Monday, January 2, 2012

Dynamics of Not Writing

Saturday, December 31, 2011—Long Beach, CA

Late night, just after midnight. Feeling stressed lately, about all sorts of things, work, money, etc. I realize that I’ve also been stressed about my writing. For months now I’ve been searching for my next writing project. I’ve been toying with ideas for a book on Greece, short stories, and the third Backwaters book. I’m now finally realizing, though, that I’m simply in a fallow period—the reason I’m not writing anything besides this diary is that there is nothing else right now I should be writing. As of the moment there is no Greece book—there’s nothing going on that area that really moves me. The short stories might start arriving someday, but right now I’m just forcing it. The third Backwaters book will happen, but for the moment it’s a little green (I’m thinking it will be at least a few more months before I can bring myself to work on that one in a sustained way). The reason I’ve been stressed and in such denial about this is that when I’m not writing I begin to lose my identity as a writer—which is a very scary.

We writers don’t have very much to keep us going. Most of us don’t make much money, or get much else in the way of rewards—except for the work. When I’m not writing I really start to question my life, why I’ve given up so much to do this thing that I’m currently not even doing. From this point it’s just a short jump to depression and self-doubt. The thing I have to remember is that not writing is part of writing. The writing is really the last step of a long process of internalization, of figuring out what I really feel and think about myself and the rest of the universe. Besides, the point isn’t just to churn out book after book, but to write the books I should be writing. So far I’ve done mostly that: Heaping Stones, Edgewater, and the two Backwaters books are exactly what they should be—honest expressions of what I’m about. There will be others like these—I just need to have faith. I never want to write a bad book, or another false one (What Love Is, my shelved second novel, to some extent, falls under this second category, I think). The way to avoid these fates is simply to wait for the book to come to me, so to speak. I am a writer—I’ve already proved that. I shouldn’t need to be continually hitting the keyboard to understand this.

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