On Writing

Sometimes I feel like I have a love-hate relationship with writing. Other creative pursuits satisfy me deeply — indeed, I don’t get very far into a week or even a day before something creative needs to happen — but none are the drive in me that writing is.

And yet. It is such hard work, such very hard work. I avoid it; I delay; I find urgent jobs.

This blog helps; it really does. There are many small goals to be reached. It is fun (usually). I am not taxed (but rarely). I started it years ago, but it was all marked private (and believe me, I double checked every time I wrote in it that it was staying private) until six months ago. There was a moment when I knew that it was time. I wrote some posts that I knew I wouldn’t mind anyone reading, and once I had a few done, I clicked from private to public and held my breath.

I had to get back writing again, and it seemed like as good an idea as any. And it is making me write again, even writing for other places.

It’s been a long way back though.

I’ve been writing ever since I could. After travel and time with creatives on another continent, I completed my bachelor degree in creative writing at the University of Victoria. I moved to Ireland to write. I worked other jobs and freelanced. I took photos, wrote poetry, told parts of my story. After awhile though, I realised that I was spending as much time – or more – trying to sell articles and pursue payment (still waiting for some!) than I was actually writing. Even though I was writing, it wasn’t the writing that I really wanted to do.

What I really wanted was to go for the big one: a novel.

So I did.

I had a toddler at the time. More importantly, I had a husband as well, a husband who worked evenings and weekends and from home sometimes, and who was happy for me to be writing. (People are always so very important on this journey. Most books don’t happen without someone other than the writer being involved, and I don’t just mean agent, publisher, editor.)

So I wrote. And of course there was the staring into space, the doodling, all those other jobs. But I made some progress. I went to Listowel Writers’ Week, took workshops in novel writing. It was intimidating at first. It had been a long time since the workshops at UVic. The second time I was there, several people in my workshop connected in that way that happens sometimes. We came back to Dublin and set up a writing group, each of us at a similar point in our manuscripts. We emailed each other a chapter each month, marked up the others, met for a few hours and went through them with fine-toothed pens.

It was tough. But it was also great and got me through that book. Deadlines, real people reading it, asking about it, tearing it apart, and yes, building it up too. Draft after draft. I wrote those 95,000 words: I wrote them about five times. The last draft was almost a complete re-working, nearly unrecognisable from the first pages.

Around the time I was finishing it up, and met with an agent, I got pregnant again. A new baby, five years after my first, five years older for me. I eventually moved out of the haze and starting sending out the manuscript. I lost track of the number of copies I sent but each rejection (or almost worse, no response) was hard.

I re-evaluated. I wondered. I wished. But finally I knew. It was time to let that manuscript go and write another. So many writers had their second, third (or very depressingly) fifth manuscripts published. It was a good experience. I couldn’t believe I’d done it, wrote that much, stuck with it, wrestled with it, begged it, minded it. Without publishing, it did feel like an incomplete project though.

And then to write another. I knew this was the next step but I just couldn’t. It wasn’t there. I had false starts. Bright ideas that fizzled by the second page. I didn’t want to talk about it; I pushed it aside. Out of my mind, out of my heart. And I hardly wrote.

I had pretty much finished this post when I realised that I hadn’t said how broken I was. How could something like not writing make me so broken? And angry sometimes, and jealous. I dreaded people asking if I was writing, what I was working on. I made every effort to avoid the topic.

My musician husband got the opportunity to join a great band that was interesting and creatively challenging and fun. He got to travel; he got to work on music that was new; he met people; he had his photo in magazines; he got chocolate and cool snacks in green rooms around the world. I know from my own time with a performing arts group and from touring with him occasionally that being on tour is not always that fun and rarely has the glamour that you’d think it does. But still, I was jealous of him and his creative new thing, and the challenge and the satisfaction that it was. And I was angry too, so angry I didn’t want to talk to him, not about that, not about anything. Okay, it didn’t last long – it couldn’t really, given our two personalities and the fact that we do share a lot of the same space – but it was a tough time. He was bewildered and I was wounded.

I threw myself into other things. I learned to crochet. Goodies of every sort came out of my kitchen. I took a course in pattern-making and fashion up-cycling and finished with honours. I got a real job again (which I love).

But I knew. I had to get back to it. The drive – though pressed down and diminished – was still there. I was still that kid that said I was going to be a writer when I grew up. (For the record, I was also that kid who said she was going to raise horses on a ranch with her cousin when she grew up. Uh, no: I’m afraid of horses and I don’t want a ranch. I doubt my cousin does either.)

So here I am, and here is this blog. And it’s still there, that lure of the Big One.


12 thoughts on “On Writing

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey. I too am working on the Big one. I stopped writing for 20 years. Why like you , life happened? Married, job relocations and six kids later, I started a blog and remembered I loved to be creative but more than that I love writing. We will see where it ends. The journey begins again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s