Friday, May 24, 2013

It hasn't been an easy couple of weeks. Nothing terrible has happened, just a general feeling of malaise, which happens to be a side-effect of a prescription medicine I've been taking. I plan to have the feeling disappear with a little POP when I swallow the last pill in three more days. In the meantime though, I'm seeing my world through blue-colored glasses, which isn't a bad thing to do from time to time.

I read a blog post this week by a mom whose children are just entering the busy stage. She wrote about the process of discovering how much busy-ness is right for her family. If you've ever been there, you know what a hard question this can be, since the answer affects not just the present, but your children's futures as well. This mom was obviously leaning toward simplicity, and she posted a link about the benefits of becoming un-busy. 

Although far from their original purpose, in my blue-colored fog, these articles pointed me to a truth about myself that I hadn't thought much about:

Writing has been my main hobby for five years now. For about half that time, I was writing my first novel. I didn't have much experience with writing then, and I made a lot of crazy mistakes that I don't make anymore. My writing has improved, and I should feel pleased and joyful at the realization.

But the fact that I've been writing for five years has settled like a weight around my shoulders.

Five years.

Do you have any idea how many other dreams and aspirations I've put on the back burner so that I can write? Myriads.

That little niggling idea that I might homeschool my children at some point? Vanished. 
Being crafty enough to have a beautiful house? Ha.
At least a clean home? Weed free lawn? Haha.
Impressive resume? Hahaha
Triathlon? Stop!

That published book???  Sigh.

It's a fact of life people: You can't do everything. Every time you choose one thing, you un-choose other things. Un-choose carefully. Notice! If you choose not to do something this week because you're writing, chances are you'll be choosing not to do that same thing five years from now.

So I'm here at my own little crossroads, looking back at the path I chose five years ago. It's littered with other things I would have enjoyed doing but left by the wayside.

How does one even stop being an author? Is it possible? Its like deciding to stop breathing. And how does one decide to be an author less often? That's like deciding you're only going to be a mom for a few hours a day. You don't just stop being a mom because you send your children to school. You ARE a mom, no matter where they are. Same with being an author. You can't stop just because you refuse to turn the computer on one day.

My friend Karen sent me this fantastic article that explains the way I'm feeling lately, which says, among other things:

"No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others." (Martha Graham) 
Am I more alive than the others? That sounds like a nice trade-off, but I'm not sure its true, at least not today, though again, I can choose to blame that on the medicine.

This morning I opened up my e-mail and found this blog post by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen (on The Happiness Project), entitiled "I Am Constantly, Compulsively Worrying Over The Choices I Have Made." I guess I'm not the only author who has ever suddenly stopped and wondered, "Wait a minute. Why am I doing this? Is it really worth everything I've sacrificed along the way?"

I don't know. I've tried as hard as I can not to sacrifice my family as I've taken this amazing journey. I've found a wonderful group of readers and writers that I identify with and love. I've created characters and stories that thrill and surprise me. I am mere months away from being a published author, though I've learned there won't be a portal there that will take me from "Not Worth It" land into "Worth It" land. No such portal exists, I fear. I have to hike there.

Five years from now, I'll definitely be making some money at writing. Who knows how much? Hopefully at least as much as I make at my part-time teaching job right now, which is aiming pretty low, I suppose. My dream is that my writing will add some goodness to a world that is slipping, and that it will touch hearts in need of touching. But I also hope I'll have figured out how to pick up a few of my other dreams I've let fall by the wayside. It's way past time.

Un-choose carefully.


  1. Melanie, I'm sorry you are going through a rough patch although it did inspire a beautiful blog post.

    The truth is that life is too short. That we will never have enough time to do everything we want to do. We have to prioritize.

    Writing is a tough passion to have. It is really hard, and you have to put so much work into something that might never work out, and even if it does, it may never really bring in enough money to justify the time spent. I know this sounds very disheartening, but it is the truth.

    That is why I think you have to enjoy the journey. You have to love to write. Otherwise, it won't be worth it.

  2. Thank you MaryAnn. I do love writing, and I would be very unhappy if I ever tried to force myself to start. I suppose my melancholy feelings stem from the thought that I ought to be able to get more accomplished in the next five years than I got in the first five, and yet I don't see how it is possible. I'll still have only 24 hours in my day, and my personality won't miraculously change into a hyper-productive one.

    The journey is awesome. I even enjoyed this moment of melancholy. I'm silly like that. :D

    1. I feel the same way Melanie. I'm so much slower at this writing thing than I think I should be. :) I don't have any more hours in the day either to devote to it without making my family suffer.

      My hope is that I'm slow now because I'm still learning. I think I'm getting better, and I hopefully that will help me get faster. Or maybe I'm just dreaming. Anyway, I feel your pain cause I'm right there with you. :)

    2. Sometimes, it's just nice to know we're not alone. :)

  3. You know, I recall in my formative years seeing movies where the main character has the dreaded Artistic Type significant other: moody, emotional, and indecisive. This Artistic Type was usually dumped for a chiseled businessman or engineer.

    Then I grew up, thought about the Artistic Type, and was like, wait a minute, that's me.

    UH oh.

    Part of being an artist is examining deep, complex emotional issues. The more you examine them, the more you become aware of them... and thus the more they can start to haunt you.

    That's a ridiculously simplistic description, but thinking about things way too much is sort of what we do. And as for enjoying the moment of melancholy, I do that too a bit - and sometimes, when I'm very upset about something, a small voice in my head goes, "That's a GREAT idea for what an angsty character will be feeling!"

    Anyway, I hope you feel better soon. Here, to help you, is a compilation of .gifs of pets on roombas (the shark cat chasing the duck is, of course, #1... but wait till you get to the hamster.)

    1. Sabrina is hard at work here. (:

      Melanie, this is beautiful, and moving.
      I've been thinking about what you say here, and I have opinions.

      Well, it's kind of like this. When we chose to become an author one day, we knew it'd take a lot of commitment. It's almost like getting married. You're choosing a lifestyle.

      I'm so happy with my choices, but sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I chose a different boy, or decided to focus on finishing school, instead of falling in love.

      But when I do that, it robs the joy of the moment. I think as writers we have too good of imagination, and we like to dwell in 'what if', because that's where story idea's come from. But some daydreaming is unhelpful, and unfaithful to the commitment that you made.

      Focusing on an (un)choice is like focusing on the inside of a doughnut and pretending you're not eating any extra calories. It doesn't work, and it doesn't help.

      This blog post... to be clear... helped me. :)

      Anyway, I'm excited to be a part of your publishing journey.

    2. Thank you for the roomba link. Now I want to get one for my cat. I don't actually have enough carpet to get one for the floor cleaning aspect.

    3. Sheena, getting married is exactly what it's like! Thank you for that analogy. And stopping being an author would be just as difficult as a divorce.

      I'm excited to have you be a part of my publishing journey. It's going to be an amazing one!

  4. I've been thinking about this post a lot in the last week as I've been choosing to do less and less with my writing lately. It's temporary. A lot of it is being pregnant, and grumpy, and too uncomfortable to sit at a keyboard for hours on end. A little bit has to do with illness in a family member. Sometimes you can only take so much emotional stress before something gives. I think of writing like a good friend. If I have to put it aside for a while and catch up with it later, it's always going to be there for me. If I need an outlet to vent my frustration or pain, or a way to encapsulate my joy, it's ready to lend a hand. Ideally, I'd spend time with my writing every day, but some days that's just not possible, and that's okay. (My writing is a very understanding friend!)

    I hope whatever medication was dragging you down is out of your system and you're feeling better. :)

  5. Melanie, this was a beautiful post and I related to every word of it. I think you play the piano, yes? I have a stack of music because once upon a time I bought sheet music like I buy novels, and I used to have an impossible time choosing a piece to learn because I would start doing the math. It will take a month to get the notes sort of learned on this piece, another three months to get mostly good at them, and in a year I could still not be happy with it.... and if I have a few hundred pieces here in this stack obviously I'm not going to live long enough to do them all... and eventually I stopped practicing because I couldn't stand the UN-choosing of everything else that came with choosing one thing.

    Writing new things is helping me with this, because it is such a blind exploration into the dark that I'm kind of forced to stay in the moment. And I think Sheena is right - all that thinking robs us of the moment.

    I hope you are feeling better! Hugs :)


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