Writer’s Weekend Edition – A Crisis of [Writing] Faith

Photo by R. Keith Clontz

Photo by R. Keith Clontz

There’s obviously something going on with me and my writing.

You only have to scan my latest posts to see what I mean:

And, if we go back a little farther, starting at the end of 2015, my selected archive is a string of somewhat angsty, slightly rebellious, occasionally forlorn posts:

Holy crap. I haven’t exactly been a ray of sunshine, have I? (Which is weird because I am actually one of the most optimistic – sometimes annoyingly so – people I know.) Honestly, I knew something was up, but listing those posts out like that … whoa. I have to admit that even I’m a little dismayed at the story arc that’s showing up.

··• )o( •··

Maybe it’s good to confront these themes of doubt and fear and an apparent need for permission. As ugly as they are, they are obviously a part of my writing journey. I love writing, but it is clearly not a walk through a rainbow-bedecked, unicorn-infested woodland. I am not tripping down a sunlight-dappled path, picking daisies and trilling cheerful tunes that attract bluebirds and butterflies to my outstretched fingertips.

Neither, however, am I walking through a tangled forest of doom and foreboding. There is no dark past or traumatic event that hangs over me like a curse. I have no deep-seated emotional scars or daily crises to drive my purpose and shape my words. I am not on a mission for catharsis (at least, not that I know of).

Instead, I’m just a “regular” person leading a “normal” life. And somehow, that feels like a liability to my creative work.

··• )o( •··

I have no insights or answers to offer up today.

Despite the weekend deadlines hanging over my head today, I took a few moments this morning to sip a hot, cinnamon chai down at my favorite coffee shop. From my seat at the corner table, I watched people coming and going. I wondered about their lives and their dreams and their creative journeys. I tried,  once again, to sort out my thoughts about my own creative life – what it is, what I want it to be, and where it’s headed. All I could come up with is this rather random list of questions:

  • Am I having a crisis of writing faith? Have I been blindly pursuing writing because it’s been a part of my identity for so long?
  • Is the medium really the message, or am I missing my message?
  • Is writing What I Do, or is it how I process and share What I Do? (And, are those two options really all that different?)
  • What is the purpose of a life? (Oh yeah – I went there.)
  • Am I overthinking this? Am I taking myself WAY too seriously?
  • Is the unexamined life really not worth living (Thanks, Socrates, for that brain twister) … or, is ignorance bliss?
  • What do I really want to say? Do I have anything to say?

··• )o( •··

While this inner battle has clearly been brewing in my head for a long, long time, it was a post from Dan Blank (Double down, with vigor) that was the catalyst for me putting these scary thoughts out into the world. So, thanks, Dan.

I hate the thought of being a whiner or being self-indulgent. But, I also live in dread that I will reach the end of my days only to realize that I missed my path and wasted all my precious time. I worry that I’m not being “authentic.” I worry that I’m basing all my decisions on fear and caution. As Dan said in his post, you need to focus on what you want as if you’re drowning. Forget best practices. Forget the safe and the boring ways of doing things. Go ahead and make “the biggest ruckus you could possibly make.”

Maybe that’s the answer. Even though (knock on wood), life is good, it feels like I’m drowning sometimes. Life is like that for a lot of people, even the regular ones who lead normal lives.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Photo Credit: R. Keith Clontz via Compfight cc

31 thoughts on “Writer’s Weekend Edition – A Crisis of [Writing] Faith

  1. There’s an old saying about commitment being a choice you make every day.
    Some days I am not sure I chose to be a writer.
    It’s the long stretches that make me nervous. After nine months of not choosing writing, it is my choice again, happily.

    • There are certainly seasons of writing, and it’s hard to avoid falling prey to self-doubt during the times that distance us from our regular practice. Whether that distance is created by an internal roadblock or an external force, we can’t help but hear the question in the pause, “Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?”

      Very glad for you that writing is your choice again. I hope the journey is a pleasant, productive, and illuminating one.

  2. Yet again, you took the words I didn’t know I needed to say, and turned them into something a little more practical for me. I deal with a lot of anxiety (not just about my work, but of course about that, too) so it’s hard to take myself out of that negative space. Thankfully, I’ve just started a meditation practice (today will be consecutive day #5!) which seems to be helping some, too.

    (And, on another note, I do think it’s healthy to complain sometimes – you need to get that negative energy out, and if venting is the easiest way for you to do that, then that’s your way! At least you have the courage and ability to turn that venting into something helpful for others – which I think we all strive for.)

    • I have fallen out of my own meditation practice, but it’s definitely something I want to get back to. I don’t know about you, but I found it to be SO helpful – not just in creating a calm space, but creatively, too.

      And thanks for permission to vent. I really didn’t think I’d made it such a habit. I am already thinking about how to turn that around … SOON! 😉

      Meanwhile, enjoy your meditation. Good for you for making time for such a practice. SO valuable!

      • It is definitely turning out to be helpful so far. I seem to have to remind myself to do it in the morning, but that hasn’t stopped me from remembering yet. 😉 I’ve also been using the sensors on my phone to track stress levels before/after a session… It doesn’t always drop the score to zero, but most of the time it does make a visible difference in my measurements.

      • There’s a lot to be said for just sitting quietly and relaxing your mind. We don’t have that opportunity nearly often enough in our usual, day-to-day rounds.

  3. I am feeling this completely right now. I don’t want to write because I doubt my abilities, but the only way I’ll get better is to sit down and write! Sometimes, I want to hold back my best ideas for when I know I’m a better writer (I don’t know how I’ll know that), but my best ideas are the ones that get me excited. And that excitement gets me through the hard parts of writing.

    • OMG – I’ve had the same thoughts about holding back my best ideas for “later” when, presumably, I’ll be a better writer. I don’t want to “waste” a good idea. But, you’re right, of course. The only way from here to “better” is to do the writing. And if your best ideas are the ones that get you motivated to sit down and write, those are the ones you should pursue.

      Good luck!

  4. I believe you’ve alluded to the sensibilities of ALL writers with this post. At least in my own opinion and limited experience. I too question myself, especially the part of, “do I have anything to say?” More so to the point, “Would anyone care about what I want to say?” whether that be in my prose or here as an opinion. But I think that’s what great about using this blog as a tool to release some of the pent up frustrations, or vent, or just to write something completely different. Great post!

    • Thanks, Jason.
      I guess it IS a natural part of the creative process & life to question pretty much everything … and to go through periods of self-doubt. And, I appreciate the support for venting. It is good to release some of these thoughts … putting them out there helps to deflate them a little, siphon off some of their power to paralyze.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for taking the time to say so. 🙂

  5. I’ve been through all of this and then some, as I think most writers have been. The only thing you can do is carry on and keep your pen moving. We wouldn’t have picked up the pen in the first place if we didn’t think it was what we were meant to do, right? And no one said being a writer was easy. We have our “dark nights of the soul” and question everything. But that’s part of our job, I think. Question and explore everything, even the dark places–maybe especially the dark places. It can be uncomfortable, but I think our writing is better for it. Just write through it and keep going!

    • You’re so right, Tina. Part of the journey MUST be through the dark – whatever “dark” means to each of us. My daughter likes to fast-forward through the sad parts of movies, but I always tell her that if she doesn’t watch the sad part, the happy part won’t feel as happy. It’s true about life, too, I guess. The hard parts make the small victories even sweeter. 😉

      Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Pingback: Writer’s Weekend Resources – Reading and Writing Links | Live to Write – Write to Live

  7. However you want to define your posts, almost all have been helpful because you have a gift for dissecting your feelings on writing, from angles that can shine a light on the way out of our blocks. Please do not suspend blogging 🙂 but it’s my impression you put yourself under a lot of stress to offer up a wealth of information to all us readers – your own writing and “diary”, books you’ve read, other links etc. Your bar is up so high you might want to lower it a wee bit and give yourself a bit of a breather by cutting down for example on your posting schedule, or cutting out the need to offer us all those links each and every week?… Cinnamon chai at the coffee shop is a step in the right direction, and a bit of meditation (like Barbara Ward) might also help untangle your doubts…

    • Thank you so much, Bea. Your comment felt like a warm hug. Thank you.

      I am encourage to hear that, despite many of them being a bit of a bummer, you still find my posts helpful. They are helpful to me, too. Believe me. Even this quick stroll down memory lane was immensely enlightening for me. I’m not sure what I’m going to DO with that information, but it’s always better when you’re able to see things more clearly.

      And thank you for suggesting that I might want to “lower the bar” and make more room in my life for cinnamon chai at the coffee shop. That idea is always on my radar, though I usually find that when I sit down at the keyboard, putting these posts together the way I do is something of a compulsion. 😉 Plus, honestly, I enjoy it. I really do.

      And – yes! – meditation is also in my near-future plans. I have missed it (and my yoga practice) immensely over this crazy-busy summer.

      Glad you made it home safe and sound from your visit to the U.S. I have to say that your post comparing your experience here to your life in Rome was very eye-opening. What a gift you’ve given by providing your perspective to those of us who may sometimes take the abundance here for granted. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

      • Summers can throw us all off kilter … which can have the effect of a positive push to reappraise our routines. Conversations with you are so … real 🙂 What should show through my posts on the US – I’ll probably write just a couple more re. my latest trip – is that I’m a great fan of the States, just perplexed by some human irrationalities 🙂

      • You’re so right, Bea. I always perceived my inclination to pause and think about my life in the fall as a practice brought on by the beginning of the autumn season. I never thought that it might also be a response to the ending of the summer chaos, but I think you may be on to something there! 🙂

        And, yes, there are many human irrationalities to perplex and baffle us.

  8. I don’t think you missed your path. But you might want to examine if you are interested in taking a new curve in that path. Is there a genre of writing that you have wanted to try and haven’t had time? Maybe its time. When is the last time you tried something new? Even if it isn’t writing related? I have taken some time off this summer from writing. I have been trying some other hobbies and not only do I have some new things to write about because of those experiences, I have also decided to try some short fiction. I hope you give yourself a chance to do something else for a little while. It is good for your soul. (And we will all understand!)

    • Funny you should ask about trying something new. I’ve been thinking about experimenting with some sculpting lately. Not sure why the idea popped into my head, but I think it’s something I’m going to play around with soon. 🙂 Who knows? Maybe it will provide some writing inspiration as well!

      Thanks for the support and encouragement. xo

  9. You are a ‘regular person’ leading a ‘normal life’…but you are also an artist with writing as your medium and that adds a whole different layer. I loved your list of questions. I’ve asked the same so many times and still fail to answer them. I think we’ve all had those same doubts . I considered walking away from it, until writing was taken from me by radiation treatments. I went two years unable to write and it made me realize how vital writing is to my happiness, even with all the other negative thoughts we pile on our little writer brains. Your blog posts may reflect your writing angst, but they also mirror ours and give us a venue to see our thoughts put into words. Which also means you’re not alone in struggling to answer those questions. Sometimes a break from writing, even a willing break to try a new form of art, is the right thing to do if for nothing else than to let the stories simmer down deep. Hibernate for a while maybe. At least until spring, right? I’m willing to bet if you take a break, it won’t be permanent! And sorry for the long reply.

    • Hello, Lisa.
      First of all, no need to apologize for a long reply. I appreciate you taking the time to share such a thoughtful response to the post. Thank you.

      Second, I’m sorry that you had to go through such an ordeal – both the health issues and the loss of writing as a creative outlet. I am glad, however, that what you took away from that experience was a better understanding about how valuable writing is to you.

      Finally, thank you for your advice and encouragement. It is always good to know we’re not alone. (And, gods know, we never really are.) It is also good to give ourselves permission to step away, experiment with other outlets, and explore other aspects of our creativity.

      I’m so grateful for all these kind and insightful comments. You guys are giving me even more to think about … but in the best way. 🙂

  10. You are going through an evolution. Is writing your job or your passion? Unfortunately it can’t be both. Making a living through writing sucks the passion out of the process. I think that’s what’s bothering you now. You aren’t feeling that passion that once ignited your writing. You’ve worked hard this summer and somewhere along the line, the passion stepped aside and your writing became just a job.

    It’s okay when that happens. I’m sure many successful writers have experienced the same soul-searching. You either have to accept that your writing is now your work and find other ways to feed your passions, or divide your writing into two segments – the writing that supports you and the writing that expresses your creativity and passion. It’s hard to make that separation, but if anyone can do it, it would be you.

    Good luck my friend – I’m always on your side.

    • Hi, Christine.

      Your closing line made me grin. Thank you. 🙂

      And I think you’re definitely on to something here. I often wonder if a writer who aspires to write fiction (or some other personally creative work) should have a day job that involves writing (of the non-personally creative variety) or stick to a day job that has nothing to do with writing.

      I feel like I’ve heard lots of stories about successful fiction writers and poets who had the most boring and menial day jobs, and I always wonder if that was part of their genius – knowing not to waste too much energy (or brain cells!) on the day job.

      I always try to separate “my” writing from my “work” writing. It helps that they are very different (in terms of style, content, etc.), but they ARE still both writing. I need “breathing room,” so to speak, to shift from one to the other. Haven’t had much of that lately.

      As always, thanks for your support and insight. So nice to have you here.

      • Can’t take credit for this. My father was a very wise man and he always told me to select a career that I could do well and easily. If I felt truly passionate about something I should NOT pursue it as a career because with time I would loose the passion and it would become just a job. He was right. I spent forty years in accounting and spent my free time passionately enjoying music, art, cooking and literature.

        You have been able to handle things up to now – maybe the heavy work load over the summer tipped the scales and blurred the lines. Try to get back the equilibrium – even if you have to cut back on work to save your passion.

      • I’ve often wondered why I take on work that is so challenging, and if I wouldn’t be better off doing something that comes more easily. I must think on this some more.

        Equilibrium … I’ve heard it’s lovely. I’ll have to give it a try sometime. 😉

        TKS, Christine. Loads of great thought-starter observations here.

  11. Pingback: Writer’s Weekend Edition – Finding the Silver Lining When You’re Lost in the Dark | Live to Write – Write to Live

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