July 9, 2014 – The Con Game
Writing a book has been compared to having a baby. There’s the idea's conception, incubation, and eventually (and hopefully) the birth. My experience has also included postpartum depression. After months or years of work, after the research, the writing, the editing, the critiques, and the revision of the editing, the completion can be hard to handle. Of course there’s an initial relief and joy. I’ve finished! I’ve done it! It’s a book! But then reality sets in as I write query letters and send them out to potential agents. Reality bares its teeth and shows its mean streak as the inevitable rejections come rolling in. The daunting task of beginning a new project, of starting that whole process again from scratch is not so easy with reality breathing down my neck and whispering horrible publishing statistics in my ear. Maybe there will never be a payoff.
I finished a book just after the first of the year. In the past, before starting the next big thing, I’ve given myself a few weeks as a vacation from writing as a reward and as a way to recharge my creativity. In the past I’ve recovered from my post project depression without much ado. In the past I’ve been excited to begin writing again.
This year was different.
A series of unfortunate events, one after the other, rocked my emotional equilibrium and scared away the voices in my head. Any one of the events on their own would have been easy to forget, but altogether they felt hard to ignore. I’ll get over it, I’ll be fine, I reassured myself. But time fell down on its job of healing wounds. Time passed by. A month and then two were gone. I played ball with Oscar the dog. I read. I babysat. I cleaned house. I did yard work. I cooked. On April Fools’ Day, I left for Wyoming to caretake a secluded, wilderness property. How ironic, I thought, to finally be in the perfect, undisturbed location for writing and not have any stories to tell.
For the first time in my life there weren’t words streaming into my head like a radio set on scan. No character voices arguing with each other or me. Just a blank quiet interrupted by “normal” thoughts. What will I eat for lunch? I hope the coyote shows up today. I need to do some laundry.
The scariest part of this was that I didn’t even seem to care that the stories, words, and characters were all gone. Apathy is a horrible thing. I didn’t force it away.
“Do you think you’ll write again?” my mother asked me on the phone after reading one of my terse and phlegmatic blogs.
“I hope so,” I said. I didn’t know. Most of the time I didn’t care except to ask myself, If I’m not a writer, what am I?
Then finally, on April 18, I made my first non-blog journal entry since… I don’t know when. I wrote: It’s as if my soul has been breathed back into me. I want to write about being the White Witch—always winter and never Christmas, of the gorse bushes (what else would they be?) growing up out of the snow along with the red reeds. I have no idea what this stuff is.
Then the silence came back. But it wasn’t as empty, it wasn’t as hopeless. My thoughts had room for growth. Maybe. At some time in the future.
I began to play with an idea. I gave a character a name. Then I fell back into the silence. I left Wyoming and went to Oregon. Back in civilization where the libraries are, I began to read. Tentatively, as if afraid to commit myself to the work, I began to call that reading research.
Last week I read a friend’s blog. At one point she says, “Recently—like within the last five years or more—I’ve had a bout of what I’ve been calling writer’s block, but, in all actuality, I think it’s more of a loss of self-confidence where writing is concerned.”* It was then that it hit me. I’d lost my confidence. At some point I’d traded the brash belief in myself, in my writing, and in the inevitability of good coming from hard work for a jaded and cynical outlook. I’d lost my sense of humor which happens to be directly linked to my creativity. I had a severe case of despair.
But, as G.I. Joe said, “Knowing is half the battle.” So I’ve decided to run the ultimate con game on myself. A confidence game where I con myself back into confidence. A confidence scheme so good that I trick myself into writing and discover that I love it again. Because after all, writers write.
*Read Kari's full post here: http://kariwolfe.com/doing-regain-writing-confidence/