How’s the writing coming along?
Are your fingers catching fire while typing away glorious word after word?
Are you pounding your head on the desk trying to get a single comprehensive sentence on paper?
I hear ya.
Me? I’m wrapping up a short story and about fifty pages in to my manuscript. Things are pretty good right now, but I’m sensing a great big puddle of ooey gooey slow-down hanging just around the corner.
It’s times like these that I have to step back, roll my shoulders, and dig down deep for some inspiration. All the inspirational blog posts and spiffy quotes can’t help me. Somebody once said writing isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon – more like trying to run a marathon with a three hundred pound man on your back and a rabid dog snapping at your genitals.
This is what I do, when the eye-rolling self-critic pays me a visit. I step away from my work and I ponder one single question:
Why the hell am I doing this in the first place?
In a world full of deadlines, chores, and social obligations (ones where you have to wear pants), it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons we started. Time to refresh. Answering this question should be a fun exercise for you that involves little or no crying.
Did you start writing because it helped you cope with trauma? Did your fifth grade teacher encourage your skill? Was it to pick up girls? A gazillion dollar book deal? I’m not going to judge. I can eat an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting.
For me, the reason was simple: I loved telling stories. I enjoyed the way it felt to affect somebody’s emotions with the words I strung together. Before I could even spell, I was typing away at my mother’s old army green typewriter then acting out these pretend stories in the living room for my captive audience. I loved telling my childhood friends ghost stories while we hid under our fancy blanket forts. As I got older, I joined the speech team because I got a kick out of entertaining others. I somehow managed to obtain a Theater degree.
But storytelling, for me, was so much more than that. I cherished all night house parties in which friends would gather around bottles of whatever and discuss all the stuff that seemed important to lost twenty-somethings. We’d huddle in garages, smoking cigarettes and sharing tales of adventure. We were storytellers.
Ok, this is going to sound really cheesy, but this is what I do when I question just why the hell I started writing. I picture an ancient campfire. Old shamans are sitting around this fire, telling stories. Somewhere in that fire, my story is hiding – waiting to be told. Because we are a people created by story. Religion, politics, philosophy- the entire human experience, is rooted in story. These stories continue on now. Hell, I fear that as a society, we are heading towards a very scary time – a time where the story will lose its power. When the last tower falls and the last people are scavenging around for food, our stories must continue on. I’m a part of this. My books, my short stories, and the tales I pass on to the next generation may not seem like much, but it’s a passing on of a tradition that started millions of years before.
Pretty neat, huh.
Once I remind myself that my current projects that seem like such a burden at this time are stories that need to be shared with others, the motivation returns. I can push onward.
So, take a break, talk a walk, and have a conversation with yourself about why you write.
Then, get back to writing.
You have a story to share.