Not Star Wars, although that is a wonderful thing. Along comes the will to write. It’s amazing and bloody scary.
I Am Petrified of Writing Again
Yes, I kept writing blog posts, even on days when I thought an overdose would be the best solution for everyone.
Yes, I responded to comments and regularly posted to social media about writing when my mind was telling me I was worthless.
Who was that woman that managed to keep going? I guess the real Lisa was tucked away in there somewhere.
It is then, rather odd, that although I can write these posts, I am finding going back to fiction writing so hard. It’s not helped by battling with vestiges of depression. knowing that my mum’s days are numbered and other personal traumas.
I’m scared that I have lost my writing mojo. Self-confidence has never been high for me. When it comes to writing, right now, it feels non-existent.
I am not whinging or seeking sympathy. I’m squirming at my honesty but I refuse to feel ashamed.
So What Do I Do?
Do I give up?
Do I become a blogger who writes about writing but never actually writes anything?
I love blogging. It gives me a lot of joy and a sense of accomplishment. That’s because it is writing. Therefore I guess I’m not going to escape the hold writing has on me. It’s got me.
It’s bothering me because it matters so much. I wouldn’t have anxiety, dream about it or have random writing ideas popping into my head if this isn’t what I am.
I Am a Writer
Recently, a blogger asked me to take part in her usual writer interview spot. I was astounded that she had asked me as I’ve read previous interviews with published authors.
I asked why she wanted me to do it. I felt like a fraud, particularly as she asked me months ago when I thought I’d never write again.
She told me that she loved my blog posts and the idea of my novel. She said I had an interesting voice and that I’m a great writer (or something along those lines).
As I wrote my interview replies, it dawned upon me that I am a writer. Here is the interview if you’re interested: My Writer Interview With Jo Lambert
I am also a Deputy Admin for a Facebook writing group called ‘All Write’: Slightly shameless plug for the ‘All Write’ group – come join us! I never make out like I’m some kind of writing guru for the group. I’m muddling my way through like so many other writers and bloggers.
I may have stalled in my fiction writing and I may not have any published novels to my name but I am a writer. I have the fire in my belly. I have the ideas. I may even have some skill. I can do this.
I am a writer.
So the plan is to start small. I am continuing to aim to write the best content for my blog posts. I hope you enjoy them.
I am dipping my toes into fiction writing waters with little extracts and working up to short stories.
I have a second novel planned in my head. I am moving towards plotting it out and developing characters. This will be a piece-by-piece novel. I swore I’d never get into jigsaws but now I see the sense in playing the long game and working on the whole, one little bit at a time.
If this novel takes years, so be it. I burnt myself out on the last one. I can admit that now. I wanted to prove something to myself and the world.
I thought if I quickly produced a novel I would provide the evidence to earn my status as a writer. I now see how foolish this was.
I Believe I Am a Writer
I wrote this.
I have written so much more.
I can write.
As for the first novel, it will languish a little longer. It is about depression so now is not a good time to re-visit it. It’s important to me that it does get read one day but I’m not up to missions right now. I’m happy with little hurdles.
I know my writing will be influenced by how my mum is doing with her illness too. I will have to cross those difficult bridges as and when they arise. I already have to do it, but I’m not alone.
I have the Husband, steadfast as ever. I have supportive family members. I have a wonderful best friend. I have supportive fellow writers and bloggers.
I am grateful to you all. You have all helped me to see, even when it gets a little misty and dark, that I am a writer. You read my work; therefore you make it all worth it.
To Those Struggling to Write
If you are finding it difficult to write, particularly in the face of tragedy, hardship, poor health, lack of confidence, or anything else, please do not feel guilty.
Do not hate yourself if you think you will never write again. Self-care is where it’s at. You come first, writing comes second.
If writing is meant to be for you, it will wait patiently for when the time is right. It will not let you down.
You may find there are days when you cannot even write a sentence – I know, believe me – but tomorrow or the day after that, your fingers may just fly. Let it do what it needs to do.
I know how it feels to lose the will to write: The Hiding Place of the Will to Write
Writing is your friend not your enemy. You, my temporarily broken friend, are still a writer.