Have you ever walked away from something you loved?
At this point in our lives, most of us have. Maybe it was a pastime that grew too expensive or a relationship that was no longer healthy. Sometimes we walk away from something because we’re not sure what else to do.
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A while back, I was struggling with my writing. I’d thought of myself as a writer for over ten years by that point, and I’d had dips before, but nothing like this. It had been months of nothing feeling right, nothing exciting me, nothing clicking. There’s putting the work in and then there’s beating your head against a metaphorical wall, repeatedly, for weeks on end. It was exhausting. None of the advice in the writing books lining an entire shelf of my lengthy bookcase eased the agony. I tried everything I could think of. Nothing worked.
I set aside this passion, so much more than a hobby to me, because all my thoughts surrounding it in those days were negative. I walked away, stopping just short of deleting all my writing files, and gave myself some room to breathe.
I was just barely in my twenties at the time, in the midst of figuring out my life, and suddenly this thing I’d thought for years I would make my living at, that had added so much to my life, had vanished into midair. Sure, I had only set it aside. I could pick it back up. But how much more could I take, I wondered. How much more could I chip away at this thing that no longer held any joy for me?
While I didn’t keep track of how long I stayed away from writing anything fiction, it was well over a year, with the very occasional attempt to make peace with it, and every time I did it was like a door slammed in my face. Sometimes I missed my stories desperately but, honestly, most of the time I didn’t. It was a relief not to be constantly thinking about them, working on them, angsting over them. I started exploring possibilities other than writing for my dream career. These days, I couldn’t even tell you what those ideas were.
No matter how far I strayed, writing was always with me, somewhere in my mind, and I finally decided I needed to make a decision whether or not to set it aside for good (a thought that made my chest tighten and tears come to my eyes). First, though, I was going to give it one more, all-in try.
Writing and I came into each other’s arms like estranged lovers, meant to be together but mistrustful of each other, wanting it to work but struggling to go on as we did before, because we couldn’t. Things had changed. It took me months of coming to the page to be comfortable with writing again, and for a while every stumble felt like a sign that I’d made the wrong choice.
But I had made a choice.
This was what I wanted to do, both as a job and, more importantly, because I loved it. I’ve always been a writer, even when I didn’t know it. I was born “with the itch for writing tingling in [my] baby fingertips” (Emily of New Moon, L.M. Montgomery) and I couldn’t turn my back on it without turning my back on myself.
My writing life today isn’t without bumps and stumbles, but I no longer see them as signs that I shouldn’t be writing. Instead, I see them as a puzzle, something to work through, or a cue to be kinder to myself, depending. There’s no one size fits all solution, other than to keep returning to the page, as much as you possibly can, and ride out the stormy weather.
I finished a rough draft of a New Adult story and am currently rewriting through the second draft, something I hope to complete by the end of 2015. I also have another project waiting in the wings, and my notebooks and Pinterest boards are filled with ideas and inspiration.
Going through this time apart from my writing was heart wrenching and I don’t wish to ever repeat it, but it also made me realize how important it is to me. I came out of it with fresh respect for the craft and the energy (mental and physical) it takes to come back to the page day in and day out, simply to be a writer.
I also realized that I wanted to help other writers who are going through the same struggles and suffering the same doubts as I did, and so I started coaching them one-on-one, as well as offering free resources and advice through my blog, based on everything I’ve learned and continue to learn every day.
If you’re a writer, you know there’s nothing like it. It’s an extraordinary adventure, one that feeds your soul and feeds off it simultaneously, and we must constantly take care of both our writing and our Self.
Do I still wake up sometimes and feel a little listless or anxious about it? Absolutely. And yet, while I may doubt the page I wrote the night before or the character I’m developing, I no longer doubt that I am a writer.
I am a writer, and there’s no going back … thank goodness!
Have you ever had to turn your back on a passion? How did it turn out?