Now that you have the ear-worm firmly implanted in your skull, we’ll continue.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my role as a writer. It’s been an extremely dark and dreary winter thus far. I’ve made some big changes lately and I’ve been struggling with getting actual words down on paper. For years, I had a writing routine that I stuck to religiously. The minute that routine folded, Negative Nelly began to ask a question of me. “Are you sure you’re a writer? Maybe you’re just a guy who wrote for a while.”
I try not to listen to Nelly, but she’s been a monkey on my back for over 40 years now. Whenever she asks me this question, or points and laughs at me as I attempt to pass myself off as a writer, it chips away at something inside me. All I have to do to stop being a writer is stop writing. It’s as easy as becoming a writer in the first place…only in reverse. How many times have I heard people saying, “I want to be a writer, too.” Guess what, genius…you wanna be a writer? Sit. Write. BOOM! You’re a writer.
But how long does one have to stop writing for the NON-WRITER label to apply to them? Six months? A year? Six years?
The things we do to ourselves!
Do me a favour. If you’re a writer currently struggling with a dry-patch…go easy on yourself. Expect that there are down-times and you won’t drive yourself crazy when they come.
When I hear other writers say stuff like, “I’m not writing right now. I feel so guilty. I’ve given up. I’m not a writer!” I remind them that A WRITER IS ALWAYS WORKING. This is some sort of golden rule of writers. I don’t have the source for that last statement, I just acknowledge it as a golden rule under the BECAUSE I SAID SO clause. Why? Because I said so. I remind them that writers are mills and in the quiet time between putting words on paper and not putting words on paper we are gathering grist. The mill doesn’t have to be milling to be in service, right. You can’t work the mill without having something to put into it. Into every writer’s life, time-blocks for the gathering stage must be allotted.
I tell myself…though I’m not writing, I’m still processing-accumulating-gathering. It’s a feeble excuse at times…when three or four or seventeen days go by without any words being written. “I’m getting grist for the mill.” Suddenly Samuel L. Jackson is screaming in my ear, “Bullshit, Motherfucker!”
Yeah. My Negative Nelly swears like a truck-driver. If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know this. (-:
I’ve been told by some that as long as I am still writing blog-posts about writing, I can pass myself off as a writer. As long as I have an agent who is actively pushing my work to publishing houses, I can pass myself off a writer. Both of these things are true. My agent currently has 2 of my novels in the hands of publishers. So I actually feel a bit authentically writerly about that. I just wish this never-ending winter would break its spine so I could crawl back out of the trenches and get back into some sort of regular writing routine.
I have no fewer than six novels in progress. Each one sits quietly rejected for months at a time. And each one mockingly rears its ugly head in turn, sticks out its tongue and makes fun of my defeat. I have so many characters poking and prodding me on a regular basis, at times I feel a bit crazed. Going through the inventory of characters trapped in half-completed to near-completed to just begun manuscripts I have no fewer than eight characters abandoned in Africa (5 at the airport!), one character running from the cops and two attempting to get him to turn himself in, one character at the bottom of a swimming pool experiencing the temporary effects of drowning, five characters standing over a patriarch’s open grave trading barbs and witticisms. These are just a few of my arrested in development characters. And I hear their non-stop complaints. I do. Honestly. I just don’t have the gumption to get them back into a fluid motion. Sometimes I think about it. But like a chess master, I contemplate which one I’ll move next…until my head is spinning with the impossibility of movement.
I’ll get around to it. Dammit.
In the meantime, if you don’t mind, I’m just gonna sit here and percolate. I need a lot of grist to accumulate before I can get back into the task of getting this busload of noisy maniacs crammed into the mill. When the time comes, it will be my pleasure to grind them all into dust…er…I mean finish their various stories.
Writers, eh! Man…we move in mysterious ways!