Confessions of a Constant Writer

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It felt a little like this. Darkness with light around the edges.

Last year I had a writing crisis.

That’s not completely true. I had a blogging crisis. Based on a cascade of events that I don’t fully understand, my blogging fell off. Almost off the edge of the world, or that’s what it felt like.

I was writing like a demon—don’t get me wrong—I finished one manuscript, started another, edited a third. But I was blogging shy. It started with a bad comment experience, then my confidence and blogging interest started freefalling. The experience soured me. (That’s all I’ll say about that.)

I’m back now. And truth is, I was never gone. Not really. Not in my mind. Here’s the thing. My first confession. When I started my blog almost four years ago (then called Wordsxo), I wrote a post a day. I loved it. Because I write everyday. I’m not talking “butt in the chair time” or fiction or even words on the page/screen. I’m talking head writing. Mind writing. Constant and unceasing and incessant writing. In the background. All the time.

Have you seen the movie Stranger than Fiction? It’s kind of like that. I almost hear a narrator in my mind.

My second confession. If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about how I’ll write something. The event that’s happening.

So when I went to the library on Saturday and ran into my sometimes-I-go-to (okay I’ve been twice) knitting group, my first thought was about writing…the characters (of course).

When our dishwasher broke down, I wondered how’d I turn that into a blog.

Saying good-bye to my kids at the airport, wiping a tear away, I confess I truly thought first about my breaking heart…then my very next thought was how would I write this heartbreak, how it might translate into fiction.

Yet, here’s where I stumble. In fiction I don’t “go there” (very often).

In blogging it’s the same. I’m a very private person. It’s hard for me to be open up about my personal life, my feelings. I want to blog about things, but sometimes I hold back (it’s why I took my semi-hiatus after all—the very hurtful thing that almost stopped me completely from blogging is still too hot to touch).

It’s a paradox. When people leave comments on my blog or on my posts at Writer Unboxed (like my last one called The Lonely Writer), I get comments about how open I am, how brave, how transparent. But I hold back. Is it because I’m open and transparent about what I do reveal? Or am I good at making things up? Embellishing? I’m not quite sure.

Here’s what I do know. My final confession. I have a hard time being open. Transparent. I want to go there. To stop being afraid, to stop holding myself back. I wrote about this last year in my post about Pushing Through, after our beloved Abby dog died.

But it’s hard. And I’ve accepted that like my writing I’m a work in progress. The very things I want to write about, so I can touch people, make people think and feel, are the very things I skirt. (Part 2 of my final confession: Sometimes I wonder if it’s why I haven’t gotten published yet.)

The very first thought after I wrote the paragraph above, was how would I write that? In a character. My second thought was, what would I tell a writer friend? I like that question more. Because I’ve had writer friends lament that fear to me. And to them I say what I need to say to myself.

Be gentle and kind and patient with yourself. Don’t get me wrong: Write like a motherfucker. Never stop writing. But don’t be so hard on yourself. You can do this. Keep the faith. And when you’re afraid, come find me. I’m here for you. We’re in this together.

Have you ever had a writing crisis? (I’m here for you.)

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Lisa Kramer says:

    I think I am in the midst of a writing crisis now. I too am simultaneously open and closed. I try to be honest whenever I write, but there are some places I will not go. But, maybe that’s not a problem. Maybe we need to keep something to ourselves/ Writing is about choices in so many ways. Story is about choices. The way we see and share the world is about choices. I think it is okay to write the story you need to tell the way you need to tell it. There is no law that says all secrets have to be revealed, at least not until the end of the story and even then there can always be more secrets. Can’t there?

    You are an inspiration to me. I am here to read, and share with you.

    • It’s nice to know other writers struggle with this too, Lisa, thank you. And yes, it is all about choices. Here’s to clarity in the new year. It’s so kind of you to say I’m an inspiration…it makes me feel so good to know people read what I write. Thank you.

  2. Micky Wolf says:

    Wow, Julia, this really struck a chord with me. Been there–wait, still there? In the place of wondering how to intersect and infuse words and ideas with transparency and allow them to speak truth in a way that is respectful, yet unencumbered by fear or self-judgment?

    “I’m a work in progress…be gentle and kind with yourself.” Valuable counsel.

    Have been pondering this idea in recent weeks. Seems connected to what you are expressing. The good news about aging and obtaining wisdom is we learn from our experiences and make different (better?) choices. The bad news about aging and obtaining wisdom is the availability of those resources can set up us up to be fearful in ways that inhibit or contaminate our wherewithal to express–at least publicly–what is truly on our hearts.

    Maybe, in the end, what we come to realize as writers sharing a journey–with other writers as well as readers–is captured in your statement, “….and to them I say what I need to say to myself.”

    Great post. Keep on sayin’. :)

    • Thank you for your support and understanding, Micky, I truly appreciate your thoughts and the support through your reading of my blog. As usual, I suppose I’m a work in progress and trying to be as forgiving of myself as I am of others. :)

  3. Christine M Grote says:

    I hear you. Not only my blogging, but my writing in general has fallen off a cliff, basically since my parents died two years ago. Mom died two years ago today to be exact. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and other times it feels like forever since I’ve spoken with her. But what I have to face is the fact that most of my life and the choices I made and the things I accomplished, I did for my parents, to make them proud. They are no longer here, and I am lost. I realize my writing problem is different from yours, but it is very real to me. You are a wonderful writer. And when you do manage to crank out a blog post, I always read it, making you one of the privileged few these days. We are at a time in our lives when things are shifting dramatically, and I think it may take time for us to settle into our new lives. Look around you at all the others who have made it over this hump. We will too.

    • I know how hard this two years has been for you Christine — I’m so sorry. Although our writing “problems” are for different reasons on the face, I think they are similar in that we struggle. Your kind words (about my writing and your reading of my blogs) means so very much to me. Thank you.

  4. Ann Mc says:

    I don’t have a writing crisis (I’m not a writer) but I understand how it can happen. I’m a bit of hobby hopper. I use the word “hobbyist”. I pick up and lay down hobbies at whim. Too many things interest me, too many things I’m interested in learning…. and it usually lasts a year or two. During that time, I’m completely consumed and passionate about them. SO….when I lose interest, I start something else and not worry about it.

    However, if one of them was my career, my calling….I can see how you would feel. I am, however, pleased that you picked your blog back up. I’ve missed your posts! Believe, me, there are times I WISH I had your staying power!

    Incase you’re interested, here’s a list of hobby’s I’ve picked up (and put down) that have lasted over six months. Some have lasted years, or I’m still doing:
    Cross-Stitch (10 years)
    Hardanger Stitching (7 years)
    Oragami (probably just under a year)
    Food Blogging (2 years)
    Bread making (just picked up again – 2-3 years)
    Wedding Cakes (1 year)
    Creme Brûlée (yes, I spent a year perfecting it)
    Caramels (same goes – TONS of recipes!)
    Marshmallows (oiy! sticky kitchen for a LONG time!)
    Pasta making (when you lived in Italy….)
    Microsoft Excel (whodathunk?!)
    Canning (1 year – and I’m going to be canning again this year)
    – and –
    Photography (my current passion – I think this one might last…)

    • I love all your hobbies and passions, Ann. You are inspirational in your enthusiasm and productivity and commitment (even if you view it as not having staying power, your commitment is intense!). As for my blog in contrast to my fiction writing, it’s very hard. I love blogging deeply — it’s a kind of writing that is very natural for me and I also immediately have readers. Fiction is wonderful too, but (unless I self publish again) I need to be realistic that I may not have anyone ever read what I write. Thank you for saying you’d miss me. It means so much from such a loyal reader. xox

  5. Ann Mc says:

    I have to add one more thing. When I said I wish I had your staying power, it’s true. You are a deeply passionate writer…sometimes you have to let things go for the creative process and if the blog is one of them, I understand. The fact that you’re aware that it needs a wee bit of love shows your dedication to it – not just the craft of writing.

    You do what you must, girlfriend! Your bloggy friends and readers would miss you like mad, tho!

  6. Cherry Harris says:

    Please try to ignore , what I call, wreckers . If you listen to them they have won, and we who love your work, would miss out .
    It’s happened to me twice . I wrote some prose, that I was proud of, but I worried that my grammar would let me down ( as you can probably see it’s pretty rubbish ) . I asked someone I trusted to look at it . Instead of giving me constructive advice, he spend half an hour, picking it apart like an old rag . I felt emotional dirty after and it took a while to start to write again. Fortunately I joined a fantastic poetry group and gained confidence once more .
    Then I met someone who opened a craft shop, and when she knew I wrote poetry, she asked me to give her a sample so she could put it on her website . I emailed her my work . I put so much effort into it and she never replied . I waited and waited to no avail . I felt so let down because she had really built me up . I know she got the email because …well I just know .
    When I think of all the authors in the world, we wouldn’t know, if they had all took notice of the wreckers.
    Keep on keeping on Julia .
    Cherryx

    • >>>> Please try to ignore , what I call, wreckers.<<<< THANK YOU!!! With support from friends like you, it's easy to turn the other cheek to the wreckers. You are wonderful, Cherry. Thank you!!

  7. I’m not sure how I can respond without providing more detail than anyone wants other than to say that I sympathize. I’ve been in crisis since late October. I was a long time away from my blog (aside from posting poetry, which is also my only published work) until I returned last Saturday. The post took me weeks to write. I’m a mess. I’m in crisis. I did manage to write a story for NaNoWriMo, but have produced no fiction since, though story ideas are swirling in my brain. Story ideas are ALWAYS swirling in my brain. Coupled with my inner crisis is the need for me to assemble the infrastructure needed to publish, something I’ve ignored for too long. Until, and if, I solve that issue any fiction will be for me alone, for no matter what I’ll always write—something.

    • I’m so sorry things are hard right now, Christina. I’m with you in having constantly swirling stories, so I know what you mean. I’m so glad you wrote a story for NaNoWriMo. What I wrote for NaNo will also probably never see the light of day for similar reasons. BUT I know it was important for me to write and somehow it will make it into something I write in the future. Take care, friend.

  8. Julia — first and foremost let me say that I love your writing, that’s why I keep coming back. Every time I receive an email notice notifying me of a new post, I follow the link and zoom on over.

    Our internal mechanisms are different (maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to your writing style?). I am not held hostage by the opinion of others. For me, it’s what me-myself-and-I think about me-myself-and-I. I put my best foot forward in everything I do (writing and otherwise). If someone else doesn’t like it, it’s about them, not me.

    I wish there was some way I could obliterate the bad comment experience you had. I hope you can find a way to put it beneath you (where it belongs), then step on it (rightly so) and use it as a launching pad to even greater writing heights.

    • You are such a wonderfully supportive writer friend and such a positive force in general, Laurie. I so appreciate it in this rather (at times) difficult-to-navigate online world. I am not so held hostage to others’ opinions of me or my writing as I am (perhaps easily) hurt by people who are unkind or think ill of me. The fact that I was able to write this blog about it indicates to me that I am putting it behind me! Thanks again for your support!

  9. I haven’t been blogging much since NaBloPoMo in November. I do miss it. There seems to always be something that needs to get done rather than sitting down and writing. But like you — I’m constantly thinking “how would I write about this” in my head. Glad you are blogging regularly again and now that things have settled down, I hope to be doing the same. xoxo

    • I miss it too, Jamie. It’s such a conundrum, isn’t it? We want to blog but it’s such a challenge to find the time and balance it with everything else, all the other writing, life, etc. Here’s to more writing, balance, and figuring out the time! xoxo

  10. I have a writing crisis every week, sometimes two in a day. I think that’s what happens when you let your thoughts out for others to consume. Like today, for instance, is the release day for my third novel. I am at once both excited and a nervous wreck. Throughout the last month, every time I thought about it, butterflies flitted about my stomach.

    I do understand about not revealing everything in your blog. I’m a pretty private person, too (my teenagers thank me for that), and I hold back on certain things out of respect for them. But for my own self, each book casts away another part of my safety net.

    I’m glad you’re back to writing this blog. I’ve enjoyed your posts for years now.

    • Congratulations on the new novel, Karen!!! Exciting!! I can fully understand the excited/nervous wreck feelings, but I know it will be awesome for you. As for privacy, like you I will never compromise the privacy of my kids. They are the only ones who can choose how much will be online about them and I respect that. Fiction is another matter… and I love how you put that. “Each book casts away another part of my safety net.” That’s a wonderful way of looking at it. Thank you for your kind words about my blog as well.

  11. Kristen says:

    You’re like a beacon of light in the fog, Julia. Thank you for that. And I’m with you — always writing in my mind as/immediately after something happens. It’s like having dual brains.

    • Thank you, Kristen. I so appreciate your kind words. Dual brains is a good way of putting it. Also, it’s like pre-writing… once I put it on paper, it’s a lot faster, don’t you think?

  12. Barb Riley says:

    I don’t know, Julia. I think there are times to be private and times to be transparent, and we still aren’t far enough into this whole internet age to know what the long term cultural effects of publicly putting ourselves out there for the sake of sharing will be. I remember reading on another friend’s blog one time that she didn’t necessarily trust someone who was immediately intimate with her b/c if someone hasn’t worked to earn her trust, she questioned the value of what the person was giving away. I’m not wording it as eloquently as she wrote it, but it resonated with me b/c it’s often what I feel deep down.

    I’m not trying to be a stick in the mud, or a discouragement to you when you’ve stated you’re trying to be more open. It’s just that I think we should pay attention to the little nigglings that feel cautionary. We should question them, sit with them for a while (which it sounds like you have done during your hiatus).

    That said, you know I love your blog. Always have. I return often and, of course, feel warm fuzzies whenever I can say, “Me too!” to your trains of thought. So who knows. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, worrying that we’re changing in ways we’re unprepared for down this weblog road. )But then again, isn’t it comforting that you can count on me to be in the running for the Most Private Person award?!) 😉

    • No, I don’t think you are worrying too much about the internet at all, Barb. I think if I hadn’t been as open and trusting then I’d never have gotten into the conundrum I’m in right now (via the comment, etc.)… I am learning when to be wary, when to be trusting, when to be open with my writing, when to be closed… you are not a stick in the mud at all! Practical and sensible and cautionary! Thank you for that and for being a loyal fan of my writing. I so appreciate it. xox my friend!

  13. Cynthia Robertson says:

    Holy crap YES. What writer hasn’t had a crisis? Like, several times a year. I used to think it was from not having a novel published, and that that event would make the doubt go away, but I know from listening to friends who have published novels that even that doesn’t make it stop. I’m not sure anything can, short of dying.
    I hate my Inner Critic. There I’ve said it. Now I just have to hope she doesn’t seek revenge.

    I think it’s challenging to write novels and also keep up with blogging. I admire how you seem to be capable of keeping up with both, Julia.

    • I guess this really could be boiled down to the Inner Critic, Cynthia. Maybe you’re right. I hate her too (mine that is). There, I’ve said it too. So if you’re in trouble, me too!! As for the challenge of blogging and fiction, I appreciate your admiration… I think of blogging as the way to get my writing read. My fiction may never be, and I love that I can have an audience. And I also love the nonfiction style of blogging. Thank you for your kind words.

  14. Barb Riley says:

    P.S. On the other hand, I do want to mention that the beauty of writing fiction (as opposed to blogging) is that you CAN be transparent through your characters and narrators, which feels more natural to me b/c I feel like I’m different people on different days. Thank goodness for the outlet of storytelling! LOL

  15. I was laughing and nodding to Cynthia’s comment. ^ “Like, several times a year” just about nails it. I don’t think any creative person can be creative for long without facing a crisis or two, honestly. It’s a path wrought with uncertainty; doubt is inevitable. That said, you’re fighting the good fight. You sense a place in yourself that can be strengthened (opening more), so now you just have to gently chase it down. Fiction might be easier than blogging for that; it is for me, anyway. There’s a safety net in stories. Several, actually. “This isn’t true; I made it up” is great defense against that fear of over-sharing/letting people in. And for me, “This probably won’t ever be read by anyone” is a great trick to get myself to write it. I don’t worry about the next step until after that!

    • Well, this statement alone is sure indication that I should be talking to you WAY more often: “I don’t think any creative person can be creative for long without facing a crisis or two, honestly. It’s a path wrought with uncertainty; doubt is inevitable.” Ever since we talked, I’ve been searching mightily for a writing group — I honestly think that if I were meeting with other writers, I’d take a lot of this in stride more easily. I also would have people to discuss it with. Thank you for your words of reality and understanding and encouragment, Annie. So very helpful!

  16. Oh, my, yes! I can relate to a writerly crisis. It’s a different kind of crisis than corporate workers experience. It can be daunting to face the page alone every day without validation. I’ve been in a bit of a slump myself. But here’s how I’ve been counseling myself since I wrote my post for today: let go of my expectations. Expectations put unnecessary pressure on me to compare myself to others.

    I saw your response to Annie’s comment about finding a writing group. I find my group of writer friends very helpful. If there are no groups near you, maybe a Skype group or online group would fit the bill.

    Don’t let blog trolls make you doubt yourself. I believe in you! :)