Writing and the Killing of the Wolf
I have mental illness. This morning was bad. I’ve learned a lot in therapy the last year. I’ve learned how I pile a shitshow of pressure on myself until I’m making me and everyone around me miserable. Editing the book isn’t helping the situation any.
This morning was bad. I could press the mask of a new day’s optimism on my face for about an hour. I didn’t tell my girlfriend as she was putting on that I was beginning to look on myself with the same sort of cautious interest one would give to a rumbling pressure cooker of dubious construction. I had that awful inner shake in my psyche.
“Okay, sounds good, babe. I’m gonna take a few minutes to sit on the couch and do my morning thing.”
My morning thing. Sometimes my morning thing is a pleasant set of yoga and a nice meditation where I sit and think about how awesome life is. Sometimes it consists of a light stretch and begging God to protect me from being swallowed up by some sort of vague Hell that seems to originate in my chest. Today was the latter.
I asked the Universe for direction and inspiration.
If I had to put my finger on what the catalyst was for my rough morning — my book. I’ve never written a book before and I’ve obviously never edited one either. It’s become something looming foggy and monstrous. I don’t know where to begin. The needed revisions are so drastic and numerous. I’m in over my head. I’m a fraud. I should start drinking again.
My wonderful girlfriend and I had made plans to go for a walk in our town. I won’t name the town. Let’s say quaint comes to mind. Brunch, sunshine and mom and pop store fronts. I told her I wouldn’t stress about the book, and that I would enjoy the day.
We looked at paintings from local artists and we looked for presents to get for my dad for father’s day’s coming up. I needed to get some planner notebooks to help with organizing. Maybe if I could break everything involved with my writing life into surmountable adversaries — maybe then the wolf will turn back into a dog.
The wolf is with me as we stroll down Main Street. No work today…sun’s out…I’m trying to be content, all the while keeping a watchful eye on the canine out of the corner of my eye.
The wolf says with an eerie calm and condescending concern, ‘How are you going to get your book done? You’ve been playing that game on your phone too much. This is how it ends for you. That feeling in your chest just might be failure coming on.’
I couldn’t hold the façade up much longer. The walls closed in on me where I didn’t even there had been walls. The heat of the sun invaded rather than shined, and my demeanor shifted from distracted to sulky to low-level asshole.
I was probably driving my very patient girlfriend crazy. Back at home, I let go into the depression.
Bringing It Outside of Me
After a good half hour of nearly-catatonic couch sitting, I started talking to her. I told her what was going on with me. She asked me what I was afraid of.
“What’s failure look like?”
I had to think about that one. The wolf always told me that failure was related to content of my writing and the marketability of it. The wolf is big on measurements and I didn’t measure up against its dripping teeth.
“Not writing.” It was the only honest and objective answer I could find.
I told her what I needed from her. A break from the wolf was what I needed first, so we watched old episodes of Dr. Katz. Then I asked her for help in writing my to-do list. I didn’t need help with the actual crafting of the list. I just wanted her to be physically close to me while I did it. Lest I become overwhelmed by the isolation and enormity of the tasks.
I went to work on editing. My routine is to spend a few minutes before editing using the internet to find posts and articles about the editing process. Today was an article about doing an initial major points revision, where you only concern yourself with plot developments and character arcs.
I read a portion of my manuscript, having moderate success in fighting the urge to micro-edit as I paced along. I took notes. What is the resolution for the dog’s character going to be? Why was sharing that week with the other psyche unit patients so healing? What did this character teach me? The picture of a story that needs to be told began to form in my mind. Beyond the editing and the details, my story (and your’s) needs to be told.
Thirty minutes of editing and a fresh sense of direction had cleared the frustration and cobwebs from my thinking. I remembered that prayer I made in the morning — a prayer for direction. Ask and ye shall receive.
- Do This — Writing can be a grim task if we let it. It’s just the writer and their voices, and there’s no adult supervision up there. Don’t become a victim of your dream. The next time you are struggling, ask for help. Ask for help from your loved ones. Ask for help from God or the Universe if you’re a spiritual person. Ask for help from Google or even Jeeves.
See Also -
How to Cope with the Worst Part of Working Alone (untamedwriting.com) — Karen Marston is arguably my favorite blogger. In this post, she talks about grief and difficulty during the early stages of entrepreneurial writing among other things
Also from donaldhuffman.com -
*Featured image on top is “Night Creature,” an ink and quill rendering by Boulder, CO artist D.E. Ingram. See more of his excellent work on daningramblog.wordpress.com
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Originally published at donaldhuffman.com.