Let’s just call it … 2016 has been a whole cluster of bad. We lost some amazing artists, we’ve watched natural disasters and man-made disasters devastate communities, and we’re now experiencing massive aftershocks of an election that’s shaken all sides of the country.
I’ll spare you the pity party of various personal things.
Now here we are staring into the holiday season. That should be a happy thing and usually it is. Except this year, I’m feeling exhausted, absolutely mentally and emotionally drained.
I know a lot of people out there are feeling overwhelmed, scared, disillusioned, angry, or however all of this is affecting you, and we’re all trying to move forward in whatever way works for us personally.
I’ve been told to “get over it” and I’ve been told “you need to be doing more.” I’m not ready to get over it and I don’t have more to give – at least not right now. Don’t worry, I won’t be getting on any soap boxes today (with my luck, I’d fall off and add “broken ankle” to my fun list for 2016). I’m also not going to tell you what YOU should be doing. I will, however, share what I’m doing for myself and why I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it.
I’m not reading heavy, literary, topic-based books. I’ve started and abandoned five different novels in the last month. And I’ve resisted attempts at discussing what I’m reading.
The novels that have kept my attention are ones that allowed me an hour or two of escape each day. I’m not looking for answers to profound questions or a grand “a-ha” moment. It was suggested (with a not very subtle eye-roll) that I was being shallow, that as a writer I was supposed to be deeper than that. I shrugged and walked away. I won’t be swapping titles with that person again.
As a writer, I know just how hard it is to write a book that transports someone to a different place, a different time. Why then should I feel guilty for enjoying and escaping into a world that someone else has lovingly created? The fact that someone’s hard work can give me an hour of peace in a day where I feel like my head is spinning like a cheesy horror movie, is brilliant. Hopefully my book will one day do that for someone.
Maybe I’m not “learning” from the author’s carefully honed craft. But I am honoring that carefully honed craft by letting her words transport me. I am escaping, I’m okay with that. And when I put the book down, I’m in a better place.
I’m watching TV programs
A couple of weeks ago, I started watching a TV program (This is Us) that a lot of my writer friends have been raving about. They’ve talked about the brilliant writing, the lessons we as novelists can learn. I’ve been watching it on the sly and tiptoeing away from any discussions online and in-person. I’ve been curled up on my couch, snuggling a cat, with a box of tissues handy, and losing myself in the struggles of these perfectly imperfect people.
Have I had any “ohhh, that’s brilliant” moments? Absolutely. Have I had any “that’s what I need to do with my main character” moments? Nope. I’m simply allowing myself to enjoy. And at the end of the hour or two or three depending on how far behind I am, I’m in a better place.
I’m not worrying about writing
There are days I can whip through my word count like it’s a bag of gummy bears. Other days, I sit at my desk, open my manuscript then promptly close it and move to the couch for a binge-fix or whatever else I feel I’m up for that day.
I know the “write every day” rule. I don’t. I can’t, especially not lately. But whether I’m consciously thinking about them or not, my characters are always with me. And I find that when I’m not forcing myself to think about them, they’re more forthcoming with their secrets. When I’m stressed or upset about whatever is happening to me or around me, I can’t always lose myself in the writing. Sometimes yes. For the can’t days, I give in. And I don’t feel guilty.
I said I wasn’t going to tell you what YOU should do. I take that back. I’m going to give you one piece of advice – Do whatever you need to nurture yourself. And do it without the guilt. That’s not always easy, especially when people tell are judging what you’re doing or not doing as the case may be. Without a healthy, happy you, there is no writing anyway.
How do you get through the hard times?
Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world, where she spent roughly sixteen (cough) years working in the space industry. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats. She is a co-founder and past president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She is rep’d by Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency LLC.
Orly’s debut, The Distance Home, will be released by Forge on May 2, 2017.