Turning Whine into Gold
When do we writers whine?
We whine when we feel put-upon by others, even when the obligations demanding too much of us are those of our own choosing.
We whine when our story will not behave; it demands craft and life experience we know nothing about. We feel unequal to the work of our own creation.
We whine when we don’t have enough time. So we lengthen our workdays, relying upon wine to induce sleep and, a few hours later, caffeine to shock us awake.
We whine when those we presumably love won’t stay out of our way. We whine when they fail to read our minds: they should fend for themselves for dinner and no you can’t explain why the pantry hasn’t replenished itself. Who needs nutrition anyway; you’ve been subsisting for weeks on trail mix from your bottom desk drawer.
We whine when constant sitting has removed us so far from our physical selves that the joy of human movement is but a memory and the only sensations of which we are aware are pinched nerves and aching backs.
We whine when we’ve sacrificed income to write and now we’re (again) skidding toward the mortgage payment with little in the bank.
We whine when we must market to our “target reader” and yet again when not every blessed soul on Goodreads appreciates our creative genius.
We whine when we have to write a synopsis and opening pages for a book we haven’t yet written, even though selling on proposal is an honor earned and so much more efficient than writing the whole novel first, and will help us complete the novel within the tight deadline that we’ll also whine about. We whine during final revision, when our brains are bruised and bleeding from eeking out five whole words (that we’ve added, then deleted, then added, then deleted).
We whine when we lose touch with the lives that once inspired us to write.
The writing life is tough. Its demands can be difficult for the sensitive creative soul to arise to again and again.
But that’s so hard to remember when we’re dug in deep and our inner well runs dry. What then is there to do but whine, and hope that a white knight will arrive to solve the problems you’ve been ignoring?
There is another way. The solution I’m about to share works for me 100% of the time. It’s super easy, and way shorter than the space it took me to present the problem.
I don’t mean close out of your current document and start writing something new.
I mean give yourself permission to walk away permanently from the writing life. It is so darned freeing.
In whiner’s lingo, this is the big fat “You can’t make me.” You can’t make me (walk the dog, eat a square meal, go to the gym, finish this manuscript, give that library talk, revise this unwilling paragraph, write another book ever).
Quit. Just the word is so decisive, with its harsh consonants and slicing sound. It sends a clear message: I have taken action!
And done yourself a huge favor. Why become enslaved to a task that is so hard, so demanding, and that offers such uncertain rewards if constant misery is the result? Your whine was a cry from your soul: go pursue something that makes you happier.
If you’re anything like me, though, allowing myself to quit reminds me of a simple truth: this writing path was a choice. It turns out no one is making me do it!
Quitting allows me to shove away the load of obligation and commitment crushing my chest. Sweet air refills my lungs! My creative well refills! Love—a rush of pure, glorious love!—rushes back into my constricted heart.
I reconnect to the most fundamental emotion, the one every single writer needs to see her through: desire. It sparks again and soon its flames ravish me. I can’t possibly quit! I choose writing, again and again—and find the reserves needed to complete the dreaded task, fix a healthy dinner, and tweet about it all at the same time.
And those very challenges that yesterday felt thrust upon me? Now I say, Bring them on! These are the challenges I choose, that I relish, that promise a lifetime of inner riches. With renewed vigor I vow to find new ways to guard my physical, mental, and emotional health.
All because I allowed myself to walk away. When I quit, the whining stops and I fall in love again.
Do you need to reinvigorate your writing life? Permission to quit: granted.
Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads workshops, and speaks often about writing.
Kathryn lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA.