Yesterday, I posted a comment to the forlorn-looking Crafting Fiction Page on Facebook. The page is forlorn-looking because I’ve been on hiatus (for the most part) for several months. While I have posted here sporadically and occasionally drifted through Facebook with a question, comment, or recommendation, it has been mostly quiet on the writing front in my life. And I have missed it. Every day, at some point in the day, I’ve thought, “I should write today.” It’s a drifting thought, usually followed by a great big dollop of what Steven Pressfield in The War of Art calls, “Resistance with a capital R”.
One of the things I noticed during my hiatus is that the writing, the characters, tear away flesh from the inside-out of my body. The book I started working on in December of 2006 claws against the inside of my skin. The characters are screaming; I had turned the volume on their voices down to a mouse-whisper but behind my eyes I can see their mouths gaping in muted cries of terror. Honestly, they are like b-grade horror movie stars. They plead and quiver as if some great monster threatens their very existence. And I suppose it does, it’s name is Resistance.
Every day the pain and emotional turmoil of not writing has been splitting my heart. I have excuses, the primary being that I was busy with full-time university study on top of single parenting, a new romantic relationship, keeping a house, and all the other million things that make up living a normal life. The point is, while I was living a life of sorts I wasn’t really living. Without my writing I feel more like I’m ghost-like, moving through the motions of pretending to be alive but intangibly ineffective in the real world. My mind and body participate but my soul is absent. Do you ever feel that way about your writing? Is it such an integral part of the person you are supposed to be that not writing feels like a kind of death?
Eventually, in the pain of not writing it occurred to me that the simple fix would be to write. Of course, simple fixes are never simple. I turn my computer on with the intention of putting words to the page and there it is again, that demon, Resistance. I experience it in a profoundly tangible way as anxiety attacks. Every time I contemplate writing my heart thuds in a rapid staccato that might lead to the explosion of arterial walls. When I, for the barest moment, dwell on my novel, or the non-fiction book at the top of my ‘in progress’ list, or even this blog my breath catches and my lungs grow tight so that I think the cavity of my chest is being crushed in an ethereal vice. Right now, my fingers are brushing across the keys but my hands are quivering, my stomach is churning, and inside my mind the voice of Resistance is yelling “Run!” I want to give in to that plea because I know the moment I stop writing all of those sensations will disappear and I will feel this overwhelmingly beautiful sensation of relief. But I won’t stop, do you know why?
I won’t stop tonight because I remember the pain of my not writing tearing like ligament-by-ligament slices with a dull scalpel. If I don’t write tonight then instead of this anxiety that I’m feeling right now, instead of this Resistance, I’ll feel shame and resentment and guilt. If I don’t write tonight then I’ll be failing to live into the person I truly am. I’ll be less of myself and less of the person I was created to be. I choose to be here because I’ve weighted the two experiences and I believe that writing is worth more to me than not writing. I actively choose to defy Resistance, and it’s a difficult and demanding choice, but it is one that has to be consciously made.
So now, I’m asking you what I asked on Facebook, “What’s the longest hiatus from writing you’ve ever taken and why did you stay away so long?“, and then I’m going to say: If you are still on hiatus, choose to end it today. There is no reason you can give that justifies not living into the person you are meant to be and if you are meant to be a writer, if you believe your writing is a part of the soul-creature you are in this lifetime then you owe it to yourself to begin again. All it takes is a promise to yourself, an active choice, a commitment followed by action. Start small, a paragraph, a page. Decide that you will write today, and do it.
You know that horrible anxiety I was feeling? It’s easing up because I look down at my word count and can see I’ve written over 800 words. That’s pretty good and I’ll give myself kudos for that. I did it. I sat and I wrote and I survived the blaring of my heart and the crawling of my skin and I came through. That sense of incredible relief that I would have got if I had stopped earlier will come soon but the shame, resentment and guilt will not because today I wrote. Today I lived into the person I am supposed to be and I’ll do it again tomorrow. Will you?