If you can do anything else, do it. Don’t write.
It was advice given to me once at a reading, offered by a debut novelist. We were surrounded by tables with thick linen tablecloths and lovely crystal glasses, a view of the harbor and robust coffee. All in her honor. She should have been beaming, celebrating this first reading of hers before a restaurant filled with eager readers. Instead, her shoulders were hunched and her young face had about it the weight of someone who’s suffered a great loss and knows not to trust that everything will be all right.
Though it was her debut novel, it wasn’t the first book she’d written. She had two more under her bed. Talking with writers, it’s a familiar scenario. Some manage to pick themselves up and move on to the next project, while others cut themselves free of the writer's life, make their way doing something far more reasonable, less damaging: Accounting or office work, perhaps bartending because one night’s tips are better than all the money your writing has earned in a year.
If you’re a writer, you understand the melancholy. That sense of numbness that descends after too many rejections or a particularly difficult one. Or worse, silence. You give into the voices, playing on an endless loop inside your head, voices you’re afraid others will hear, too: You’re not good enough, you have no right to hope to be something you’re not. Your dreams will never come true.
I’ve heard from writers, ones whose names you undoubtedly know, that they’ve shared this affliction. Some call it “angst,” others the “in-between days.” It all amounts to the same. Sometimes all that can see a person through the Black Days is fear. Fear of never being the person you want to be, I want to be. It leaves no choice.
So have a good cry, the kind that wells from the core, painful, wrenching sobs that leave your eyes horribly swollen and your insides twisted, and then catch your breath and press on. Keep moving. Forward. One step, then another because there’s nothing else you can do. Not really. And know there’s hope.
You’ll find it on the next blank page.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007