Monday, October 02, 2017

What Have You Been Doing These Last Two Months, Gail? Or What Happens When A Writer Can't Write?

Well, I did make thirteen submissions, six of them as part of the September Twitter Pitch Madness. I wrote seven blog posts. I made twenty entries in my idea journal. I came up with an idea for a new major writing project. So I can't say I did absolutely nothing.
However, I had a fleeting thought when I first stopped working back in August that I might do something meaningful…profound…even spiritual…while I wasn’t working. Then when I went back on the clock, I would be changed. In a positive way, of course, a way that would make me a finer human being, or, better yet, a finer writer.

Yeah, well, as you may recall, I dropped off the work bandwagon because dealing with various family issues meant I could only work three or four hours a week, and the effort to keep trying for more was making me nuts. Turns out that I can’t do anything particularly meaningful, profound, or spiritual in three or four hours a week. Though I did change my daily schedule around so that I no longer exercise right after eating. So there's that. That's kind of meaningful.

This Was Disturbing

 In the early days (many days) of not working, I had this fatalistic feeling that I might not ever be able to go back to work. (Given how this upcoming first week back in the harness is turning out in terms of still more family commitments, I wasn’t being melodramatic.) I didn’t actually want to work at that point, but at the same time I felt as if I was nobody and nothing without working. 

A couple of weeks in to my family leave, my husband was finally driving again after his shoulder surgery, which meant that after a meet up at an elder’s place, we went our separate ways. For the first time since May, I didn’t have some place I needed to go instantly. But, remember, I didn’t work. What was I going to do?

I don’t work, I thought. I don’t have to go home. I don’t have to go anywhere.

So I went to Michael’s and bought, maybe, three hundred of those little things for holding pierced earrings in your ears. Then I went over to T. J. Maxx and walked around and around and ended up spending eighty dollars.

This could be my life now, I thought as I dragged my haul to the check-out counter. 

This Was Disturbing, Too

I also didn’t know if I’d ever read another kids’ book. Or The Horn Book. Or Writers’ Digest. (The renewal form for that magazine has been sitting on my kitchen counter for a long time, a very long time.) Instead I polished off lots of adult books from my To Be Read pile and my Kindle. I don’t think I’ve been to the library since July to this day. I just couldn’t bring myself to read anything that wasn’t produced for my age group.

In An Odd Way, This Is Also Disturbing

One day I started reading a really good YA novel I'd just bought for my Kindle. (Except for The Little Blue Truck, I still haven’t read one for anyone younger.)  I started picking away at a Writer’s Digest, and a few weeks ago I realized I was reading a Horn Book. I got started on some blog posts for October. I got an idea for a totally new book and began working on an exercise to develop voice for one of the characters.  

I was working. Barely. And weeks early.

What Made This Experience Disturbing

This experience has been disturbing because being unable to work undermined my desire to work, or maybe I should say my ability to work. A case, perhaps, of use it or lose it. At the same time, not working was not satisfying. My identity is tightly involved with writing. I write, therefore I am. I don’t write, therefore I’m not.

The whole thing was like being sick, actually. Something was wrong, and I’m recovering, but slowly.


Jen Robinson said...

Not being a writer myself, Gail, I don't really have anything to offer. Just that I'm sorry you're going through this. And I do think that the idea that not being able to work could undermine the desire to work is interesting. Perhaps it's self-protective, so that you don't miss it so much? I don't know. But I hope your family situation and your own desires are such that you get back to what you want to be doing soon.

tanita✿davis said...

My identity is tightly involved with writing. I write, therefore I am. I don’t write, there I’m not.

Yep. There are so many times when one cannot work - when one is with family or in hospital rooms and can't drag all of the necessary quiet and discipline into that space. Too long, and there's this feeling of... disappearing, if I go for too long not writing. Even though my last two novels have been passed on by editors, even though one is still circling (the drain), even though right now feels like a really tough time in the industry, and my own querying of my self continually brings up the question Is your voice even wanted or necessary? Is this even important right now, when everything is a garbage fire? -- even through all of that, the need to write remains rooted.

Gail Gauthier said...

Oh, my gosh, Tanita. It's like we're writing twins right now.

What I've learned from this tough time in the industry, is that enjoying the writing process--the research, the sitting somewhere with the laptop, the keeping up with what's going on, the revising and finishing projects--is hugely important. Because if I'm not going to sell anything, I sure better like the rest of the writing life. And when I can stay home to live a writing life, I do.

Gail Gauthier said...

Jen--I'm a big believer in transitioning. The family problems slowly whittled away at my writing time. A transition to not working. A couple of weeks ago, I found myself slowly transitioning back.