Monday, July 26, 2010

Writing is Oxymoronic

Writing is oxymoronic. At times it’s debilitating, filling you with misery and self doubt. Not just normal, do I have the talent to do this, but the sort of self doubt that makes you question your existence on this planet. Other times, it's fantastic, as if you’re floating, weightless, among the clouds, as high as humanly possible.

When you are a stay at home mother, your days are filled with small, sometimes crazed, mundane actions, cleaning, laundry, cooking, shopping, feeding, changing, and entertaining. Not the kind of entertaining that is filled with intellectual conversation over goblets of wine, no. I’m talking about finger painting and reading the same children’s book twenty times with in the span of an hour, making up songs to occupy your toddler while you try and make a nutritious meal or while doing some quick grocery shopping.

The very last thing you feel that you have time for is starting your life long passionate dream of becoming a novelist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about being a stay at home mom. I love that I’m able to do that and in reality would crumble to a million pieces if I had to work outside the home, away from my daughter. (Even though, the thought of a few short hours a day spent among grownups sounds divine.) For this I will wait until she starts school.  All things at the proper time, right? Right!

So I steal away a few moments here and there to try and write on my WIP, which is coming up on its, wait for it, tenth year in the making. Yes, it’s sad, but sorry to admit, true, and now I’m starting to feel as though the story I set out to write has disappeared entirely.

Now, with that said, I also feel as though a new story is taking flight, but I’m not so sure of its destination. Sometimes, this is an exhilarating time for writing, feeling a story emerge without knowing its full scope yet. It’s a time for exploration and realization. But for me, at this stage with these characters, it feels frustrating and breads for much anxiety and again, self doubt.

How can a story I thought I was writing turn out to feel so wrong? When I say wrong, I mean, it feels bogus, unreal, and pushed. It feels as if I’ve been trying to shove my characters into a small box when all they want is an open field. How could I just now be realizing this and why does it make me feel like a hack?

I started this WIP (in hopes of it being a novel) in 2001 and had a clear view as to what I wanted the story to be. I wrote ferociously on it for about five months, at the time I worked full time so I wasn’t able to write all day, but I did write each day, and then I hit a giant wall.

I suddenly felt as though the characters were standing still even though I was trying to push them forward. I thought, "maybe I just needed a breather from it". I know now, I should have pushed through it, and went back to fix the kinks later. But I didn’t.  I stopped, set it aside, and didn’t return to it for over a year, for no other reason than fear. When I tried to go back, I was stuck, each time I tried to get back to it, it was harder to hear my characters voices.

That’s how it’s been for several years now. I have always wanted to finish it, a draft at least, but fear and that ugly troll, self doubt, prevented me.

So, recently I’ve been talking with some good friends, also writers, about it and they helped me to realize that I’m just making excuses. That I need to either put it away for good or bite the bullet, get off my rear and finish it. Since the story itself feels like something I need to tell, I’ve decided to finish.

That’s where I am now. Determined to finish, yes, feeling any less self doubt? NO! I’m afraid of the process, worried of the outcome, scared that after all of this time and all of the excuses it won’t be any good.

In my new found determination I re-read it and removed, upon years of thinking about it, approximately 10,000 words. They felt like they belonged to someone else, to another story entirely. Then in my renewed spirit I wrote over 2,000 new words. It felt amazing! “I can totally do this!” I thought. Then, I hit that wall, again.

I don’t know if I want to cry and scream, burn it, or continue…well in all honesty, I want to do all three, two out of three will do. So I cry and scream and continue.

This is where I find myself today, at this very moment. Trying to figure out how to continue, where to go from here, and all while only having those small increments of stolen time away from my beloved daughter.

Like I said, Writing is oxymoronic!

However, the light at the end of the tunnel?  The moral of the story, or in this case, blog post?  It's to continue, always go forward, push through it.  A close friend told me today, there is no other option other than to keep at it. 

And so I shall.  With a firm hold on the end game, a novel.


  1. I get lost in your writing. Not because it's perfect, but because it is what is in your mind. I would read a novel by you that was just ramblings, with no beginning and no end, no point, no reason for it. Just to know it was your words and feelings and imagination. Self doubt that creeps in is part of you, I know, but I wish it'd go away so that I could read what your goofy, brilliant, roving imagination had created. BW

  2. Remind me to remind you to tell me this more often. :)