Sunday, August 23, 2009

Writer's Remorse

Sometimes I sit in front of the computer and things come easily; inspiration, words, themes, ideas, visions, phrases, characters; all of it comes flooding out in a cataclysmic outpouring of emotion and prose.

Other times, like today, I develop the thousand mile stare. The blinking icon, the blank page; it is the bane of my writing existence.

There’s another thing, sometimes I get angry with myself when I feel I should be writing more, or writing better, or when I don’t write at all; I get down. I start to feel like I’m losing my grip on things. I feel like it’s all slipping away; the writing, the career, the manuscript, the book deal, everything.

Writer’s remorse.

Sometimes when I write something that I feel is a steaming pile of compost I start thinking that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer. Maybe I was meant to be a sanitary engineer, or a gas station attendant, (or as one wag called himself, a “petroleum distribution technician”) but a funny thing happens; someone tells you that a story you wrote six months ago inspired them to dust off their old notebooks and start writing again, because someone or something in the past destroyed that love of writing for them. Someone told them they couldn’t, or shouldn’t do it. Or they just gave up.

At these times, I feel blessed that I have these abilities, and then I get back on the computer and write like hell.

At this moment of course, each word and sentence I’m typing is causing me agony. I’m writing when I shouldn’t be, that is, when I usually don’t. An hour ago I was staring at the screen watching the MS Word icon blink away, the blank page behind it white as snow. When this happens I usually just get eye strain or switch back to that time-eater called Twitter. Or I go watch TV; anything but this.

But I decided to fight through it, and not get down on myself. I’m beginning to see the merit in it.

Writer’s remorse? Imagine feeling guilty because you didn’t write anything one particular day. Seems ridiculous, but it happens. Writing comes from the soul (usually) and the words come from the heart (usually), but those avenues fail me sometimes. Writing and I are close friends. I hate letting friends down, and I hate letting myself down even more.

I mean, it’s not like I forgot to feed the dog, or left someone waiting at a street corner for six hours because I forgot we were supposed to meet up. This is writing for crying out loud, and yet, the guilt.

I will suppose here that this guilt comes from the fact that I tell everyone I know that I’m a writer. I tell them that I’m working on a manuscript, that I’ll be published someday, all of that rhetoric. I want them to believe it, and to believe in me. And when I tell myself that I want to be a writer and that I want to be published someday, I want to believe it too. But its hard work, It tears your heart out! And sometimes when nothing’s getting written you start feeling like all you do is flap your gums and talk about writing instead of doing what you’re supposed to be doing, which is writing. People aren’t stupid, they see this too.

The point of writing is to write, and if you’re not writing, what’s the point? Stupid as that sounds, there’s a simplistic logic to that.

I am a writer, I write, or try to. And sometimes when I don’t write I feel bad. I shouldn’t. Writing isn’t like taking out the garbage or washing the dishes (it can be just as odious sometimes), it is a highly cognitive affair; the art of it, the feel and flow of it, stems from whatever the hell is dwelling in your soul at the moment, and if nothings dwelling, there’s nothing to be written. In this manner I may excuse myself. Who can write 24 hours a day and keep up a consistent pace and quality? Maybe God can, but I can’t.

Writer’s remorse? Forget it.

Some days it’s a fight, like today is for me. My head was jammed with stressful thoughts ranging from money, to work, to the new apartment I’m moving into next week. Then there’s the blog, a minor beast which needs to be fed. I finally put these headphones on, and now Beethoven is helping me get through this post. It’s a fight sometimes, but man, when you start winning it feels so good.

Writer’s remorse? Forget it!

I’m finished with feeling bad about not reaching my quota, or not getting any pages written, or writing a page full of dung; that’s me baby! Besides, you can edit anything and make it readable, even dung. So don’t feel bad that you didn’t reach 6000 words today, or that you have developed cataracts from staring at that blinking icon and that blank page, forget it! Go for a walk, take a day off, think about something else, forget writer’s remorse, forget it all for awhile and go recharge your brain-battery, you’re only human.

And when you come back to that page, be blessed that you have that gift of words in you. Someday you may change someone’s life with that gift.

Writer’s remorse? Forget it.


David Hunter

14 comments:

  1. I'm proud of you. This is a wonderful blog and I think every writer should read this. You are perfect, muse. Wait---you're immaculate.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well done. You have summed up eloquently the neurosis that is a writer. The forever feeling of doubt, self pressure, etc. It's a war, but I think we are winning. Please tell me we are winning.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Show me a writer who has never been to this place - and I will show you a person who is not a writer at heart.
    Bravo David - thanks for sharing what is under the surface, and that's it's all ok to go there.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bravo, recharge and keep on writing!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm absolutely with you on the guilt thing. I feel genuinely terrible when I procrastinate, and yet still I do it. I've learnt to accept it more as I've become better at managing my time and, well, a better writer. I've come to believe that the guilt is simply just another part of the writing process. But it still hurts. It's ridiculous really.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Amen! Thank you for capturing the tortured soul of a writer. I know the feeling well. Being an emotion-based writer, it's easy to spill words onto the page when the feelings are there. Writing as a discipline is far more challenging. In part, that's why I have chosen to extend the length of my novel. Though I do have issues with the word novella, I think I need to prove to myself that I can write as a mental exercise not just an emotional outpouring. Keep working through the blank page and kick remorse out the door.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I appreciate your words. Loved the blog as a minor beast who must be fed. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm just telling the truth as I see it, but thank you all for your kind words.

    See? That's what makes writing worth all the pain...

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a surprisingly moving way to describe a universal state for writers. I was so impressed by the pulse of your words, the honesty, the integrity of your images that I was truly stunned when I reached "...that I’ll be published someday, all of that rhetoric." Because if you aren't (YET!) published, then something's amiss.

    Looking forward to your first book!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great job putting into words what we writers sometimes can't (because, like you said, we get stuck!).

    I think the most important part of this is that you can't be afraid to write the "dung." If the option is writing nothing vs writing dung, I'd chose the latter every time because at least that's something you can revise and work up from! Besides, you never know, perhaps the next day you'll be able to look at it with new eyes, and even if you find one phrase, sentence or image amongst 1000 words that is just great, it's all worth it.

    This is why I never truly delete anything. I just tuck it away into a "trash but maybe one day treasure" file.

    ReplyDelete
  11. A great post!
    I often wonder what I did to deserve the misery of wanting to write and write well.
    I feel this way every moment of the day lately as I haven't given much time to my novel. But I know, this little dry spell will pass and the words will flow again.
    God, I love it when that happens! Makes up for the pain and misery of not writing.

    ReplyDelete
  12. A difficult thing to say, expressed with clarity and strength. Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sounds like the week I've been having. It's a good thing to acknowledge that you're not superhuman and that sometimes we don't meet our own personal deadlines and it makes you a great writer to accept when you need a day off to collect your thoughts into the dreams and visions that were there once.

    Hang in there, at the end of the day, you're still accomplished!

    Layna

    ReplyDelete
  14. A prerequisite of being a writer is to totally doubt everything you do. Like any profession conviction is the key to success. It is perseverance and gumption that separate writers from readers. And you describe this with motivating tone. Kudos.
    -Van

    ReplyDelete

~The Writers Den on Twitter~

~The Writers Den on Twitter~
Tap This!