Writer’s crisis: Oh whoa, I’m crap!

Ostara has just been and gone and we are well and truly into the swing of spring – a time of rebirth and new growth. Buds are bursting through the soil, flowers are blooming and the bees are getting their jiggy on. There is no better time to emerge from the chrysalis and look back over the debris of what I had been writing up until now… sigh. With growth comes the necessary death of what came before; as the bud bursts through the rich soil the seed is broken and returned to dirt. Thus, as I have grown as a writer over the last few months, some of my writing needed to return to the dirt, if only for a while, so that new writing could emerge.

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Part of me is writing this because it is a post I needed to read a few weeks ago. It is a blog post to my former self, and to my future self because I am sure there are plenty of writing crises ahead. This blog is also for any other writers out there experiencing some kind of writing crisis. This blog post can be summed up in my personal mantra: keep going.

I am sure all writers can relate to the highs and lows of the steep learning curve that is writing. You know that moment when you write something truly new and fantastic and you look over what you wrote last year and just cringe? It is a wonderful moment because you see how much you have grown. However, it is also a painful moment to think how this cringe worthy moment will come again in the near future when you look back at what you have just written. Such is the cycle of growth, death and rebirth.

Anyway, the last month has certainly been an artistic challenge. I had to face some hard truths about my writing. It took a lot of time to process and reflect on these truths and the changes ahead hence my silence. (It never ceases to amaze me how much of the writing process occurs away from the page – all that time spent just thinking, reflecting and hooking up the caffeine IV drip.) However, through this whole process there was a thread of excitement that propelled me forward because even though I was seeing all the places my writing fell down I was also seeing all the ways it was going to improve and grow. The improvements will take a lot of work but that is the thing – passions, real passions, no matter how hard or disheartening the journey is towards realizing a passion, you keep going because you love it. It is in your blood. You do it for you because it IS you. A passion is like breathing; no matter how much someone dislikes you breathing there is no way you could stop unless you died. Even when I am not writing – the writer is in me, breathing, listening, watching and just waiting to emerge again. (I sound like I have a creepy little writer beasty living inside me waiting to burst out – who knows, maybe I do? But that’s another story.) So what I have discovered this month is that no matter how terrible the feedback is, there is this fiery strength that can take hold of the feedback, examine it, apply it appropriately or dismiss that which isn’t appropriate, and just keep going because there is no other option.

With every writing hurdle I jump I feel my writing skills getting stronger and my heart is growing more resilient towards and even hungry for criticism. This strengthening and growth elates me because the fiery heart of my passion rages even brighter.

Anyway, that is why I have been quiet – I was having an “OMG I AM CRAP! WAAAAAA!” moment and needed time to process my feedback and stoke the creative fires.

I have to say, something else I discovered during this journey was that tending to the fires of my passion involves a lot of self trust and self love. Trust that my heart knew what it needed to keep going. Trust that I knew what I needed from my writing and the criticism to move forward and grow. An overall trust in myself because in art there is no strict right or wrong with any of this. It all comes down to you and that involves knowing your style, your voice and trusting in that. And in the end… giving myself the permission to fall apart and permission to ask for what I needed to put myself back together. Why? Because I love myself enough to live my passion in whatever way I can. I love myself enough and am worthy enough to express my passion – no matter what anyone says. This is a labor of love, first and foremost… Not a popularity contest and certainly no competition of any kind.

The whole process reminds me of the myth regarding Chaos and Eros. In Greek mythos Chaos was the first… “Chaos was the primal emptiness – a dark, silent, formless and infinite oddity with no trace of life.” Over time this raging black chaos gave birth to Eros (love) (amongst other beings one of which is my personal favorite – Erebus – the dark silence). Eros became the organizing principle of the universe. Eros weaved together all of the life Chaos was birthing from deep within his dark churnings. So while Chaos is and always will be there, underlying every birth, death and rebirth – throwing the world in to perpetual turmoil, Eros will always be there too. The process of living and creating is about learning to surf and even harness the waves of Chaos without giving into the darkness while continuing to seek and strive for Eros – the guiding light of your passion and your soul – love.

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So what was the instigation for this crisis and growth and what got me through this period? Definitely attending MRWG –the warmth, support and wisdom was more than I could have ever hoped. I have also been working with some wonderful crit partners and a fantastic writing mentor all of which have not only given me some life changing feedback but also great resources all of which listed below. The experiences of the past month have changed the way I write and how I consume art – a priceless gift. However, in order to receive this gift there had to be a painful death of how I was before. I think this creative death was so hard because my creative spirit is a large part of what keeps me alive. Therefore, to change this part of myself is particularly scary but, as they say, you gotta kill your darlings.

So if you’re an emerging writer, or if you are me and you’re reading this in a few months time – keep going. Keep falling down, curling into a ball, process any criticism and take from it only what you need to make you stronger, stoke the fires of your passion, get up and start writing – and do this again and again and again, until you stop breathing. Why? Because there is no other option for you and you know it.

Like the wheel of the year and the cycle of the seasons, it can’t always be summer. There will be an autumn when things fall away, winter will come and things will stop, turn inward and die, and spring will come again and you’ll burst through that chrysalis, new and blooming with the wild excitement for the blue summer skies ahead. Just roll with the Chaos baby and Eros will emerge again.


 

Resources:

 

http://www.amazon.com.au/Rivet-Your-Readers-Deep-Point-ebook/dp/B007PUMQ1O

 

http://www.amazon.com.au/Story-Engineering-Larry-Brooks-ebook/dp/B004J35J8W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406585069&sr=8-1&keywords=larry+brooks

 

http://www.amazon.com/Showing-Telling-Powerful-Balanced-Writing/dp/1582977054#

 

http://www.amazon.com.au/Mastering-Showing-Telling-Fiction-Writers-ebook/dp/B00J3CUEZM

 

http://www.amazon.com/Write-Great-Fiction-Plot-Structure-ebook/dp/B001UISGV6

 

http://www.amazon.com/Fiction-Writing-Tools-Writers-Emotion/dp/1496116208

2 Comments

  1. elsa holland says:

    Great post as usual Catherine. Love the insights you share. It is tough getting those moments of insight that let you know there is still further to go. But even the masters have them, there is never a point when it stops and you can say I have arrived. I think it’s because the creative drive is linked to the expressions and evolution of self, much like you explained with Chaos and Eros.

    I also find that sometimes that step back from writing and the inner perturbation does have a cathartic impact on the writing itself. You can write through it but you can feel your way to the next level away from writing as well.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!!

    Like

    • Yes, exactly. I don’t think there is a ‘destination’ with art just a continual cycle of death and renewal. It is a process of becoming comfortable with that wheel of evolution 🙂 And I agree, stepping away from writing or characters from time to time can really really rejuvenate and elevate. That can be a big thing for many writers – reconciling ‘not writing’ as an integral part of the writing process. A hard concept to sit with in a culture so focused on ‘doing’ and ‘goals’.

      Like

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