Monday, August 31, 2015
The WORDS are there and you're NOT going anywhere. Take a DEEP breath.
There have been plenty of times I’ve needed to hear that. Plenty of times where those simple instructions seemed the hardest thing in the world. What’s a deep breath gonna do? When things are a mess, when it all goes to hell, why tell me to do what I gotta do anyway?
Well, because sometimes it’s the only thing you CAN do. It won’t make anything easier, but when you’re rushing around trying to fix everything, you end up breathing hard and fast and not in a good way. While you scramble around struggling to make the world make sense, you’re usually gasping for air.
Today’s post is a response to seeing a lot of people stressing out. For good reasons, but at time the negativity can really drag you under. Believe me, I know.
Rather than depress myself talking about HOW I know, I figured I’d address one of the issues I’ve seen coming up a lot lately, and that’s authors feeling the need to write enough to stay relevant.
Seeing this breaks my heart because, the way I see it, after you’ve put a book out there, after you’ve shared the artistry of your words and your stories, there’s no way you can become irrelevant. You’ve accomplished a certain immortality that few ever manage. Your words will live on forever.
Maybe that sounds like poetic nonsense, but for me, there’s something soothing about it. I could freak about pushing back deadlines and not writing enough. Gods know I get my share of hatemail over both. As I posted recently, I’ve had my moments where I could honestly say getting a job asking ‘Would you like fries with that?’ would be preferable to knowing I’m disappointing so many people because there’s no machine to make what I do go faster.
But that’s what makes art so precious. We hear again and again that our books aren’t our babies. That they’re a product and we have to learn to let them go and not take offense when critics tear them apart. Which is good advice, if only for our sanity.
For our creativity? For the words that never seem good enough? For the fragile muse who can be shut down by the most cruel critic?
And the cruelest critic, as we all know, is the artist themselves. If a hundred readers write angry letters about how long a book is taking, you can guarantee the author’s told themselves the same thing a thousand times. And wasn’t as polite as the most ignorant troll.
So what I suggest is this. Take a step back if you need to. Yes, this is still a job, and for those like me who live off our work, we can’t retreat too far. But we can get enough distance to make it just us and the words, if only a little while. To fall back in love with reading and writing and the passion that got us this far.
Enough distance to take a deep breath. And keep going.