Fair warning, if the me of the future had found a time machine and gone back and visited the me of 2007, I might’ve punched myself in my own face for even thinking about writing this article. Let me explain.
The me of 2007 had written one starter novel and one real novel. She was working on her second real novel and querying agents. She wrote swiftly, almost compulsively, as if there was a hand resting on her shoulder pushing her gently to write, write, write. She had what felt like a dozen book ideas competing for her attention. She knew nothing of the book business. She didn’t even really think about writing as a business; it was her hobby, the thing she did mostly in secret. She was, in fact, in love. In love with writing, with the words on the page she created, with the whole process.
Like any person newly in love, she did not see the pitfalls of her new amour. She did not mind the hours it consumed, the attention it demanded. She did not envision a time when it might feel like work, when she might transition from being in love, to simply loving, or worse, liking.
So where does the punch come in?
It happens because the me of 2017 might, if she found herself through the looking glass and back in 2007, telling myself that I’ve actively thought of quitting writing.
“Are you published?” I imagine asking myself.
“Was it a total flop?”
“Did they refuse to publish your next book?”
“So you’ve published two books?”
“Um…It’s seven, actually. Plus a novella.”
That’s where the punch comes in. Kapow! Right in the kisser.
Thankfully, I don’t really know how to punch, and I can’t imagine that I’d do much damage.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I imagine myself asking, probably a bit too loudly, as the current me grabbed her cheek. Did I just hit myself?
There’s nothing wrong with me, per se (other than the wrong that belongs to all writers). It’s the business, I’d tell myself, the pressure. The fact that you’re only as good as your last book, and the industry feels like a moving target. I might tell my previous self that I was going through a list of followers on Twitter and there they all were: author after author after author. There were so many of them! And it’s been ten years and I’m still in the middle of it. Getting published is just the beginning, but it’s also the end of something. New love’s end.
I imagine the me of the past would still be confused.
“It’s getting a bit hard, is it? Like all relationships?”
Yes, exactly. Now that I can see all of my lover’s flaws, we’ve moved into being in a relationship, my books and I. And relationships have good days and bad days and times when you want to throw in the towel. Take a break. That’s normal isn’t it?
I’ve probably used up the usefulness of this time machine gimmick, right? I thought so. But both of the perspectives are true. There’s the time before you start publishing and the time after, and they just aren’t the same. And all the things that pushed you to publish in the first place, well, unless your career gets knocked out of the park, it can feel like a letdown. Even when your career gets knocked out of the park, whatever comes after it can feel like a letdown. And though you still love writing, most of it, anyway, you can start to question the effort. Is it all worth it? I don’t have to do this. Maybe I should let myself off the hook.
That is how I was feeling last year. A lot of non-book things were going on in my life, and I was struggling with the book I was writing. I’d had my break-out book, and the two that followed it did well, but not as well. That can make you feel like your career is going backwards. I wasn’t on contract for the book I was writing and I had a moment where I thought: what if I just walk away? I could put the pen down, literally and figuratively. I’d had a respectable career. Probably no one would even notice if I slunk away quietly. I began to fantasize about what I might do with all the time I’d get back. There’d be things I missed, but I’d get over it.
Then I went to Mexico for two weeks of vacation. And as I sat on a deck chair under a warm sun and watched whales play in the ocean, I found it. That love I have for writing. That feeling you get when the words flow and flow. I fell back in love with the book I was writing; it wasn’t the enemy anymore, it was a friend. I had that feeling for two whole weeks and I finished the first draft of the book. I haven’t written that many words in so little time in forever. It felt fantastic.
I couldn’t keep that up in my real life, of course, but it did remind me of something important. That writing, like any relationship, needs to be courted once and a while. That you have to remind yourself why you love something. If you want to keep it, you have to work at it.
Or maybe the lesson is: everyone needs two weeks in Mexico.
How about you? Have you ever thought about throwing in the towel, writing wise? If so, what brought you back to it?
Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!