Right around Valentine’s Day, I went into Dallas to meet my Tuesday night trivia regulars for the first time since I had returned from Norway. Since I hadn’t been since before Christmas, time between trivia rounds was spent with us all catching up.
My friend Rod leaned across the table towards me. “So. You’re taking a break from writing?”
The question startled me. I’d never really said as much out loud to anyone (there was a blog post back in November, but Rod doesn’t read the blog). But Rod and I are mutuals on Instagram, and I guessed he might have noticed a significant dearth of “coffee shop novelist” posts lately. “Uh, little bit, yeah,” I mumbled, along with a few excuses, and then the next round began, so the topic floated away into the conversational stratosphere.
But, yeah. Thing is, in fact, I still haven’t written very much at all since the release of my third book. In August.
Oh, I’ve jotted things down here and there. I have some ideas. On New Year’s Day, I curled up on the couch in my Bergen rental and made a very specific point to scribble down a rough outline of the book I think I want to work on – part of my whole “start a year as you mean to go on” thing that I do. So my intention this year is definitely to write something.
But I’m not, right now.
Sure, part of it is that I was busy with book promo in August. Then I did the thing where I admitted to myself I wanted a writing break, and I refused to feel bad about it. Oh, and there was an incident with an exploding bottle of sparkling water and my old laptop’s keyboard. It is difficult to write anything when your ‘e’ and ‘r’ keys don’t work anymore. I did attach an external keyboard, but that meant I couldn’t take my laptop out of my apartment, and I found the whole setup rather cumbersome and irritating to work with in my apartment, so there was another good excuse to not do any writing.
But now I have a new laptop – a slightly smaller one, nice and speedy, with a spiffy light-up keyboard and a pretty blue shell – and it’s been in my possession for two weeks now, and have I written anything? Have I, fuck.
I am self-rejecting like nobody’s business. I have two ideas I have wanted to write for a long time. I have worked on both of them a bit, here and there. They won’t leave me alone (one’s been marinating for a literal decade) so I know I want to write them.
Which means of course my self-esteem has decided now is a great time to pipe up with, nobody is going to want to publish those.
One idea is too esoteric and, frankly, the story starts in a way that will probably put a lot of people off. The other one is pretty common, it would be at turns tender and funny and angry and upsetting, but I wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel with it.
So why bother to write them?
I still haven’t recovered the knack of writing something just because I want to tell the story, and to hell with the outcome. Everything I think of, I look at it and shrug and go, “That’s pointless, it’s unmarketable, no one will buy it, no one will want to publish it. It’s too boring/common/upsetting. Your writing is just not that remarkable.”
Gee, thanks, me.
I mean, the fact is, I don’t feel like a terribly remarkable person, in general, and I know it’s related, and I am not sure what to do about any of it. Because confusingly, I don’t feel like I am making much, if any, impact on anything or anyone ever – and at the same time, I can’t manage to convince myself to accept that and live complacently with it. I generally have one hell of a wrestling match going on in my psyche over this, 100 percent of the time.
It is exactly as exhausting as you think it would be. I have no idea what to do about it.
But, you know, while I was writing and editing and rewriting this blog post, I opened Scrivener and started a new project, so I guess that’s something.