Being in a writing relationship
Ever want to give up writing? I mean really give up? For many of us, the answer is yes. I know I have. Countless times. But when I have doubts about continuing to write or calling it quits, I’ve come to see that struggle as healthy. Those doubts tell me that I am in an honest-to-goodness relationship with my writing.
And relationships, as we all know, have their good days and bad days. Look at the meaningful relationships in your life now. I’m sure you’ve had contented and amazing times, as well as days when you wanted to walk away from it all. And yet, you stayed.
The truth is, when we are truly invested and committed to our writing, we are in a real relationship. That means we stay. No matter what.
In many spiritual teachings to “stay” has great power. To “stay” means that we are completely “present” to whatever might be happening. We stay during the days of doubt, rejection and uncertainty. And we also “stay” when we rejoice in a chapter finished and a book finally written and published.
Author Anne Lamott says it this way:
“I’m so perfectly imperfect. I fail, I screw up, I have big dreams and things fall short. I gave one talk last week on writing, one talk on faith and one on search for meaning. They were all kind of the same talk, I said, ‘You’re going to take small pieces of the whole, whatever it is – one day in your child’s life, one day with a sick parent, one day trying to get this essay on grace written. You have to let yourself do it badly.’ I encourage you to make more messes and mistakes … you have a habit. And the habit is you push back your sleeves, you do it with your kids, you do it with your relationship, you do it with everything, you take a long, quavering deep breath and you have the habit of keeping your butt on the chair …”
So, if nagging doubts show up, they are there to test our relationship with writing and push us through the gritty days of stark fear and terror that come with our craft and our calling. Most likely those doubts will never go away, those questions of Am I called to do this? Should I be doing this? Does it matter?.
But we will also have those days of blessed contentment, of a sentence well crafted and a poetic phrase that conveys our hearts.
“Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore. Only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chooses safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”
So, dear writers, we are always living in the shadowlands of our relationship with writing — the pain now is a part of the happiness later. We can’t have one without the other. And that’s the deal.