Sunday, February 02, 2014

The wars we fight, the battles we win

I finished a draft on last Friday of something I'd been writing for over a year. That's a victory in itself, but it doesn't express the entirety of the hard-won battle it represents. I hadn't—previous to this draft—completed a work of fiction in over two years. Actually, it was headed to a count of three. I'm not supposed to tell you that, because it isn't sexy or marketable.

There is a prevalence of a toxic belief that if you do what you love, then the doing of it isn't work and therefore somehow easier. Your reward should be the enjoyment of it and the ease of obtaining this enjoyment, as so many others struggle day to day to find it amid the challenges and demands of their own lives. If you aren't enjoying this thing you profess to love or if it's difficult... well, maybe you just don't love it enough.

Writing is words on a page. Anyone can put words on a page. Most of us do it on a day to day basis. But good, coherent, purposeful story-telling? That takes time and commitment and a lot of energy.

I used to believe that my unquestioning love would mean the transmogrification of writing into a career. It would just happen if I did the work and trusted in it. Well, it hasn't. Certainly not in any way that I could've foreseen or with any kind of permanency.

We don't talk about failure. We are so superstitious about giving it an invitation into our lives. But failure gives perspective on things, clarification about the turning of gears our own and otherwise, that prepares us to continue the complex operations of accomplishment. Sometimes the gears turn so slow we might think they've stopped. Sometimes they do stop. But that doesn't mean they won't turn again.

I almost threw this draft out at 78,000 words. That's about 12,000 from where I finally put it to rest. On the surface, I was tired of its seeming endlessness. But in truth, I was tired of feeling like I couldn't love it enough to make the writing of it easy. If I didn't love it, then how could anyone else?

It is incredibly ironic to seek wish-fulfilment over drafting a manuscript with a subplot theme about the necessity of Doing The Work; perhaps subconsciously that irony is what got me to the end. Or maybe it was being able to look around and see other people living through the struggle. Reaching the other side. And not responding with "oh, you just need to love it more." It was more comforting to have people say "yeah, it's fucking hard, but keep at it."

Love is part of what we do, but not giving up is an act of discipline. Enjoyment alone doesn't keep you committed when things aren't fun. I want to know other people have doubts and struggle, because that gives me motivation to keep fighting.

If things were easy, I would have very little interest in doing them. But there's the struggle that leaves you feeling invigorated and the struggle that beats you down. For me writing is both—sometimes at once. We have a complex relationship, we always have, and to be fair... I'm not sure it was always a healthy one. But I remain hopeful that I'm rebuilding it into one that is.