Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Writer's Sad, Sad Story

I get kind irritated when people say things like, "If writing is important to you, you will make the time." Or, "Writers write—if you're not writing, you're not a writer." Or, "If you're really passionate about this, you'll never stop trying."

Bah! We sure like to invent a lot of rules for things. So judgy. All these commandments posted in some meme or a tweet, and we writers so desperate for rules in an unfairly subjective universe soak it up like gospel, retweet, and rememe, and suddenly it's as if they're written in stone.

But these rules—they're not helpful, you know? We assume they are, like they're some sort of guidelines for what makes a writer, and if I can just get myself to do this or do that, then I can call myself a writer. But they're kind of . . . crap. They're designed to make some of us feel superior (those writing like gangbusters) and the rest of us inferior at what is already the worst time of a writer's life. Like, if you aren't doing XYZ, then clearly you're a suckturd that actually hates writing deep down, so go away, you failure, and leave us real writers alone to write in our Starbucks-infused let-me-take-a-selfie-of-my-typewriter-on-my-thighs caves o'wordporn.

But, it's not like you stop being a writer just because you aren't writing right now, any more than you stop being a mom because you aren't momming right this second, any more than you stop being a foodie because you stress-ate a pint of Chunky Monkey during the Republican debate, any more than—whatever, I could go on like this forever. It's like this—you don't have to sacrifice a goat to prove how faithful and spiritual you are. (Ok, that doesn't really clarify my point). I mean, you don't have to prove your identity or your value within that identity to anyone, not even to yourself. And just because you're not actively doing something right now doesn't mean it's not important to you.

I mean, yes, obviously if you have never written anything in your life, you're kind of a lame toolbag if you start handing out business cards advertising your Writerly status, especially if you always claim to be "working" on some novel while never having actually "worked." But this isn't what I'm talking about—and even then, I don't rightly care what you call yourself. I'm not talking about what we say we are or what we identify as. This is bigger than that. Sadder.

Earlier today, I was talking to one of my BFFs about how I've been feeling. She knows, of course, that despite the awesome that my life has in many ways become, it has been fairly complicated the last few years. That I work and work, because food, children, roof. That leisure time is rarer and more precious. And that writing, which was once my thing—my escape, my mirror, my need—is now a luxury, and also my bane. I talked about how in the spare time I have I still try to write sometimes but that I don't get far, and about how other times, I think I could write right now but then don't because it feels pointless. I talked about how instead I just sit there and close up and get sad because it's pointless and don't want it to be pointless. I told her that it feels like I'm standing at a window waving goodbye to a large piece of me, like "Goodbye, torso of Carolina," just sitting there sad because I know I can stop her from leaving but I don't know how.

I wrote my first story when I was seven years old, my first real novel when I was sixteen, seventeen. Since then, I have written countless novels and stories and essays and yadda yadda. I have dreamed of publishing for a very long time. Hope has been high—and low, the blows sometimes especially hard. But through it all, I have kept writing. It has been the one gift I could always give to myself, the special, intimate time inside my own head, escaping into other people's lives, which I could invent with my very own brain. As much as I have always loved reading books, I have loved writing them more. The most important thing to me was never really to have my stories read. I mean, I have shaped, twisted, and danced in my own words, watching and feeling the stories come to life from my own head, my own fingertips. I could always access a new story whenever I wanted. If there is magic in the world—this is it.

But now, the magic has slipped away, dissolving into the fog of work and life and life and life, and I grieve. There are writers who write. And there are writers who mourn not writing.

There are no rules. Sometimes there is time to write, and motivation, and words. And sometimes there is nothing but a blank screen and grief.

It doesn't matter what you call yourself. A writer. An author. An artist. An aspiring mother-fucking scribbler. This isn't what matters. When the words are gone, you're not not those things. It's just the words are gone. They're gone

The End.


  1. Hugs to you, Carol. I've had many years like this too, and I think many people will relate. I'm glad you shared this and I hope you find some breaks in that fog where a clear light shines through and the words dance again.

    1. Thanks, Kristin. You tell yourself everybody gets to this point at some time in their writing lives, but it feels like a really lonely place when you're there. There are good days and not so good days. Here's hoping for more good days . . . Hugs <3

  2. Amazing how much pressure there is, no matter which side of the paper you're writing on. I so relate to this. And I've read your writing so you'll always be a writer to me. xo

    1. You're so sweet, Sherrie. But yeah, pressure pressure. Maybe it never gets better. Sigh.
      But it's good to know such kind friends as you. We really need to catch up soon.

  3. Having been through points where I have not written, I understand where you are. And you're absolutely correct. Not writing at the moment does not make you any less of a writer.

    Have faith... the words will come again. And when they do, it will be the most glorious thing because you will know, even more so, how magic they are.

    1. Here's hoping that moment comes soon!! I feel ready to be writing again.

      Thanks, sweet LK. Sure miss you <3

  4. This is so hard! Because the rules change. Yes, once you give birth or adopt or stand in loco parentis, you're a parent and you always will be, no matter how old your child gets. And yes, once you write something for the first time, you really are a writer. But if you've done something horrible, like had an affair or cheated on a test, does that make you a cheater (marital or educational) for life? Are we our actions or are we not? And if we don't act. do we cease being the actor (parent, writer)? Like I said, it's hard.

    But I have no doubt in my mind: you're a writer through and through. Don't stop. Even if it's days or weeks or months or years in between your word creations. Just don't stop.

  5. I'm sorry! Sometimes the words dry up and we wonder if we'll ever find that magic again. Keep believing - it will come back.

  6. They aren't gone. They are resting...deep down somewhere percolating, and when life losens up, they will gallop back to you, throw their arms around you and jump up and down yelling, "We are back, together again!" I really believe this. Life, awesome or not, tends to overwhelm. We can beat ourselves up over that, or take a deep breath, have faith we will get where we want to go eventually, and appreciate all the other positives that life offers now. And, for what it is worth, Carol, reading your writing makes me want to sit down and try to write as wonderfully as you. I am sorry it is hard for you right now, but please know, even so, you inspire me.

  7. This. This is brilliant. I want to send this to every fricking person who feels it's okay to give me a pep talk when life encroaches on my writerly time. I want to kick my own ass for tweeting and retweeting, Facebook ad nauseaum memes that are supposed to be inspiring, but really are mocking me. Your post was brutally honest and let's me know, I am not the only one who feels this way. Thank you for being so refreshingly open.

  8. You will always be a writer. I've been in this cloud on and off, not finding my "place" and have felt the mourning. I struggle with these feelings a lot. I'm glad you shared this and I know you'll get through the fog. Hugs.

  9. Truth. I have been the writer (so busy and drained) who mourned writing. Right now, I'm the writer who writes.

    I love your posts. Always. They always make me feel what I need to feel and affirm beliefs that needs affirming. The words were there when you wrote this. They will come back for your stories. One day (or night--usually night for me or when I'm driving and can't write), a character will sneak up on you and whisper in your ear. It might be two calling each other names. But stories come to people who love them.

  10. Nurture YOURSELF not the words. They will come. You're the queen of kindness. Be kind to YOU. No judgements, no fear, no question of "have I lost that which keeps me sane." You haven't. I have faith. Just hold on tight, keep plodding because life can suck, and let go. The words will come.

  11. Yes. Just...yes. This is me. This is where I've been for the last year and a half when the rug was pulled out from under me and my world imploded. And I feel guilty for not writing. Because I want to. I just...don't. Thank you.

  12. I am so happy I stumbled upon this post, if for no other reason than the discovery of the word "suckturd." In all seriousness, this is fantastic.

    "It's not like you stop being a writer just because you aren't writing right now." <==== This is so true. We all go through phases where the words just won't come, especially if we try to force them. But know that if you want them back, eventually they will come to you. Take time for yourself, give your mind a rest. And know that you're surrounded by people who know exactly what you're going through.

  13. Yup. A mother. A full time office manager who had all her staff pulled away from her and was left holding a 70 hour work week. A wife. A sister. Trying like hell at times just to find time/energy to BE A PERSON, let alone trying to define myself in a world of platitudes and half-baked truths and outright lies written in Profound Font on the front of T-shirts.

    I write when I can. My kids are growing away from me like freight trains. My grip is only a memory already.

    I'm with you Lady. Fuck the labels. That's all they are.

  14. I have mourned at many times in my life over the last 30 years and this summer was a summer of mourning the words. The NO words.

    I've spent 20 years getting those words out of my head and psyche: "Writers write—if you're not writing, you're not a writer." Or, "If you're really passionate about this, you'll never stop trying."

    This in spades to the nth degree!

    I hope you get a chance to escape again into your own private world again, my sweet friend. My heart is with you. xoxo

  15. At whatever point in our lives that we committed to this endeavour of writing - even if we didn't know it - we committed to it for life.

    Writing spans a lifetime and sure, we may find ourselves distracted by the day to day, the events we anticipated and those we didn't and the general activity of living, we commit ourselves, our deepest ideas to the piece of paper, the type writer keys or even the computer screen and share it with the world, we are writers.

    What we write is our legacy and we have earned the right to distinguish ourselves as writers.

    Write on.

  16. Carol, you are a beautiful and brilliant person, and I know the words will return to you. It will take time, and I know that pain--I really do. You aren't alone, and I believe in you.

  17. Carol,
    Even when you're writing about how you're not writing, you are still one of the best writers I've read.
    Does that make sense?

    I hope it does because your words...they resonate with me.
    Still. Always.

  18. It isn't platitude when I say I know exactly how you feel. You don't suck at writing, you're just stuck between a big f*cking rock and a hard place right now. With the right storm, the rock will move and you'll find the time, energy, creative mojo, whatever it is you need to get back to it. The Universe will not let passion/creativity/art fail. It won't. It's a cosmic force that can't be stopped.

    I heard a story/parable/scripture once that went something like -- There was a man who told the most beautiful stories. He held his people enthralled every night with his words. He was revered and cherished. One day turned into many and the storyteller was getting older. Someone told him "You need to write these down before you die." The storyteller said, "I have no hands to hold the pencil." He learned to write with his feet.

    Big hugs to you, Carol. I know you'll find a way. You're a smart, beautiful, creative woman. You can't be stopped. The Universe won't let you.


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