Behind every success, there’s often a road filled with obstacles, pain and sacrifices we do not see. It’s a willful blindness: the curse of our current generation to be myopic when it comes to the past. We’re so hyper-focused on what we have here and now, on “living in the moment”. However, living in the moment, doesn’t mean not honoring the past. It’s in the past that we were shaped, that we knew failure, loss and the trials that have made any success worth having.
I’m not there yet: in my idealized state of where I’d like to be. Thus, I’m very aware of my struggles—for visibility, credibility—down a road that at times seems as endless as Sisyphus’s torment. At the start of the year, I did the umpteenth draft of Dreams, readying it for release. Afterward, I wrote the 3rd manuscript: several drafts of that, actually, then further drafts for the work’s two subsequent primary editors. In the periods between, I started working on the final manuscript in this leg of Geadhain’s great tale. All in all, I think I wrote somewhere around one and a half novels this year: thousands upon thousands of pages.
November came around. November, also known by writers as Nanowrimo: National Novel Writing Month. People worldwide roll up their sleeves and crank out a minimum of 50K words in 30 days. It’s a contest and personal challenge in which nearly everyone who writes partakes. This year, I did not partake. Now I’m not frowning on the tradition—it’s brilliant. But by mid-November, I’d just finished writing “Part I” of my final manuscript, and done all the aforementioned grunt work above, and the thought of writing another fifty thousand words on top of what I’d churned out this year made my stomach drop. I just needed a break. My artistic vein had been tapped—stripmined—and I was now dry. I wasn’t suffering “writer’s block”. I don’t believe in writer’s block. In my personal experience, so long as you have the time, space and mindset (the latter being the most crucial element), you can produce literary material. Quality is subjective, and can always be improved through drafting—just get it out.
Anyway, we’re not here to discuss my philosophy on writing. What I’d reached come November, was “writer’s exhaustion”, I suppose. The muse was around, but she wanted me to sing songs and go for walks rather than hammer on the keyboard. “Time to walk away”, she whispered. And I listened to my Muse, knowing my limits. While writing can be a duty, a discipline, it should never be dreary.
I’ve been on a break for about two and a half weeks now. I don’t “break” well; not at first anyway. I usually spend the first week of any kind of a vacation freaking out over all the things that I should be doing. I crossed that point of succumbing to relaxation a while ago, and finally began to unwind. Then, on that social Bermuda Triangle, Facebook, to which we lose ourselves clicking and liking, I noticed all of the accolades and cheer surrounding the closure of Nanowrimo.
I love celebrating in others’ successes. I’m not one of those writers who wishes that they were doing better at the expense of everyone else (that’s just inviting shitty karma on yourself, as far as I’m concerned). Therefore, it wasn’t jealously that crept into me whenever my newsfeed or Twitter lit up with a Nanowrimo update, rather it was doubt. I started to question the enormity of my tale. I started to wonder if the flowchart and plotting planner I’d done was comprehensive enough—certainly not compared to J.K. Rowling’s intense scribbling sessions. I absently glanced through my published works and began that irritating process of dissecting everything I’d done, of consulting every negative critical voice I’d heard.
Doubt. Nanowrimo came and went, thousands of new novels were birthed into the world, and here I and that Gray Monster (Mr. Doubt) bickered in my head, giving me sleepless nights and heartburn. Until recently, on a completely unremarkable day, when I stopped pissing about doing chores (the house is always so clean when I’m neurotic), sat down, and turned off all distractions. Then, I had a conversation with myself: out loud, mostly to the wallpaper. (I’m not ashamed of that, I’m aware that I look like a lunatic to most observers, most of the time. Thankfully, cats and wallpaper don’t judge.) I confronted that voice that’d been lurking in my skull. I picked up my work, I read it, really read it, and allowed myself to feel pride for what I’d done. The whisperer fucked right off: bullies—even the ones we create in ourselves—often do, once you confront them.
He’s still there, Mr. Doubt, and always whispering. He’ll never leave. He’s a part of all of us: our darkness, our insecurity. That Gray Monster needs to be confronted every so often—needs to be indulged, too. Take a day or two, or three or four, to stare at the floor and rub your existential sore. But no more than four, lest you bore your potted plants and damask decor with your tedious shuffling and depressive huffing. (It feels like a rhymy day.)
I’ve done that now. The poison of doubt is out of my system. I can see what the short-term future holds: the most glorious ending in epic fantasy that I’ve ever known, at least. My heart’s beating a million miles a minute just thinking about it. I’m excited to write again. And, even more exciting, is that I can’t wait to share with you what comes after Four Feasts Till Darkness.
Everything is a cycle to itself: our pain, our fear, our doubt and courage. Next time you’re feeling down, or Mr. Doubt rears and makes you tremble before your choices, remember that nothing really ends—not in death, or in life. I learned that when my mother passed away next to me. In one instant, I saw the flash of my childhood, our life as mother and son, and her exit. I felt her energy move: through her body, through her hand, through me, and then into the mystery. Once you realize that, and touch something so divine, you’re fearless. Only we forget the past, we bury our courage, we live too much in the moment. Dig for that moment in your life, whatever it may be. Then seize it and leap.
All my love,
P.S. I’ve been watching the US remake of “Getting On,” and it’s absolutely brilliant. Really thoughtful and engaging comedy on life, death, aging, feminism, diversity—the whole lot. I’ll probably write something about it in a later blog. In the meantime, I encourage you all check it out.