“… at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.” Joseph Cambell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
I am not just procrastinating. I am going into a fully fledged depression.
If I don’t finish this story, I don’t have to submit it. If I don’t submit it, it can’t be rejected. If it isn’t rejected, I can keep on being a “couldabeen”. I won’t have to face the fact that I could fail at my dream of writing like I failed at my dream of being a mother. Because who am I if one by one I have to give up on all my dreams? What am I left with?
I’ve been escaping into safe things, things I know I can do, or things where if doesn’t mean that much to me if I have a few projects that don’t quite work out. Sewing, knitting, cooking, jewellery making. If something doesn’t work, I might be a little frustrated, but I don’t take it personally. I don’t need to. It never meant that much to me anyway.
But writing does. It’s personal. It’s who I am. If my writing sucks, I suck. And boy, does my writing suck right now! This first draft feels so bad I don’t see any point in keeping on going, there’s nothing here that can possibly be turned into good story. And no point starting a new story, because it will just be the same.
I need to stop this right now, before I spiral down into a crash and burn I might never get out of.
Somehow, I need to find a way to step back, get some detachment. Allow it to be okay if I play around with writing, experiment with things knowing it might not work out, might not be anything I ever want to show another human being let alone submit to an editor. Just like I’ve made garments that have never been worn, but have gone straight into the rag bag; or a few jewellery pieces that sit in the bottom of my work box and no one has ever seen; or those recipe experiments that are too bad to even feed to the dog, and we just get takeaway for dinner that night instead.
Sometimes things don’t come out how we want, that’s part of life. Being okay with that is what lets us try, try again, take chances, do things differently, and enjoy the journey regardless of whether ultimately we succeed or not.
That’s the attitude I need.
How to get there from here, I don’t know!
But just saying that, I feel different. I want to go write, make things happen for Luk and Emma. Sometimes it seems just saying “I know I need to change but I don’t know how,” brings its own light to the darkness. Being willing to admit there is a problem, and being open to the solution, begins the change process. Unless our story people go through their black moment, they can’t win through to their lasting happiness. And unless we admit we are in the dark, we can’t see the light when it comes.
Step one is to look at my expectations.
The reason I can play and have fun with other creative stuff is that I am not expecting to produce a professional result. I don’t compare my wobbly-seamed homemade dress with haute couture, or my lumpy-but-yum carrot cake with the work of a top patissiere. Yet for some crazy reason I think my first draft dreck should be as good as published writing, that has been maybe been rewritten, edited and polished twenty times by the writer from her first draft, with the help of an editor too?
The reason I take it so personally is that writing has become inextricably linked in my mind with my other major life goals. From when I was a young girl, there were three things I wanted to achieve in my life. Have children and be a good mother, be a published writer, and build my own little house. Though not necessarily in that order.
For a long time, writing was the thing I worked on the most. I also renovated two houses. Then, in my thirties, emphasis shifted. All my focus was on having a baby. I didn’t write, apart from some journalling, didn’t think about much else. It probably wasn’t too healthy a way to be, especially when no matter how “good” I was, how much I followed the rules, I couldn’t make it happen. I think I have been in danger of making writing a replacement obsession. Also not healthy.
It’s a good thing that I’m letting myself have some time off, play with other creative stuff, have other loves and other interests. Monomania is never attractive! No need to feel guilty or as if I am somehow betraying myself by taking a break from the intensity of focus.
What is not good is making myself depressed, feeling a failure, thinking that wanting a weekend off from writing means I should give up.
I needed a break, so I could stand back and see what was happening. Taking a break is NOT giving up, it’s having a breather and finding a different, maybe better way to head towards where I want to get.
I gave having a baby my best shot seven times before I gave up trying any more. Here’s my deal with myself- I will give becoming a published romance writer seven of my best shots too before I give up on that. Hey, if I can handle seven lost pregnancies, I can handle seven story rejections, right? One submission down, six to go!