Thursday, May 01, 2014

Fear of Writing

I am cautiously optimistic.

Sounds like the beginning of a politician's set speech, something that uses a lot of words but says nothing.

What I mean to say is that I don't want to queer my pitch and fall back down into the hole where I've been living for at least the past 2-3 years. That's how long I have not been actively writing. Not books. Not consistently. Not even in my paper journals, except when something won't be silenced and I need to get it out. Where I once went through a good sized journal every 2-3 months, it is taking me a year, possibly more because I'm afraid to look, getting halfway through the current journal. It's in my bedside table, so there's no excuse, but I fell out of the habit of writing every day and that would be writing.

Oh, I write book reviews on occasion. I have not stopped reading, voraciously. I just stopped writing. The ideas and characters and plot points were there clamoring to be heard and put on the page, but I refused to listen. It's a skill I learned as a teenager at home. I was a master at ignoring my mother speaking, cajoling, wrangling, arguing, and criticizing me. Now I can say I'm equally good at ignoring the urge, the desire, the need to write.

Or at least I was until a couple of days ago.

There is a book I wrote several years ago that I've been meaning to format for ebooks. I did some of it initially and then . . . stopped. Fiddling with it doesn't count since I seldom got more than a few pages done. Then something caught hold of me and I opened the file and began formatting. More than a few pages. Lots of pages.

And then it happened. I wrote. Tweaking a bit of dialogue. Writing a new sentence or two. Actually editing and -- dare I say it? -- writing. Shock took hold and I stopped. It wasn't safe to continue.

The next night, I opened the file, searched for the markers, and formatted some more.

And I wrote more.

Now you know why I began with "cautiously optimistic." I'm not sure how long this will last and I don't want to scare it away. Journaling more was the catalyst, that and being unable to ignore the voices clamoring for attention.

The thing is, even if you know there's a trap ahead, you could still fall into it. My trap was set around expectations. Unreal expectations. I got away from the reason I began writing as a child -- because I wanted to tell stories, to write them down, and keep them for myself. I got caught up in making money, enough money to quit the day job and write. That didn't happen, not with the first or the second or even the 15th book. I was still slogging along, banking small royalties, and still wage slaving away.

Then there were the awful reviews from people who obviously didn't read much or thought my books were romance. I don't write romance, although there is romance in some of my books. Not the same thing at all. They had unrealistic expectations of me, that I would fulfill their need, their desire for a new romance novelist.  My books are much more complex, and I hope richer than formula romance. Those reviewers obviously didn't read the book or just "couldn't get into it" as some wrote. I can't get into some books either, but I don't trash them or eviscerate the writer for not living up to my expectations. I say I couldn't get into the book and leave it at that. I could tell those reviewers likely didn't read past the first chapter or two and yet reviewed the book as if they had. I don't read past the second chapter, or even the third, and I write the author privately and say I won't review the book and explain why. There are readers who like those books, but one of them wasn't, or isn't, me.

It seemed pointless to keep writing for people who didn't want what I had to offer. Frankly, I was deep into the abyss of depression and didn't care about anything any more. Nothing that once gave me pleasure even touched the darkness I clothed myself in. I didn't care. All I could manage was doing the job I was paid to do and very little else. And I mean very little else.

That's how it was until recently when my world was shaken, stirred, and turned upside down. The bank foreclosed on all my landlord's properties, my house included. I didn't think much would change, since the bank said nothing would change. I sent my rent to a new address and person and everything slid back down into the abyss. Then someone put a realtor's sign in my yard and a letter informed me that I would have to open my door to let people tramp through the house, people who might want to buy the house -- and toss me into the street.

Okay, the street is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

I've always been at my best when my back is against the wall. A spark ignited and the furnace went into heating the arctic circle mode. I would fight back. I would offer to buy the house.

Every obstacle put up against me I hurdled. Every threat I faced. I was alive again. Too bad it came at such a cost. The house is still a mess because I haven't done anything for 2 or 3 years; that means cleaning house. I did just enough to get by with laundry, with dishes, with everything.

As my anger and determination fired up, so did something else inside me -- the desire to write. That is where I am now.

No doubt I will get more bad reviews from readers who couldn't get into my books or didn't bother to read anything and are determined to leave 1/5 stars. Let them. I can take it. I'll consider the source.

Slowly and surely, I will come back from this. Whether I live here or not, if the bank allows me to buy this house or not, I will keep going. I'm not sure I can stand another slide into the abyss, and I will write and clean and fight back with all that's in me.