Every Thursday, I'll be taking a question I've received about writing from readers and answering it here. Have a question? Send me a line. I'll choose one a week.
what do you do when panic fills you and you want to just quit working on a manuscript and run away from it? How do you continue to right when others are telling you that it's pointless and stupid?
The other week, I was talking with a friend and the conversation started turning toward writing.
"For me, writing is always an excavation."
She looked at me and shook her head in confusion.
"What do you mean...an excavation."
"At some point, every kind of writing feels as if I'm stripping off my skin. Like I'm pulling something deep from out of hiding. It always hurts but I'm always better for it in the end."
And it wasn't until I said those words that I remembered something I heard Erwin McManus say about art—about how the best kind feels as if you're ripping something out from beneath and within you. How creating in and of itself is a form of trauma because you're right in the middle of the Muse breathing into you and pushing into you what will eventually be pulled out of you. What happens is magical—but it's also traumatic.
I think this is one of the reasons why we have writers' block. It's not because we're blocked. It's because we're scared. It's because we need rest and we're not giving it to ourselves. It's because we know the words we're supposed to write and ohmigoshIcan'tsaythatbecausewhatiftheyreadit?
What do I do when panic fills me and I want to quit working?
I quit. I breathe. I close my eyes and remember the rush of the words flowing from my hands and the hope I felt when I began and how the story makes me feel—all of it—the messy parts and the in between stages and the redemption at the end. Eventually, I'll open up my eyes again. Eventually, I'll place my hands gingerly on the keyboard.
Eventually the words will start flowing and my breath will have replaced the chopchopchop of panic in my veins.
And can I just say -- your story is not pointless and stupid. Regardless of who you've been talking to, they're wrong. No matter who this story is for: it needs to be written because you've decided to take the risk of the first word.
Every story is important. Every story has the power to change the course of someone's life. Find people who believe in you. Remember those who breathe life into you. Every artist will have people who want to steal and suck the creativity out of your bones but you can't let them. Not now. Not when you already have flesh and blood in the game. You have way too much to lose—we have way too much to lose if you let the words of naysayers get in the way of your story.
Remember the magic. Remember the way the light hit the trees or the window when you decided "I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna write my book." Remember the pain of individual moments and remember the disbelief of your 10,000th word.
And then capture it.
If no one ever reads this story except for you—you'll still be the winner. Why? Because you didn't let panic win. Because you looked at those telling you "this will never happen" and you said "it just did."
And you won't ever forget it.