A few years ago, I read some writing advice in which the author told unpublished writers to enjoy being unpublished while it lasts.
At the time, I remember thinking, “Da-fudge? Heck, NO! I’ve been unpublished long enough!”
She mentioned how when you’re unpublished, all of your deadlines are your own. If you’re working on a story and it sucks, you can just walk away because there’s a lot less pressure to finish it.
I understand where she was going with that now. Even after you fall into the published circle, you can still always walk away from something that isn’t working. There’s just a different dynamic. You may be walking away from money. You may be letting down some fans who may have been waiting for it. You may a bunch of other things I don’t realize because I’m not on that side of the equation. It’s just not as easy as when you’re unpublished and no one is looking at you at all.
I have so often put too much pressure on myself. Have to write, have to write, havetowritehaveto–
And it’s like, why? Why am I stressing myself out all the time? If you’ve never pressured yourself to meet a deadline, I think it’s absolutely a great experience. It pushes you through obstacles, and the sense of accomplish you get with that is amazing. But I don’t need to do that every time.
There’s a relief in that. There’s a relief in the fact that I really can take my time, if I want. I don’t have to push a story out in 5 weeks. I don’t have to put all of that pressure on myself.
I don’t have to write everyday. Or every week, even. Sometimes I’m too depressed. Some days my brain isn’t working. Sometimes I’m busy and squeezing a writing session in will cause me a great deal of stress. And that’s okay. Sometimes I need a day where I watch television or Netflix all day. Or stay in bed reading all day. Sometimes I just need to recharge my batteries.
I hear things sometimes like, “Treat writing like it’s a job.” “Write at the same time everyday?” Why? Do I write regularly when I have an active project on my hands? Totally! I love it! I do it almost every chance I get. But my schedule fluctuates. Some nights I have a late dinner training for work. Some afternoons or nights I’m at the theatre. I have laundry days. Errand days. I have to work writing around the rest of the crap I have to do.
It’s true that writing is not a hobby for me. My hobbies collect dust. But why can’t writing be serious AND super fun, too? Why make it stressful? Maybe one day it will actually be a job instead of this nice little limbo it’s in. And I will have to make sure I set aside time to write so nothing else gets in its way. Maybe I’ll even write at the same time every day then! But if I treat it like a job now, I’m stressed out all the time because I feel like I have two full-time jobs, and then I get no sleep. Which makes me crazy. And then I can’t write. Which makes me sad, and makes it harder to write.
So, now, where I am right now: unpublished. It’s okay. I know that if I ever really need to treat it like a job (one that I love – one that I’m excited about), I can. I know if I ever need to force my butt into the chair and write, I can. I know that if I need to power through something that’s hard to write or edit or whatever – I can. I know that I can write and edit something amazing that I love in four months. Because I’ve done all that stuff.
I understand what that author was saying now. I can’t let my relentless pursuit of the holy publishing grail take the joy and awesomeness out of my writing. And I’m certainly not going to get there any faster by writing crap. I want to keep improving. I can’t do that if I’m stressed and rushing all the time. I don’t want to keep taking five steps forward and five steps back.
It’s okay if it takes me six months to write my next story. Or a year. Although, honestly, the thought makes my stomach hurt, but it’s okay! Where I am right now, I need to slow down and enjoy the process again. Take the stress out of my writing and amaze myself again. That’s what I need. Not some crazy, must draft every story in 4 weeks and be published by 26, kind of deadline…which I missed, by the way. 😛