Friday, August 6, 2010

Quitting, Soul-Searching, Goals...

Lack of discipline leads to frustration and self-loathing. ~ Marie Chapian

There has been a lot of self-loathing on my part these days (read weeks, months). I have stalled - for many reasons including rejection, what feels like pie-in-the-sky goals, revisions that never seem to work, and basically a lack of self-confidence. I have even stopped calling myself a writer.

So, it's not surprising that I have actually stopped writing. Oh, I talk writing. I write daily blog posts. And I'm working on a weekly instalment serielized story. All of which I do not consider a writing practice (practice, yes - a writing lifestyle, no).

Hayley referred to an article a couple of weeks ago and I also highlighted it on my blog (What Took You So Long?) Obviously, it has had a serious impact on me. One of the sections that really hit home talked about quitting writing "one day at a time". I understand that intimately. I have quit many things in my life - one day at a time.

The most glaring example of this tendency was my running practice. About six years ago I was a runner - worked my way up to running every second day. And I love it! Then, one day I didn't run. Then another week, I missed two scheduled runs. Next thing you know, I had quit running one day at a time.

Now, I'm trying to get back into running and let me tell you it's hard. I get mad when I can't finish an 8K run knowing that six years ago, 10K was easy. But I'm focused and I have a goal - a half marathon in October.

Ooh, a tangible goal! Don't get me wrong - I have a goal for my writing: publication. But it's not tangible. It's pie-in-the-sky!

And now it's a lot easier not to write. Come on - anyone out there going through the same thing I am? I read blogs about writers struggling through, moving forward. Articles about goal-setting and meeting those goals. Stories of writers reaching that pie-in-the-sky goal. I sit in my office, laptop open, and feel like I'm the only one struggling. The only one not writing. They say writers are isolated and I can't agree enough. Then there's the fact that I talk writing - so added to the guilt of not writing, I'm also feeling like a fraud.

No, this is not a plea for compliments or words of encouragement. Sure, that's wonderful and strokes my ego, but it doesn't get me writing. In fact, after the euphoria of that ego boost, I feel worse because now I feel like I'm letting down more than just myself!

Yesterday, I considered walking away. In that amazing article, a woman actually gives up her painting, her passion, and feels so much better for it. No guilt! Go back to a life of normalcy instead of the frenetic life a creative artist tormented by her passion, guilt ridden by her lack of accomplishment, disappointed by her attempts. Boy, is that tempting because the energy expanded on being guilty of not following my passion, my gift, is (truth be told) exhausting.

Luckily, my good friend Hayley gave me much to consider in her comment on my blog yesterday. Here are some of her wise words:

All the cheerleading in the world doesn't help us sometimes. Sometimes we need guilt, anxiety, accountability to get moving and say "Screw this, I'm focusing on what matters most to me, and everything else can get the hell out of my way."

And anxiety seems to be a constant companion! A decision must be made - or I will drive myself crazy with the not writing. I have a little over two months until the marathon. On my calendar I have the runs I need to accomplish "Sharpied" in (no pencil marks here). I am hereby declaring the red Sharpie to be used for my writing practice. Screw this - writing matters TO ME! I don't know what to do with Lady Bells (or I don't know how to do it), so it's being shelved - and you have no idea how hard that is to declare (my heart is shouting 'NO', my stomach just heaved).

1. I will write 700 words 5 days per week (doable because that's what I usually bang out for my serielized story the night before it goes live) on a brand new story.
2. I will be accountable here and on my own blog.
3. I will re-evaluate my desire to continue to write on Oct. 6th (2 months).
4. I will call myself a writer and I will put writing first.

Wish me luck - and feel free to use the comment section to vent about your writing practice. I can tell you, just getting this down and off my chest is good medicine.


Tara Maya said...

That article (What took you so long?) hit home for me too. Heck, I stopped writing fiction entirely from August to May this last year, and I suspect I will again when I go back to school. We'll see.

Sometimes walking away is the best thing you can do. Don't be surprised if you find your interest reawakened after a hiatus, when you're no longer trying to force it. For me, anyway, after nine months of writing no fiction, I was all fired up for it again.

Janet said...

Tara - it's good to 'see' you here! And thanks for sharing your story - nine months is a long time away, but to come back enthused gives me hope.

I haven't given it up, yet. I'll work on this set of goals and then seriously consider what it is I'll do if the spark and excitement still aren't there. I think you touched on a key point - forcing the writing just doesn't work.

Thanks for stopping by - and happy writing :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet, your post reminds me of all the times I've thought of just sitting down and ignoring everything. Following this thought would be an image of me sitting in a corner of some institution while people in white jackets talk about how I just gave up one day. Sort of like that John Conlee song where he sings,
I don’t remember loving you
I absolutely positively know that can’t be true
But everyone I know here in this place is very strange
If you hand me my crayons I’ll be glad to take your name
In case I run across the guy you knew
But I don’t remember loving you

But then I think of how wasteful that would be.

It's how I think when I think about quitting writing. I've known since I was a young girl that God gave me the ability to write a story. It's probably the one thing I do well and still, I have so much to learn. But what a waste if I quit.

And when I weigh writing with other ways to spend my time, there's no contest. Because when I'm writing, I'm doing it. But when I'm doing other things, I'm thinking about writing.

Thank you for sharing your heart, Janet.

Anita Mae.

Janet said...

Because when I'm writing, I'm doing it. But when I'm doing other things, I'm thinking about writing.

It's amazing, Anita, how writing is hotwired into our very existance. This quote of yours is so true - and I know if I gave it up, I would be craving it within hours!

And I love your vision of sitting in a corner of an institution - although, somedays I think that's me at this moment. All those voices talking in my head - if I didn't have writing, then what excuse could I use when I tell people about the voices? I'd be committed for sure!

Thank you for sharing your heart. It's hard to admit to giving up - it's hard to admit that frustration and anxiety. And if you're anything like me, you feel like you're the only one who is so darn stalled, so adrift. At least by airing our insecurities and fears, we're not so lonely in our quest.

Happy writing, Anita - long years of happy writing :)

Joanne Brothwell said...

Hi Janet,
As you know, I think all of these things too. Lately, I have taken a hiatus from writing - almost a month - and it helped. I've gone back and felt excited again.

I'm not pushing it anymore either. I don't tell myself "I'll write for one hour every day," etc. I just don't because for me, it brings out my inner adolescent, and then I rebel. (Kind of like when I go on a diet and then eat everything in sight!) I write when I want to, and I get tons done - when I get to it.

Indigo Blaze may be shelved too, and I've come to terms with that. But I feel good that it is finished, even if it is shelved. I printed off a copy today for my mother to read, and in some ways that is a goal met - good enough for mom!

Janet said... brings out my inner adolescent, and then I rebel. (Kind of like when I go on a diet and then eat everything in sight!)

A great way to describe the angst we seem to be going through, Joanne!

Congrats on stepping back - a very difficult thing to do, but one that may be necessary. And I love that you're writing 'when'. As Tara said, the joy can't be taken away when you aren't forcing yourself.

And I love that goal - printing it off for mom! You know I will look forward to following your progress and process on your blog :)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
I came as close to quitting as you are now. There's probably not a serious writer out there who hasn't at least thought about quitting. In some ways my life would be so much easier if I didn't write. But I've come to the conclusion that I wouldn't be me and I wouldn't be happy.

Like Anita said, writing is the one thing I do decently well and it would be a shame to waste it.

About Lady Bells. You know I love the story and I love the characters. But perhaps, for reasons that ellude me, it is not meant to be. The fact that you finished the story is a major goal accomplished as Joanne said. How many published writers have a first novel hidden away under their beds that they were not able to publish? Quite a few, including yours truly. I chalk it up as a learning experience. There's certainly no shame in it.

Good luck in your new venture. I hope you can find the joy and passion in your writing again.


Janet said...

In some ways my life would be so much easier if I didn't write.

Absolutely, Jana - and then I think how much time I would have on my hands...I'd probably get bored ;)

Yes, Lady Bells. I do love the story - the plot - the characters. But I need to let it go! Perhaps one day, I'll come back to it.

Thanks for the well wishes - I know you're in my corner :)

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Janet, you already know my thoughts on this pretty much. I think we all search constantly to find the right rhythm for us, and figure out where writing sits in our lives. It may be primary focus, an addition to a main job, a passion that may one day sell, or a hobby that can get published or not. The important thing is we need to know what we want from it, what stage we're at in our journey what about it makes us happy, and pursue that.

Goals are a tricky thing that way. They can either make you unlock potential and really get going, or they can drive you toward anything but the thing you want to do. I think the catch is in just that -- what you want to do. If it's writing for writing's sake, embrace that and stop worrying about all the other crap. Write more and more, and learn through development. If you're wanting to take the next step and start approaching writing as a serious career pursuit, then that's a whole different requirement :)

With the goal you've set, I think you'll know for certain what you want by the end of it, and we'll be there along the way to make sure you keep at it until that point. It's not being a writer vs. choosing to be something else that's the problem, it's farting around in the middle doing nothing and talking about it all that a person can start to feel that stagnation -- and it's a horrible feeling.

I think it will be a really big help for you to shelve Lady Bells. It's hard as hell, but you officially will not have to worry about it, nor any of the baggage that came with it. It will ensure distance, and you can throw yourself into new things without any concerns. Whether or not you ever come back to it, or see why it didn't work, doesn't matter. What matters is writing.

connie said...

Hey Janet
I am just trying to figure a way I can beat google and be allowed to print a comment

connie said...

does this work

Janet said...

Just realized I hadn't come back to comment on your thoughts, Hayley! Sorry about that.

The important thing is we need to know what we want from it, what stage we're at in our journey what about it makes us happy, and pursue that.

You've hit the nail on the head. I need to remember that what makes me happy is writing - the actual storytelling aspect. I think that's why I'm enjoying Mickey so much - just telling the story!

Your other comment about stagnation being horrible is so true. The not doing, but thinking about doing leaves me in a doldrum - there is no wind to sail by, but I can't just sit here, bobbing in the water, moving nowhere. Some kind of action needs to take place in order for me to move (either toward writing more or away from it altogether).

Again, thanks for the insight. You always spark a thought or two :)

Janet said...

Connie - it's working!!