Writing: “I like me.”

It’s the end of a very long week of editing. I’ve had this low grade bug thingy that made me feel lousy enough to almost feel cranky. Feeling crappy hasn’t helped because editing has been extremely tough and has challenged every synapse that was still willing to fire. So tough, that the beagle even laid low, just to avoid any sudden outbursts from my piehole. But as difficult as editing this book has been, my heart is very tender because I know the author loves this book.

And she should. It’s riveting and important.

I understand the passion and determination it took to write this book because I can see it oozing through every verb and noun, which makes me pour every bit of my own passion and determination into making this book sing from the mountain tops.

I see passionate writing every day. I see it in all the books we’ve published, and I see it in submissions. I also see it at writer’s conferences – regardless of talent. That passion is the fuel that feeds the beast. But what happens when the beast no longer feels fed?

“I want to quit.”

I heard that at a conference not too long ago, and it shredded my heart. I felt responsible because I’d had a private consult with this same author and same manuscript for three years in a row. My crits never changed, and neither did the manuscript. I think she was hoping I’d forgotten that I’d already read this six times before and would magically fall in love. Wasn’t gonna happen. Ever. Truly, it was time to let it go and think about something else. Another book, perhaps.

Tears pooled in her eyes. She was defeated, and we both knew it. I felt like I’d stabbed her in the heart and twisted. “Thing is,” she said, “I like how I feel when I write. I lose myself in my story and I get in touch with emotions that never surface in my every day life. I like me.”

I like me. Wow.

Totally get that, I do. I’m no doctor, but I’m sure there’s a pharmacy a-brewin’ in our brains when we’re creating something, be it art, writing, music, poetry. I think of Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, when his baseball player ghost of a father asks if the baseball field is Heaven, and Kevin replies, “It’s Iowa.”

Not to diss Iowa, but I can’t think of a better  place to never consider as my own personal Nirvana. But I understand the sentiment – as I think most writers do. Of course there are times when we’d rather toss our darlings against the wall and shriek, “What the hell was I thinking??” But when it comes right down to it, I like me when I’m writing. I like how I have to grab my literary shovel and go dumpster diving in order to expose deep-seated emotions that I know will enhance a scene. I’m not just writing a story – I find that I’m also learning about me – even though my main characters are two hard-headed surgeons stuck with each other in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon with five med students, an opera-singing anesthesiologist, and a curious shaman. How is it that that a cast of characters can make me a more insightful person?

That is the magic of writing.

And that’s what I told my devastated writer. If she likes herself because she writes, then why on earth stop? I can’t think of a sadder state of affairs than to stop doing something you love simply because you’ve hit a roadblock. Ok, so that book isn’t going to sell. Ever. Or maybe it will after many revisions. But why let that one book define you? Your future? You are not the sum of one book. Or one scene.

If you’re in need of a breather, then give yourself permission to just walk away for a day or so. We all need to put new wind in our sails. But we’re always drawn back to creative selves, so don’t deny that. After all, anyone can just walk away forever. It’s those who are honest about “I like me” who stick it out and punch through to the other side.

How ’bout it? Have you thought about the ways you like yourself when you write?

19 Responses to Writing: “I like me.”

  1. Pelotard says:

    Yup. That’s true. I’m only really, truly, me when I write. That’s who I am, that’s when I’m at my best.

    Even if maybe the writing isn’t.

  2. Simply perfect, Lynn. Thank you for this.

  3. NinjaFingers says:

    I have the occasional ‘I give up’ moment too, usually when an editor who normally likes my work tosses me a form rejection…

    But I don’t think I *could*.

  4. S.P. Bowers says:

    Loved this post. Sometimes I feel guilty about how alive I feel when I write. Often I find myself thinking of writing as my “real” life and everything else is just stuff to do. I don’t tell my husband I think of it like that. (disclaimer: I love my hubby and he is one of three things more important than writing.)

  5. This is a beautiful post.
    Thank you.

  6. Louise Curtis says:

    Like SP Bowers, I love my husband and he’s more important than writing (fortunately there’s no conflict there!). . . but it’s emphatically writing, not being married, that gives my life meaning.

    Plus, ya know, authors have godlike powers. That’s an excellent feeling – creating something out of nothing.

    Louise Curtis

  7. I like me. I really like me.

    I like that I make myself laugh.
    I like that I can create something out of nothing.
    I like that I get my own obscure movie references.
    I like that I have two blogs now to waste time which would be better spent on my WIP.

    I like that I am not afraid to misquote Sally Field, because in the big encyclopedia of common knowledge, that IS what she said.

  8. Whoa! Now I look like a plagiarizer! What are the odds that two writers think of “creating something out of nothing” at the same time?

    Sorry, Louise. I swear I was typing it as you were posting it.

  9. I hope compartmentalizing is not a BAD thing… because that’s what I do. I have to write, it’s not optional. However, there is work-writing, blog-writing, personal-writing, creative-writing, etc. Some of it gets published. Some of it I hope will get published, someday, maybe. The rest, no freaking way in hell.

    Writing is one thing, publishing is another. Approval and validation are yet others. My distinctions might not really have differences, they might be just psychological tricks I play on myself to minimize the “I wanna quit” moments. Still, it helps.

    Sorry you had a tough week!

  10. Colin says:

    Some beautiful and thoughtful posts today that give all of us hope. Keep the faith, and thank you Lynn.

  11. Lev Raphael says:

    I love the whole world when I’m writing: it’s like a kind of drug trip in which everything seems crisper, more fascinating, more exciting, more inviting of reflection. I saw a brain study once that claimed we used more parts of our brain for writing than in any other activity. I can believe it.

    I have had successes I never dreamed of, and times of despair when everything went wrong, months and even over a year of heavy hits with projects falling through at such a pace I thought I would never recover my hope. But I’ve always come through, thanks to friends, my spouse, and the fact that I love what I do. I am, for better or worse, living my dream.

    Small example: I just got back from the University of Vermont at Burlington speaking to a class of about 100 that had been reading one of my stories. A story I wrote about 25 years ago! How cool is that?

  12. Louise Curtis says:

    Hi Val Thevictorian. Don’t worry – I was quoting someone else (only I don’t remember who), so I plagiarised first. Great minds plagiarise alike?

    Louise Curtis

  13. Lev, can I be you when I grow up?

  14. Lev Raphael says:

    Lynn, only if I can be Michael Fassbender when I grow up.

  15. Yah, I could see that. I want to be Angelina Jolie without the kids…and Brad Pitt.

  16. MK says:

    I happened upon this site meandering from another blog that recommended it as “dense” with useful information. He neglected to mention that it is also evocative. I so enjoyed your article.

    Few people understand the lure of writing. A lure that is fulfilling and, sometimes painful, but addictive all the same. It is the journey takes us from looking at ourselves to understanding ourselves as people and individuals.

  17. Lev Raphael says:

    @Mk: I guess I’m lucky that I have never found writing painful, not even revising, not even when an editor asked me to cut 100 pp. from an over-long book. That was a glorious challenge! I love the entire process of writing from idea to finished text. It’s publishing that I find painful from time to time, though epublishing after 19 books with traditional publishers is proving to be a joy because as Janet Jackson says, “I’m in control.”

  18. ute carbone says:

    I’m going to bookmark this and open it every time I get the I can’t do no more writing blues. Thanks Lynn!

  19. […] We enjoy editor Lynn Price’s blog a lot, and here are two recent posts we think you should see: one one showing versus telling, and one on liking yourself as a writer. […]

Tell me what you really think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: