Yes, I know this is a boring title, but it’s hard to come up with something witty and pithy for a serious subject. I’d like to point you to Glenda Larke’s post on what defines a successful writer, which came on the heels of a long dry season in my writing life. This drought lasted all summer, maybe even stretched back to the beginning of the year. I’ve had some uplifting writing moments so far this year–I wrote a short story I really liked, submitted to places that gave me reassuring rejections, even saw two stories published. But those were small oases that I had to leave, and the water they supplied me with did not last long enough (yeah, I’m really stretching that desert analogy here!).
What it all came down to was this: my twin desires to write and to be published were at war with one another. The drive to achieve one was strangling my love for the other. I pored over magazine and agent’s guidelines, and forced myself to work on projects that were the most marketable or near-enough complete so I could get them out faster (hint to self: don’t do that again. It doesn’t work. Any love you have for that project will fizzle out under such pressure).
At about the same time I persuaded D. that we should get a piano–for the kids! It took me a while to get someone out to tune it, but once it was in playable condition no one in my family could keep their mitts off of it. We even had minor arguments about who could play it when. I got a piano book (because that’s the kind of linear, orderly, rule-oriented person I am) and started working my way through it. Hit a brick wall and decided to find a piano teacher. Sir I. went along to that first lesson and was game to learn the piano, so now we’re both playing. And enjoying it.
When I play the piano, I play it for me. For my pleasure, not the pleasure of my family, my piano teacher, or my neighbors. I have no need to perform for others. It’s enough for me that I can train my fingers to move over the keys–confident, assured–and create music. Wow.
Totally different from how I’ve felt about writing.
It’s taken me time away, freewriting, mindmapping, angsting and conversation with a good writing buddy, to come back to the point where I can say, yet again, that writing is important to me. That creating compelling characters, twisty plots, gorgeous prose and bizarre worlds is what I enjoy doing. That I still love writing stories even if I’m not getting published often enough and fast to suit me. The desire for publication is still there, but it’s been put in its place as subordinate to the desire to just write for its own sake–for my own sake.
I ditched the marketable projects–abandoned a short story and a quarter-done novel revision–to work on the story that was really tugging at my heartstrings. I’m building up my writing muscles, aiming for 500 words a night, five times a week. And no beating myself up if I skip a night.
Writing is fun. And that’s how I want to keep it.