writing life

Stop Writing, Please

I’ve been largely absent here for 2019. Sorry about that. I’ve been putting my writing energy and time into my novel.

The concept for it has been rattling around in my head since 2014. I only just found an ending in November 2018, and, in May 2019, finished a first, full draft of the whole story.

This is a crucial milestone moment! This is the first time since I scribbled down the pages that would become the seed that would grow into the book that the project feels finish-able.

…I still can’t quite believe it.

But, then, the book isn’t ready to be pitched and sent out, nor is it ready to be sent in full to beta readers for their feedback. It still needs some serious work. Revision has never been my favorite part of the process, but I was so ready to get in there and rip out the bad stuff, shore up the good stuff, and pull it all back together.

In preparation, I started reviewing the craft resources I love to see what kinds of revision processes are out there.

Every single person who knows what they’re talking about (from agents to writers to editors) recommends taking a break from the manuscript before jumping into revisions.

Robert Jackson Bennett (of the amazing Divine Cities Trilogy and other works) recommends a month.

I get it. The need for distance. The need to be able to see clearly what has been created on the page, where the holes are, and all of that, so I started to take a break.

It’s been a week.

One week.

Seven days.

And I am

losing

my

mind.

I’ve had the idea for five years, and worked on this project consistently for three. I’ve been working on this book almost every day.  It’s been my almost-sole writing project. And you know what? I think I’ve invested a pretty big chunk of self worth and self value in it. To the point that taking a break from it is throwing me into existential crises.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve written on this blog about the intersection of mental health and creative writing, and how self-worth and identity can become weirdly tied up in one’s creative work. I think I’ve even written on something very close to this idea. But something about this feels different. Unexplored.

So, here goes nothing.

The capitalistic society I’m in doesn’t prioritize the arts, ESPECIALLY the unpaid arts. The top American goal is to make money. People are considered more or less successful based on their accumulation of money, objects, and so on. But because I’m an unestablished writer hoping to be a published one, I must prioritize my writing time in a way that doesn’t make sense to the American capitalist. I’m trying to develop a career in a field that doesn’t promise wealth and success for hard work, and I’m doing so without being paid. I’ve given myself permission to think outside of the consumerism box, and value my craft.

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. At least, not at first.

Then comes this whole “taking a break” nonsense.

When I’m taking a break, I feel my days have less inherent value, and, by proxy, that my life and presence have less value.

Knowing this isn’t true doesn’t necessarily ease the distress.

See, I really haven’t escaped a capitalism mindset. I’ve just reassigned WRITING as the top priority instead of MAKE MONEY. I’m still trying to find meaning and worth through what I do. Because I’ve sunk value/worth/priority into WRITING, when I stop, even temporarily, I feel lost. This seems to me to be an unhealthy relationship with my work. 

On the other hand, the reason I write is because I feel compelled to. This is the thing I need to do in order to live, in order to understand, and to process. To be a published writer is something I want. Deeply. So maybe I can’t blame capitalism for all of it.

I don’t have a full-circle conclusion for this one. Part of the writing process is NOT WRITING. I have to figure that out. And it’ll all be fine. It’s temporary, like everything else.

My goal is two weeks before I look at the manuscript again. In the meantime, I’m going to keep writing in general: updating this blog, and I’m going to try to get all the way through Ursula K. LeGuin’s fabulous Steering the Craft, a craft book complete with writing exercises. I may blog some of my freewrites and reflections as I go, so my deprivation may be your benefit, if these things are of any benefit to you, of course.

Happy writing/not writing…

3 thoughts on “Stop Writing, Please”

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