Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sunday confession

Back in January I made the decision to stop writing. I gave up; retired. It was a relief. Writing (or failing to get my novel what I wanted it to be) had begun to make me really unhappy.

I thought about why I’d begun writing a novel in the first place. It was something I’d always wanted to do but like so many people, I only talked and thought about doing it. Then one day, I stumbled across a blog that invited anyone writing a novel to join a race for support and camaraderie. It wasn’t easy but it made me happier than unhappy.

I have a not-so-secret confession which people rarely believe - I don’t have any burning desire to publish. I wanted to write the best book I could just for the sake of it. There’s something about the process of writing (and making art or craft, come to that) that does it for me. And having to turn my creation out for anyone’s scrutiny (publication or exhibition) brings me out in hives.

And so I did write a novel: 107,000 words of story, a beginning, a middle and an end. Most people spend their lives saying they want to and never do it. I did it and I should be proud of that.

Over the five years that I’ve been writing I’ve had breaks from it; periods of laziness or frustration and even though I’ve longed to give up, I haven’t been able to stop; not completely anyway. There has always been something inside that I identified as a need to write. However miserable it made me I had to continue to do it.

Two months ago, for the first time in four or five years, I felt as though I had a choice. I don’t know what had changed, except perhaps that the unhappiness outweighed the pleasure and I felt as though I’d been released from something and that I could stop writing. It was liberating. There was some grief too but mostly there was relief.

I began to attend jewellery-making classes instead. I feel that making uses a totally different part of my brain from writing (although maybe it doesn’t or shouldn’t) but when I draw or make I go to a place where nothing intrudes. I struggled to find that place in writing… I’m going to come back and tell you about the jewellery course tomorrow but here’s the funny thing:

I have begun to think about my next writing project.


Deborah (Debs) Carr said...

I can completely understand how you feel and there are times when I wish I'd make the choice to give up writing, but, like an addiction, it seems to be incredibly ingrained in me.

I look forward to hearing about the jewellery making and your next writing project.

Flowerpot said...

Very often if you take the pressure of yourself, you have time for the writing part of your brain to breathe. Perhaps that's what you've done. Good luck! xx

Helen said...

Like Flowerpot says, I've found when you try and force yourself to write nothing much comes. But take the pressure off and you get an idea.

Your post did make me laugh. The last line. Good luck with the jewellery. Looking forward to hearing all about it.

Jen said...

I empathise entirely... forcing oneself to write, or make, or exercise, or whatever can become something it shouldn't - feeling that we 'ought' to be doing it, rather than actually wanting to.

Smiling at that last line though :0)

Cathy said...

It's a form of creative anxiety, isn't it? But what matters is what makes you happy. You are talented in so many creative forms that it seems that the process is what creativity means for you and that's fine.

Writing can be soul destroying and sometimes we just need to stand back for a while. Good luck with the jewellery. I'm looking forward to seeing pictures and I bet you'll be writing again very soon.

Cally said...

Life's too short to do things that make you unhappy. I have to admit that, since getting a publishing contract, I no longer write for 'fun' - it's impossible to with the weight of expectation I feel (not least from myself) - and now indulge in other creative outlets like photography, knitting and cross stitch for fun.

The interesting thing is that, as soon as you give yourself permission not to do anything (ie write) the weight is lifted and your brain gets excited by it again.

liz fenwick said...

First hugs and congrats...and the latter on two counts. One for the courage to let go and two for the return of the urge. All creative things feed others...least that my theory. Enjoy the jewellery and enjoy the writing or not...


Jenny Beattie said...

First of all, look at you all - my lovely novel racer friends.... I couldn't have completed it without you all on the sidelines and now here you come supporting me again. I feel a little bit weepy. Thank you all so much. xxx

Debs, I think that's the same thing that I normally feel. I haven't been able in the past to do it but this time I could (and look, 4/5 weeks later and I'm already thinking about doing it again.) I think that speaks volumes.

Flowerpot, I think it is what I've done. Not what I expected to happen but still...

Helen, thank you. I'm glad it made you laugh!

Jen, perhaps I should be given an option: write or exercise? I bet the writing would flow then!

Cathy, 'creative anxiety' is spot on. I want to create I don't want to publicise.

Cally, yes, that's as I expected although it makes me terribly sad.

Liz, thank you. I think you're right, all creative endeavour feeds.

Anonymous said...

Better late than never, I hope, but…

It seems to me, reading between the lines here, that it was the pressure that was making you unhappy, rather than the writing itself, even if much of that pressure was self-imposed. By "giving up" writing, you've let a great deal of that pressure dissolve away. The fact you're thinking of the next project means you can't/don't really want to stop.

Just take a break, for however long is needed. No pressure. Then, only if you feel you want to, get back to it at your own pace. Worked for me. Still is.

Carol said...

You need to do what makes you happy! When something is making your more miserable than it is happy then it's time to walk away and have a break. You have written a novel...that is awesome (and not in the cheesy American kind of way). I think as long as you are creative and creating that's whats important :-)

*love and hugs*

C x

Nose in a book said...

Congrats on having written a novel. Who cares if it just sits in a drawer now, you did it! And good luck with the jewellery and new project.