Wednesday, January 21, 2015
A Writer's Quest
I've been feeling like something's missing. No, not from my relationships. I'm talking about my writing. I've written and published a few things in the past year, but it's like I'm hanging on by a thread. What happened to my creative spark?
I used to stay up all hours of the night writing, writing, writing. I couldn't write fast enough. Words would come pouring out before I could catch them all on paper. Even now I still have a lot of ideas, a lot of notes, but when I settle in and start working I can barely force out two pages. Even worse, once it's done, once I've written a page or two and wrap up for the day, I dread getting up the next day and going back to the computer to write. Where did that come from?
Yesterday, after a productive writing session of about 1400 words, the dread started in again. I finally acknowledged to myself that something's wrong. Houston, we have a problem. I shouldn't dread writing. I have always loved writing. Normally, I swear I'd go crazy if I were cut off from writing. But now? I'm finding myself asking different questions these days, namely: Why am I doing this to myself? What happened to the joy I used to get out of writing?
That's it. That's what missing. Joy. Contentment. The satisfaction I used to get from discovering interesting characters as I wrote about them. Learning their quirks while going along with them on their journeys. The thing is, I'm not sure when the joy escaped the building. I also can't figure out how to lure the joy back in.
During all the New Year celebrations a few weeks ago, when I said I was going to reevaluate myself this year, I had no idea that I'd be going this deep with it. I set my intentions back in October of 2014, and I've stuck by them so far. As a result, I've been stressing less, cutting out negativity when and wherever I can. Whenever I start to feel anxious, I walk away until I'm calm. It's really helped me to relax more, which was the goal. I'm also sleeping better, which is practically a miracle. All that just from making a few changes.
Last night, I took a notebook and pen to bed with me. I lounged across the mattress to watch some TV on the set in the master bedroom, and I started looking at what's going on with my writing. To kick things off, I jotted down a list of writing problems. I'm not as productive as I used to be. That's a major issue I want to fix. But then there's the dread.
My procrastination is a symptom of dread. I know it is. So, then, what's the cause? Writer's fear? I'm not entirely sold on that idea. I'm talking about the desire to avoid writing altogether. After some consideration, I've guessed that maybe I'm not really writing my true interests, or that maybe I'm not choosing characters who are interesting enough to keep me motivated. I mean, if I find my characters super interesting, their stories should flow, right?
All day long I've been trying to think of ways to work around the creative constipation and get my writing mojo back. Still, it's there, that something bothering me. That feeling that something's missing and I need to fix it.
Around noon today I was fiddling with my tarot collection, and I drew the 8 of cups from one of the decks. I've been getting this card a lot since 2012. It shows up in just about every other reading for me, whether I'm doing the reading or receiving one. A friend of mine once had that happen with the Queen of Swords. That card followed her around for several years. Similarly, the 8 of Cups has become my shadow.
While meditating over the card, it didn't take me long to figure out that it had something to do with my writing. The man or woman in the card is leaving behind eight stacked cups to find the one that's missing. At least, that's one interpretation. Ever since I started writing professionally, I'd go on one journey after another to build new skills, cup by cup: mastering plotting, understanding how to write three dimensional characters, learning to build theme, or conflict, etc. Now that I have those basic "cups", those basic skills, what do I do? There's still a gap there. So what's missing? What do I need to find to make the effort complete?
I've been struggling with this question for far longer than I care to admit, but at least now I know what the answer is: My love of writing. My joy. That's what's missing. That's the ninth cup. It isn't a skill or a process I need to find. It's that writerly state of mind. The love of writing and creating, the joy that keeps us going everyday, that keeps us coming back to the desk to write more words. I need to find that again. I think that is also partly where my fear comes from. Loss of that spark. The loss of love. I've been avoiding the truth for so long that anxiety and fear have taken root where the passion used to be.
Anyway, I'm writing this because as of today I'm on a quest. I want to recapture the joy of writing. I want to bring back that excitement, joy, and feeling of contentment I used to have when plugging away at the keyboard. On the surface level, it seems like it would be simple to do, but I really have no idea yet how I'm going to make it happen. It's kind of a scary prospect. What if I fail? At this point, that just doesn't seem like an option for me. There can be no failure. I won't allow it. I know I love writing. I will simply keep walking the trail until I find the ninth cup.
Quests are never easy. They're full of danger, false starts, wrong turns, doubt, and hidden traps. Oh, and let's not forget life lessons. But no matter how lengthy or dangerous a quest turns out to be, the reward for sticking it out is always worth it in the end. So that's what I plan to do: stick it out, keep writing, and make a conscious effort to find that missing cup.