Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sometimes I need a vacation

Obviously, I have not adhered to the first rule of blogging—keeping it current, always posting. But I have to say, writing all the time, producing all the time whether for a blog or personal creative work, is tiring sometimes. Sometimes I need a vacation.

Lately this has been true not only in my blogging, but also in my creative work. I’ve hit a slump of sorts. I don’t believe in writer’s block. If you’re blocked and you can’t write on your story anymore, it’s because there’s something wrong with your story and not with you. Most likely the problem for your hero isn’t big enough, and therefore it can’t carry the story for as long as you’d like. It’s just a matter of finding the flaw in your work and fixing it. Easier said than done, for sure, but it has nothing to do with the mysterious and elusive writer’s block.

But I have been in a slump. Writing has felt like more of a chore than a pleasure. Although I do recall the words of an author friend of mine, William Tapply (check out his mystery books!) who said that writing is always work for him; it’s never fun. Writing is work. I’ve always likened it to carpentry—a carpenter may work up quite a sweat building something, but in the end he likes the work anyway.

I still like writing—I love it—but I haven’t felt the same drive to produce the way I once did. After some thought, I came up with a few reasons for this.

First, I’ve produced a lot over the past six years. I wrote and published one book and dove right into writing my second and then my third. That’s a lot of discipline and a lot of writing without a break.

Second, I’ve been promoting my first book while writing the next this whole time. It’s like having two additional part-time jobs. A pleasure for sure, but still a drain on one’s energy.

Third, I was deeply disappointed when my second book failed to snag me an agent and was even rejected by my current publisher. When I do something, I want a result. Set the goal, achieve it, and move on to the next goal. When that didn’t happen for my second book, I felt lost. My complete frustration with the publishing industry forced me to ask of myself, just as my characters must ask of themselves, “What am I doing this for anyway?”

It has been a struggle to find my way back to my initial understanding of writing as a process, and that I must enjoy the process and not worry about the final product. I am still struggling to get back to that place where I didn’t care that much about publishing, where I wanted to write for my own enjoyment and if all that came of it was a chance to share my manuscript with my family and some friends, then so be it.

It’s hard to swallow, though, when the whole time you thought publishing one book would only help in publishing a second.

In the meantime, I took a vacation. November and December, I concentrated on preparing for and celebrating the holidays with family and friends. I decided not to stress myself out by adding a strict writing schedule on top of all the cooking and knitting. And now I am beginning to claw my way back to a better fame of mind from which to write. Part of that is a writing exchange with a friend. Every other week, we choose a writing exercise from a book we both have, The 3 a.m. Epiphany by Brian Kitely; we complete the exercise and then share our work over lunch. It’s a way to transform writing back into play, a chance to experiment, a way to challenge and feed my imagination.

So, my apologies for the neglect of this blog. But I really needed a vacation.