I’ve had a lousy January. I hope yours has been better than mine.
Recently I’ve rediscovered, during a week of deathmatch cage battles with the next book, that working through this feeling is where the real work is. When a week of writing sessions have gone poorly and faith is low, that’s when my spine, if I still have one, is revealed. To choose to keep working anyway even when it’s not going well. If I pick projects that are always easy, I’m not learning anything. If I don’t hit some walls on a project, I’m not sure I want to be doing them at all. This is a platitude at the beginning, easy to say and believe that you believe. But then you hit a rough patch, and life is all question marks.
For years I’ve collected pithy quotes about how to handle moments like this. They take up half a whiteboard in my office. Little sayings, some mine, some borrowed, for how to get over the various bumps that come with a writing life. But those quotes just sit on their ass. There is always still a choice: do I sit down again and try one more time, believing I’ll get further than the day before, or go watch TV? Play with the dogs? A thousand things seem suddenly seem all so inviting.
When things are going well the choice is easier. Writing wins cause it’s fun, personal, often therapeutic and rewarding. There’s no magic in that choice on the easy days. But on bad days like this one, when you can hear the blank page laughing from the other room, when the memories of writing a chapter, much less a book, feel like they must belong to someone else, what will I choose?
For big goals the bad days matter more than the good. Anyone can work on the good, easy, fun days, but the bad? Well, that’s the question. To believe I’m committed to the work, I have to show up on all days. Every day. And feel my feelings but not let them stop me from showing up at the desk and taking my swings. I’d rather strike out than not show up at the plate. If I’m not willing to strike out, then it’s time to find something else to do.
Using one of my old tricks, this missive has let me cheat my demons by writing about them, and perhaps now I can get back to work. Wish me luck.