Over an impromptu coffee with one of my writing teachers yesterday, I poured my heart out about The Novel and its 1) lack of direction, 2) lack of completion and my general mental illness regarding same.
My teacher, a wise and beautiful woman, nodded knowingly.
“Yes. It’s the nature of the beast,” she said (or something to that effect). “Why do you think so many writers off themselves or drink themselves into oblivion on a regular basis? Being a writer is lonely, hard, thankless, and only undertaken by those who are mentally ill to start with.” (Or something to that effect).
A dark cloud passed over our cafe magnifying the sense of Gloom.
Instead of walking out of there and popping into the Kilt and Dagger next door (a not-so-charming pub perfect for a disconsolate sort), I walked to my car feeling strangely buoyant.
Yes, it’s true my mental instability knows no bounds but I think what my friend did was renew my faith.
I (finally) understood that having faith doesn’t mean that some days aren’t gonna suck. Having faith doesn’t mean you don’t feel insecure or lost. Having faith is understanding that there are sucky, bad, bitch-worthy days – sometimes these days stretch into weeks and months. You carry on because you know somehow that this hard, lonely path is the one you were meant to be on – no matter what. You have to recognize that insecurities and low points are are normal. It is ok. Writers are blessed with permission to be insecure, unstable, self-doubting, and cranky – how awesome is that!
I’m not insane. I’m a writer. Well, ok I might be a little bit insane but…whatever.
Do gold miners walk into the hills and see bands of polished, gleaming metal on the surface? No, they do not. They have to dig through miles of muck and stone to find the good stuff. Writers are different – we lay down the miles and miles of muck and then dig back through it looking for a nugget that we may have inadvertently written. How many times have I sifted through page after page of dreck, thinking that the bottle of scotch in the corner really needs draining when suddenly, there: a sentence, a turn of phrase, or a passage – a nugget of something golden.
Writing is thankless, hard, decidedly un-rewarding. It’s lonely. No one understands why we do what we do when the chances of winning the lottery seem to far outweigh the chances of getting published. Yes, writers are a strange breed.
We are paragons of faith.