Please join us in welcoming our newest contributor, Kathryn Magendie, to Writer Unboxed! Kathryn is an Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of five novels and a novella, as well as short stories, essays, and poetry —Tender Graces was an Amazon Kindle Number 1 bestseller. She’s a freelance editor of many wonderful author’s books and stories, a sometimes personal trainer, amateur/hobby photographer, and former Publishing Editor of The Rose & Thorn Journal (an online literary journal published with Publishing Editor Poet/Songwriter Angie Ledbetter). Magendie’s stories, essays, poetry, and photography have been published in print and online publications. You can follow her on Facebook and on Twitter, and learn more about her by visiting her website. Welcome, Kathryn!
The Law in The Land of Writers: “Real writers” never ever give up or give in. Writers (always no matter what) write, right?
Well, unless we don’t wanna.
Writers are an often discombobulated bunch and just as with any society we must have laws to keep us from running amok. If someone breaks the “writers write” law, then what? Will the entire system shut down? Will our society crash and burn to leave charred ruins that future generations dig up and place in museums, marked: “Writer. Extinct.” And there we are, frozen in time, hands petrified over our keyboards, vacant-eyed, hollow-boned.
I broke the writers always write law for over two years. The writing-life-is-killing-me feeling was insidious, a creeping up of discontent and dissatisfaction, and exhaustion. I chucked everything author/writing-related. I turned my back so fast and so hard I spun a hole to the depths below Writer Land.
And all the way down I screamed, “You’re dead to me, Writing! Dead to me!” And I became a—gasp—Regular Citizen of the Regular World, with a whole new dirt hole dwelling.
Writing searched me out, but I only heard its faint call—I shoved more dirt in my ears to drown out the whispers.
There comes a time in a writer’s life when it all is just too much. The writing life feels bastardized. The Iconic Writers of the past have done it, said it, written it, and what’s left for us? And while there may be a few modern-day writers who become icons for about a day or three, most of us swim in a vast ocean pushing wave upon wave upon wave onto a shore that accepts the wave and then immediately rejects it.
The pressure to write a great book, one that will be loved and make lots of money and win awards and allow us to be the darlings of the literary community as well as to be popular to the masses at large, creates a constant striving, constant hope, constant “failure” compared to these ethereal happy-go-lucky authors we think exist.
I became an expatriate. One who dirtied her authorial robes. You know what dirt tastes like? Dirt. There’s no good metaphor to hide behind. It’s simple and organic and somehow comforting. And it’s really quiet! You can hear the sound of your own voice—the one you forgot about? You know, that one?
When you hide away from your writer’s society after you dig your dirty hole, magical things may happen. Consider that you not only hear the voice you forgot about, but you recognize that you have nothing left to lose—you’re hiding in a hole, for goodness sakes! You are a law-breaking non-writing writer! You’ve lost income, your identity, your citizenship.
Everyone has moved forward to fame and fortune and success, while you munch dirt.
And one fine morning you finally recognize that it is you who created a weird society where laws restrain you. Then, there you are, the wiggly dirtied creature, rising up out of the primordial muck, blinking away at the bright wonder of the calling voice you once heard so clearly.
And you listen. And you hear. And you consider how: you aren’t on the New York Times best-seller list; have no viral book that people are snapping up so fast the head spins; no call from Hollywood for your book’s movie rights; no Oprah’s book club; no perfect-storm novel that soars above all others and makes you an icon of the ages. It is just you and the writing and the remembered joy of your fingers flying across the keyboard as you create words and worlds.
Like it used to be, back before you placed so many conditions on your writing that all you could see were conditions rising up and blocking out reason, and joy.
The society of writers opens its arms to you and you cautiously but unapologetically step back into its embrace. Did you think they would throw stones at you? Nope. They do not. Will not.
I didn’t die from not writing; you won’t either. I didn’t cut off my right arm; you won’t either. I didn’t lose my mind (well, maybe a little); you won’t either (except a little). No one called me a loser dirt-mouthed non-writing has-been; you won’t be called those things either—and if someone does hurt you? You’ll find an open community of writers who will rally around you, heal you from the hurt, and give you renewed strength.
And guess what else? Your reader believes in you even when you no longer believe in yourself. They’ll rally around you, too.
If you declare, “You’re dead to me, Writing!” So what? You’ll be fine. Your voice will return once you spit out the dirt you’ve been feeding on.
You owe nothing to anyone and no one owes you a thing. Writing is yours to give freely, or to take away freely. You will survive, and maybe thrive.
I believe that sometimes we have to shut it down, hibernate, and then come out hungry.
Allow yourself to grieve any lost dreams. Then say: “So what? This is my reality. Dirt tastes like dirt.”
You aren’t a New York Times best-seller. So what? Your royalties aren’t what you envisioned. So what? You haven’t won an award you desired. So what? You don’t feel like writing for a day/week/month/2 years. So what? Your last book didn’t live up to expectations. So what?
Hole feels safe? So what? Either you will come out or you will not—taste the comforting organic freedom from conditions. Maybe you were meant for something else and your new journey is only a sideways dig ahead.
Writing will wait for you. Writing will always love you. Writing will always be a part of you. If you want it, writing will provide the words and the love of the craft again.
Never ever give up? Well, I say, yes, sometimes do give up. And after you give up, see how it feels. Find out in the giving up if you do indeed really want this life.