The Age of Not Believing

There comes a time in every writer’s life when they hit a wall. This wall may be their ability to hit a deadline. Or maybe it’s a loss of faith in their own work.

They look at the last thing they’ve written and go “this is utter sh**!” “It doesn’t work. My pacing’s off. My characters are flat. Who the Hell do I think I am?”

And here’s the thing. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not. But there’s only one thing you can do, face it and move on.

A day’s break to take a walk. A week’s vacation from creating anything new. That’s fine. But if you stop writing completely? You’ll never know where you could get. Maybe your hero starts following your twitter. Or one day you randomly get an email from an author you respect and who’s stories you love saying “Hey, I really wanted to read that story, but your link is broken.”

That’s the day when you realize that your doubts about yourself are not the point.

Telling stories is.

You have to go through the age of not believing in order to refind your sense of wonder. That sense of wonder is what will elevate you past your wall and back into your magic.

The song from which I’ve stolen the title.

Time and Attention

Every once and awhile, I get obsessed with something — reading a particular author’s work, cleaning out my iTunes folders, checking all my bookmarks to make sure they’re still live links. I can and will spend hours checking links, rereading things I thought were interesting enough to keep, getting rid of things I don’t need anymore.

These obsessive runs will take precedence over other things — like being creative, reading a new book, or watching a new show.

They don’t tend to impact my work-life in any way. I still manage my deadlines. The bills are still paid. Therefore, they are not a clinical issue.

That doesn’t mean that they’re not psychologically significant. Things, be they digital or corporeal, take time and attention. They drain energy like vampires. This is the main thesis behind the idea of minimalist living. As a confirmed Neo-Victorian decorator, I cannot abide the look of minimalism. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the principles.

I consciously have gone through all the clothes in my closet to get rid of things which no longer fit. It reduces my choice dilemmas. (President Obama says that he wears the same suit every day so that he doesn’t have to waste time making decisions about clothes. I’m assuming this means that he bought four or five of the same suit and just has one for each day.) Going through my bookmarks has the same sort of relief. Tagging and organizing my digital life makes it easier to find things and easier to archive or delete those things I no longer need.

One of the biggest things was giving up on a 15 year old project which never took off. I deleted around fifty pictures, profiles, timelines, soundtracks, and outlines. I kept the two stories that had gems of something which might become actual books, but I ditched the rest of it. I even deleted a website. How did it feel? Bittersweet. I’m happy its gone because now I don’t feel it nagging at the back of my head. I’m also a little sad because it was fun idea and my co-author and I had a blast riot revisiting the profiles and creating the timelines.

There’s another huge project we undertook together that might get fixed in amber as it is right now and abandoned, but I don’t know that I have the emotional capacity to do that twice in one year. Next year, maybe, after this has scarred over.

It takes pain to get rid of things you don’t need. Even more for things which have been in your life for long periods of time. After the pain, there is relief and a strange lightness of being which opens your mind up to new possibilities.

Now, if I could just clean out the slush pile too….