On Writing – Days Off, Core Message, and Resolve

This has been an interesting week. I took a couple days off leading up to election night and since. Despite my belief in discipline I don’t believe in forcing yourself to fight your emotions to write. Good writing- the best writing, comes when you have a scope of your thoughts and emotions. Whether the emotion is joy, sadness or anger: grapple with and have your arms around the emotion- really understand what you’re feeling and why so you can articulate and deploy it into your writing.

That said, getting back on the horse can be a damned difficult thing. Days add up, and suddenly the chair at your desk feels too cold.  Maybe I’m alone in that anxiety, but for me the craft means so much that breaks of nearly a week like this imbue a quaking sense of guilt in me.

The first remedy, of course, is not to feel that guilt. Telling a person not to feel a thing is one of those stupidly easy things to say, but it’s worth telling yourself and believing that breaks to process your emotions are necessary breaks. There is no sin in self preservation, and especially when it comes to putting your feelings in proper order to maximize their effectiveness, a break is ultimately overshadowed by the benefits it reaps for your work.

The second remedy then is to get back to work.

This is another easy to say thing, but how I hurdle that “guilt” is a matter of the planning portion I discussed in a previous post. First, you should know what the core message is of your story. For Beneath the Wood, it was the challenges of saying various goodbyes. For Five Talents, it’s a question of the link between our lives and work and the eternity hereafter and herein. Simply put this is what you need with any project you undertake:

You have to believe in your story and that it’s worth telling.

Maybe there’s something presumptuous in that, but I think all art needs a bit of hubris and gusto behind it. Why create anything if it’s a purely selfish act? Maybe a person can be self-motivated, but if they’re only trying to speak to themselves how much can they say?

Documentarians need to speak to neophytes about a subject. Painters need to reveal a scene, sculptors a figure, and writers a story. More than simply communicating the facts of those subjects an artist needs to convey value of that subject- whether that value is religious, ethical, or for amusement’s sake.

So, if like me this week (or other weeks) require time away from your art to come to grips, don’t beat yourself up for it. Take the time. Process. Come to terms with what’s causing the emotions (note again, I’m not saying get over them).  Get knocked down, because life hits hard, but get back up and keep moving forward. Have the fire of conviction that your work and voice are worthwhile to get back at it.

Believe me, your voice is worthwhile.

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