On being a miserable writer

My darlings,

Apologies for the non-Wednesday post (again!), but I’m off to the Hay Festival tomorrow, and I don’t know how much internet access I’ll have.  (Or, quite frankly, if I’d go online if it is available.  If anyone has advice for getting my mobile/netbook charged, though, leave us a note…)  Five days of bliss on the borderlands, and man I need it.

(First, though:  OH MY HOLY HOLY!  The Ospreys win the Magners League — surprising everyone, including themselves — and Roy Halladay pitches a perfect game, all on the same night!

Needless to say, I was, of course, out for a friend’s birthday, unable to watch/listen to either game.  But oh, when I stumbled home at 5 and checked my friendslist and a did a silent little happy dance about the perfect game!)

And, to change tack once again — I have been thinking a lot about miserable writers.  For better or worse, I tend to love a lot of very unbalanced writers — Hemingway, most notably.  I’m not fond of whinge-porn, but for those writers who transform their pain into something beautiful, it’s an exquisite metamorphosis.  Part of this may be from coming from the Atlantic Seaboard; Asimov once wrote wonderfully about how lots of really great authors came from that area of the country because the weather was so miserable for most of the year, there wasn’t anything to do but stay in and write.  And, of course, then I moved to Wales.

I’ve been pondering this more than usual, because lately, I have been a Miserable Writer.  I had a story rejected for an anthology, and immediately plunged into days of moping around, loathing myself and berating my own writing, thinking, contributing-human-being qualities.  I’m writing about this lightly, to try to stay away from self-pity, but it wasn’t a fun few days.  And days it was — I didn’t really snap out until I went dancing on Saturday night.  (And got the number of a quite sweet Irish boy, but that really is unrelated…yes, I am bragging, and I am unashamed!)

This, or something like it, happens every time I’ve been rejected thus far.  I don’t care to go over the reasons, for they are many and varied, stretching from genuine emotional problems I have to the fact that as a writer, you put a large piece of yourself into every story.  What I realised, with a bout of really awful homesickness on the heels of this rough time, was that I don’t know that I’d give this up for anything.  I’m not suicidal/ideational, I’m not self-harming, I’m sad.  And then, after a little while, I’m happy again.  And it goes the other way, when I’m walking along the Taff Trail, or sitting in Meeting, or I’ve just looked up after writing steadily for hours and I’ve made a new world, and everything is bliss, and I am finally open and listening to the universe around me.  I can put up with the bad for the good, because they’re all real feelings and emotions.  And they will go into what I write, both the bliss and the despair, because they’re proof that I’m alive, and proof that my characters are a little closer to real.  And there is a great beauty in this kind of pain, too;  I like trying to find that beauty.  Homesickness is, I am learning, a pure expression of love — because I love Philadelphia more fiercely than anything or anywhere else, it hurts equally when I miss it.  And my God, does it hurt.

Of course, being a Miserable Writer isn’t always good — again, just look at Hemingway.  (Luckily, or not, I have a lot of trouble writing when I’ve had a drink stronger than a nursed-along pint.)  And I can become very self-indulgent, giving my characters pages and pages of the physical comfort and stupidly good life that I don’t quite have.  But that is comforting in its own way, and it can always get cut, so maybe it all works out in the end.  I try to not use writing as therapy (I used to, and it was the ol’ wrestling-a-pig thing: the stories were bad and I didn’t feel any better), but I can track how I feel about my own problems in how I write, which is kind of neat.

As long as I keep this balance between joy and sorrow, I think all things will be well.  And, I hope, it does make me a better writer.

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