Photo by Zen Natural Cleaning
I’ve done no writing for two weeks.
Morning pages, yes, I’m on a roll with those now and I got at least 750 words every day, though some days they were evening pages not morning pages! No real writing though, no story words apart from one paragraph.
I’ve been in Australia again, this time on a planned vacation with my husband, only six weeks after I got back from my last unplanned trip because of my mother’s illness.
Well, she got sick again!
The night before we got on the plane she needed readmission to hospital and we went straight from the hospital to the airport. They discharged her that day and she’s stayed fairly well since, but it’s a worrying situation. She and Dad both have chronic health problems now that can’t and won’t get cured, only managed, and will progressively worsen. Hard to be on the other side of the world. I’m hoping she’ll be more active in self-managing her condition now, signs are good that she will now, but I also know it’s inevitable I’ll need to make another emergency flight out before the end of this year.
Aging must be so hard. Accepting that one’s health is on the decline, that living independently may soon no longer be a realistic option. Even harder as Dad’s dementia comes complete with total denial that there is any problem.
Anyway, despite the parental concerns, we had a wonderful journey. A big focus in my journal pages was being with what is and living in the moment. I’ve always tended to short change the present, too tied up with either resentments from past events or with rushing headlong to a future I hope will somehow be better, too stressed by the pressure of my to-do list to enjoy right now.
I recognise I need to slow down. Be totally with what I am doing now, not doing it with only half my mind because the other half is frantically doing its hamster-on-a-wheel imitation worrying about a zillion other things. Start enjoying what is good about the present moment, not stressing about what needs to be different.
That sort of Zen mindfulness is very much what I need. I’ll certainly be happier living that way. And I can’t help thinking that paradoxically, I’ll get more done that way too. There’s a related Taoist principle of wu wei, which means “do without doing” or effortless doing.
Wu-wei refers to behavior that arises from a sense of oneself as connected to others and to one’s environment. It is not motivated by a sense of separateness. It is action that is spontaneous and effortless. At the same time it is not to be considered inertia, laziness, or mere passivity. Rather, it is the experience of going with the grain or swimming with the current. Our contemporary expression, “going with the flow,” is a direct expression of this fundamental Taoist principle.
What I’ve been doing, pushing boulders uphill trying to write what I don’t want to write, has only made me resistant to writing. It’s made me feel stressed and a failure because I haven’t yet achieved my goal of making money from writing.
Mindfulness would switch that around. Not coming to it with a focus of look-what-I-haven’t-achieved. Just be with the writing now. The reality is, I have achieved, plenty. I’ve learned a lot. I can see how my story telling skills have developed over the past few years. I’ve actually written a truckload of words, had many good ideas, and started a lot of projects, I just haven’t followed any through to full completion.
I’m seeing now that’s not just writing “The End” on the first draft. It’s not even editing and rewriting and polishing until I know the story is as good as I can get it. It’s publication which completes the loop and is the true finishing. Stories are meant to be read. The finish is when someone else reads the story.
That’s an interesting realisation, and it helps me understand more why writers choose to self-publish. It’s not necessarily an “I’m going to get my book out there and it will sell loads of copies and make me lots of money” thing. It can be an “I’ve written this story and now I’m putting it out there to be read because that completes the creative process.” By that definition, self-publishing an ebook that sells six copies is still a success. I like that!
I’m still going the route of submitting to publishers first though. One, it’s a lot easier. Two, there’s more to be learned that way.
First, I need to write a story! So I need to get back into my everyday life and pick up the routine again. I also need to stop stressing so much and just let there be space for writing in my life. A lot of my sense of busy-ness comes from stress caused by my push-push-push attitude.
I want to see how different it can be when I cultivate a more relaxed attitude. Might even get some more writing done! certainly, I’d enjoy it more. It also means stopping chasing “opportunities”. No writing things just for Fast Tracks or contests or Calls for Submission or “I just heard that Publisher A is looking for stories about B”. Time to stop chasing publication as a goal. It’s not the right goal. The goal is to write the stories that only I can write.
I’m not clear enough yet on what my own natural writing voice truly is, because I simply haven’t given myself the opportunity to write naturally enough to find out. Doing all these other things have given me some good story ideas and good practice on writing to a requirement, but have also got in the way of me discovering that most basic need.
So, on the flight back to England last night, I thought about what story it is that I most want to write. I know I need to pick one story to play with and stick to it until the project gets done. No matter how zen or tao I get about the actual writing process, I must hold myself to this. I can’t let it be an excuse for more grasshopper mind.
Self-discipline and wu wei aren’t incompatible!
So I took some time to think what I most wanted that one story to be and came up with a surprising answer. Not one of the stories I thought (with Editor Mind) I should be working on. Far from it.
What I feel most excitement and sense of play about writing is the first person sweetish ST version (possibly with some magical elements) of a secret princess story I first drafted as a Book in a Week back in 2009. It will probably turn out too quirky to ever be at all saleable, but it’s a story that’s been nagging at me for years to do properly.
The first draft is about as crappy as it’s possible for crappy writing to be! It was supposed to be a Presents, started for one of those first chapter contests on I Heart Presents (before Mills and Boon started New Voices instead) but all these other elements kept creeping in. Then I edited those out to try to make it fit Presents, but it just didn’t work. Really, really, REALLY didn’t work! Goal-less characters. No real conflict. Lots of external conflict I kept chucking in to make up for the lack of emotional heart.
Interesting to just now really truly realise that. It wasn’t just the lack of internal relationship blocks that I thought was the problem, it’s that my characters weren’t emotionally real. Their responses to the situation weren’t real. They were cardboard people jiggling on strings I pulled in time to stupid unmotivated plot moves. I read this post on Emotional Core by Chuck Wendig - profanity alert- on the plane, so it’s put it big in my mind. Like it should be.
Anyway, ever since the Presents quite-right-too-100%-justified rejection debacle, I’ve wanted to write the story the way it wants to be written, no trying to push it into any particular mould. I think I can have fun and learn a lot doing this, though it’s highly unlikely I’ll produce a marketable story. What the heck, that’s not the be-all-and-end-all. I’m here to play, not make money.
I’m kinda hoping that once it’s done I can settle down and write all those other far more sensible books!
Maybe I’m not supposed to write sensible saleable books though. Maybe writing is just going to be a hobby for me and not a career. Maybe I’ll always have to keep working as a nurse to pay the bills and writing will be what I do for fun. Maybe that, rather than the “Got to get published so I can start earning money so I can give up nursing” approach I’ve had will be more helpful.
I’m feeling okay with that. Pushing myself to write more more more of what I resisted writing has got me nowhere. I want to see where just treating it as a big game can get me. I’ll be happier and more relaxed, that’s for sure. Which is a win even if I do end up self-publishing and selling just six copies.
So fun and playfulness here I come! Okay, disciplined fun, but it’s still gonna be fun. I hope. My Editor Mind is going along with it, in hope I’ll actually write more this way. He’s found the resistance a PITA, too.
In unrelated news, I’m planning to change the blog around a bit. I want to add more of my other creative interests. Mainly my (mis)adventures in sewing and crafting, in growing things to eat, and in concocting weird raw vegan messes in my kitchen. Not sure if it will work to have a hodge-podge of writing, sewing, cooking, and gardening or if it will wind up like bad soup with too much thrown in the pot, but I want to give it a go. Probably more in a learn-from-my-mistakes way than anything else.
I’ve been looking at some awesomely polished crafting sites. Like glossy magazine pages, honestly. Scary.
My blog will NOT be that!
Happy writing and creating today, whatever you do!