It was my birthday recently (I’m 26). When I started intending to publish a novel, I had just turned 23.
Three years later, I don’t have anything published. I have this blog and I have a ton of manuscripts with various different stories, a couple discarded novels, notebooks filled with worlds and plotlines, short stories and scenes written all over the place. I have a twitter, a goodreads – I once had a facebook. I’ve entertained a handful of pennames. The writings I choose to share on my blog are hardly a drop in the bucket. Every day I’m getting a little bit closer to fulfilling that intention I made back then… least that’s what it always feels like.
A big part of why it’s still taking time, however, is my own resistance and that not only do I intend to publish a novel – but I don’t want to stop at just one! Once I start, once I push that boulder off the mountain peak, I want to let myself go and become prolific and roll out quality novels at breakneck speeds. At least, that’s how I dream of it in my mind.
Last week, I read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art because after using his quote in my last blog post, I decided to read the book from where it came from. I’m amazed I haven’t read this book before. Immediately after finishing The War of Art, I went on to read Turning Pro and am currently sifting through Do The Work.
While no advice is perfectly suitable for my personal situation, I resonated with a lot of Pressfield’s perspective on writing (and art, in general). There were points where I felt I completely understood what he was talking about, then there were other times where I knew I did understand, but didn’t want to admit it to myself on a conscious level because I wasn’t applying that comprehension to my daily life yet and felt guilty about it.
Overall, Pressfield’s thoughts are incredibly motivational to me. It doesn’t remove the struggle though. Knowing about Resistance isn’t enough to get rid of Resistance, it just provides an awareness of its presence.
Looking back on my short adult life, a lot of my time and energy has been spent in identifying and naming Resistance while fumbling around what exactly to do with it or how to interact with it. Was there a way to get rid of it? – was my main drive. The resounding answer I got was, “No.” But there are ways to live fully alongside evolving awareness of it.
When it comes to writing, I deal with a lot of resistance, especially when I get close to finishing something. Back when I was 23 and soon after I made the conscious decision to publish a novel, I applied for an MFA creative writing program. My thought was it would help to have a support system of other writers and mentor-like teachers to evolve my writing to the next level.
However, the entire experience was an awful, terrible, horrible ordeal. Instead of finding a support system of other writers, I found hobbyists barely writing anything. The teachers weren’t like I expected either. To them, the way to succeed as a ‘writer’ was to constantly attend social events and have just enough published to use as proof of authorship if questioned. While it was a debacle that I regret and changed the course of my life… I did, reluctantly, learn a great deal about people.
I kept writing regardless, before, during, and after I left the program. But it did, definitely, derail a couple novels that I had been set on finishing at the time.
Last year when I got close to actually finishing my fantasy novel, I got terribly sick and the dramas in my household intensified greatly. The drama kept at an intense level all the way through the year until things evened out just a couple months ago. Yes, in both of these though, I wasn’t a passive member, I had a role that I participated in.
And now, in the last few days immediately following my conscious decision to finally turn pro (no matter what!), dramas have started to arise without me doing a single thing different beyond the way I’m restructuring my thoughts. But this time, I don’t want to play any role in it.
I have work to do, that’s where I want my focus to be.
Yet, I am still scared.
I’m scared of becoming old and lonely and ugly. I’m scared of what I might lose when I actually make the leap from amateur to professional. I’m scared past-time resistances like the drive for suicide, alcoholism, run-of-the-mill drug addictions, and self-hatred will hit me when I’m weak and down and isolated and unable to cope. And yes, I’m deathly scared of failure. I might be even more scared of success.
But fear is not enough to hold me back from moving forward.
Some days are going to suck. I’m used to that. Some days are going to feel like hell. I’m used to that also. Some days will be so painful, I can only just barely keep breathing. These will happen and I am already aware of them because they’ve already happened before.
But some days won’t suck. Some days are going to feel like heaven. And some days are going to feel so blissful and inspiring that my breaths will be full of light.
I have felt this entire range before… but I am scared that the range will continue to expand as I grow older, that my hell will descend even deeper than before and my heaven will become even higher and I will swing between the two like a pendulum on fire.
That scares me.
Because, can I handle it? Nice people who interact with me call me creative, courageous, intelligent… but they don’t know how much internal fear and confusion I face on a daily basis. They see only a sliver of my Self, so am I really all that brave or smart? Am I actually capable? I have to choose to believe that I am. I cannot give in to dramatic internal torments aimed on paralyzing my growth.
It’s not about being hard-nosed, though. That’s one of the things I appreciate about Pressfield’s perspective. He understands the importance of compassion. When I am able to look in the mirror and not hate what I see, not despise who is there in front of me – when my Self love is based on my own Work and not based on comparing myself to this author or that artist, then I will know I have progressed. Self-possession is a skill I aim for.
And I’m so tired of focusing on why my writing (or life) is the way it is.
Something Pressfield mentions, that is one of the things I struggle with admitting, is to focus on the HOW, not the WHY. For my entire life, I’ve had an intense preoccupation with the question of ‘Why?’. Why does this interest me? Why does that make me feel inspired? Why do I even want to write this novel? Why not that story over there? Why do we even want to read? Why? Why am I here, not there? Why is this all I seem capable of doing? Why can’t I do other things that interest me? Why does so much interest me? Why do I feel like a failure? Why, why, why, why? and so on.
It’s not that How doesn’t ever come into my mind, it does. But Why does just as much, if not more, and it has weighed heavier on my mind. It is Why, though, that often derails me because while searching for a definite answer I get frustrated and depressed. Perhaps there is no definite answer, or perhaps I have a limited capacity to realize it if there is one, but the drive that one day, I’ll figure it out, it keeps me asking ‘Why?’.
To further application of Pressfield’s perspective onto my own life, I will admit that I’ve harbored an overwhelming amount of amateur habits these past few years. Most I am aware of, but have found it difficult to just let go and move on from them.
For instance, I’m working on this blog post instead of editing my novella like I’ve wanted to do for the past two weeks – this is an amateur habit.
I know what I have to do…….. so why can’t I just do it?
See how easily that ‘Why’ reappears.
It’s not a matter of why I can’t do it. It’s blatant. I can’t do it because resistance doesn’t want me to. It’s providing not only drama, but distractions left and right that feel so much better on my conscious brain to spend my moments with.
And I repeat those distractions until I’m too tired to work. Then I go to sleep disappointed in myself, knowing that I’m not reaching my full potential. After all, I’m probably barely reaching 1/1000th of my potential.
One of the reasons that I started this blog with focusing on craft and craft-exercises is the awareness of a concept that I vaguely understand, but Pressfield puts to words so well. “The amateur is an egotist. He takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a ‘life’, a ‘character’, a ‘personality’.
The artist and the professional, on the other hand, have turned a corner in their minds. They have succeeded in stepping back from themselves. They have grown so bored with themselves and so sick of their petty bullshit that they can manipulate those elements…”
I am not a character. My personality is an ever-changing, mutable mess that I don’t care to define, nor structure into something that makes sense for other people or is easy to swallow. Inside my internal creative sphere, I am able to breathe life into thousands, even millions of characters and the stories that surround them.
I have been steadily growing bored with myself, my ego, those repetitive little dramas and problems with solutions I already know, but ignore. I’m not entirely there yet, but I’ve been headed in that direction at an increasing pace this past year.
There’s a lot more I could say… but, I’m just going to stop working on this blog post now and get to work finishing that novella I wrote last month. It’s a bit of a Shadow Novella (as Pressfield might say) with the sole purpose of exploring publishing platforms, but after I finish it, I know what I have to do – and that is finish one of my 2-year novels; either my fantasy, Stolen Control, or MRD.
And that, is my calling.
It’s time to stop talking about it though.
It’s time to work.
P.S. By stop talking about it, I don’t mean I’m going to stop blogging. My blog is going to return to being focused on craft techniques and exercises with only light sprinkles of internal monologuing.