On (not) Writing

I have only written two poems in the last 45 days, and I cannot bear it any longer.

2016 has come to an end and with it, I put the final touches on a YA fantasy manuscript I've been writing for over two years. I wrote "the end" around Thanksgiving and vowed that I would start writing again in the New Year. I needed a break. Days before making this decision, I wrote for nearly twenty-four hours straight on a flight to South Africa. 

My rationale for this break (numb fingertips from that epic writing session aside) was that I had a few ideas competing in my mind for attention. I thought by giving myself some mental bandwidth for a month or so, I might naturally think about one idea more than the others and have an easier time deciding which story I wanted to spend the next 1-2 years writing. Trust me, after going through bouts in my life where ideas were hard to come by, having three ideas yelling at me for attention like crying newborn babies was not a bad problem to have.

So, big deal, right? Take a break.  That would seem like a reasonable assessment for some. However, for me, not writing for 1.5 months feels like a lifetime prison sentence. 

For many writers, though not all, there is a certain fever-like compulsion that comes with being creative. This is nothing new. There are plenty of examples throughout history of creative people practically destroying themselves to complete their greatest work. While I have come across writers here and there who claim not to understand this compulsion (and sometimes I envy them) - there are many I have spoken with who feel the same way.

Those of us who fit into the "compulsion to create" school, believe that the act of creating something is intrinsically linked to the very act of our being. Creating something (anything) is like breathing to me. I simply cannot bear to not do it. 

To some, this may sound like an unhealthy fixation. Believe me, I've thought of this myself many times. Those days when I turn down social engagements because I "have to write." Those nights when my fingertips are numb from typing for a few hours too long without a break...

I was joking with a friend of mine who is chief creative at a publishing company. We likened writing to a virus you just can't shake. It can feel like that. "Bit by the bug" they say. 

Buddhist thought would have me believe that perhaps I'm "attached" to my writing. But I believe that my desire to write is actually attached to me. Attached to me in the same way my eyes, nose, and ears are.

When I'm not writing for a lengthy period of time, it feels like a part of me is dying. I can't explain it in any other way.

Perhaps, this compulsion is needed in my case. It has been over 17 years since I've taken more than 1 week at a time off from my writing. On average, I write 2-3 hours every single day and I do so while juggling a full-time job. And I'm certainly no rare snowflake. Many of my writing peers do the same exact thing - and some of them have children to raise at the same time These parent writers with full-time work other than writing are the true unsung heroes - how do you do THAT?

For non-writers out there who can't understand how seemingly sane people can force themselves to spend long hours by themselves, cooped up and writing... I cannot understand how sane people cannot do the same.  

Don't get me wrong. I've been luxuriating in my newfound "free time." I've watched hours upon hours of television programs and I now have an incredibly high powered squad of Ewoks in my favorite mobile game (Galaxy of Heroes). However, at least a few times a day, I feel a tug at my fingertips - that voice of the muse in my head whispering sweet nothings to peel myself off the couch and write something. Anything. Even just a short poem. Or a blog...

And so, here I am. Writing again. Go figure. 

Yep. I'm done with this not writing thing. But the good news is - the self-inflicted torture wasn't all for nothing. The break seems to have work. I know which story I need to tell now and I'm more motivated than ever to write the first draft. It is as though the creative force has been pent up inside me and is screaming at me to deal with it now. Don't pass go. Right now. The sense of urgency is refreshing and needed. Writing my first novel was incredibly hard but I didn't really know how hard it would be. I was blissfully ignorant. I'm writing my second novel knowing full well what the journey will entail. At this very moment, I'm grateful to be part of the compulsion to create school. It will help me get through the parts of the process that feel less like creativity and more like really hard work.

I'll update this blog with my progress in the coming months. Until then - remember, make friends with a writer. So long as you can deal with their frequent absences - even when they're sitting right in front of you!