I’d been thinking about quitting

I didn’t want to write this post.

I’m sure some of that came from the societal stigma about showing vulnerability and my extreme reluctance to share personal aspects of my life. I think the greater issue, however, was the fear that such an admission would transform thought into reality if it reached the written page.

I wrote a draft of this post in mid-September after a rough couple weeks, when stressors and disappointments had piled upon another. I’d found myself angering easily or venting frustration in situations where it wasn’t warranted. My novel always appeared to be the catalyst: not having time, not being inspired, delivering garbage when I did sit down.

It wasn’t the first time I’d had similar feelings, but these were more acute and my defenses were down.

My writing time was precious and I was wasting it, and this realization was eating me alive.

There’s a betraying voice in your head that suggests the simplest solution: Quit doing the thing that’s causing pain. Just walk away.

Because writing is the primary way I express emotion, my head started drafting a post along those lines. The admission hurt, and that feeling intensified as I fleshed it out, because it reflected the abandonment of something I’ve wanted my whole life.

I sat at the computer that morning with little optimism and a negligibly more determination. I didn’t want to write this post…and I told myself over and again that I was pretty sure I wasn’t quitting.

Then I happened to read the following passage I’d copied from a book, and my perspective changed.

“You have to understand his motivation,” Michael said. “A writer can spend years working on a book he isn’t sure will ever sell. What makes him do it?”

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

No joke, it was like a switch flipped. A flood of positive memories surged through my brain, washing away the dark thoughts that had taken root. I decided that, yes, I was going to write this post, but I wasn’t going to take the “woe is me, writing is hard” approach (if there’s one kind of writing I’m certain people don’t want to read – aside from advertising – it’s that).

And so, I used the Delete key many, many times to get the post you’re reading now.

Writing and telling compelling stories is hard, make no mistake about that, and with any difficult task, there are highs and lows. There will be a few black days, and sometimes you will feel crushed or trapped. There will be days where the lying voices are very convincing, but quitting does not bring the bliss they promise.

Writing this post was cathartic, though perhaps not at the intellectual level a person might assume. No – and apologies in advance – it was more analogous to vomiting up the thing that made you sick. You can wallow in misery, which I’d been doing for a couple weeks, or you can stick your finger in your throat and get it out. Our bodies are miraculous things. They know when something doesn’t belong, and it’s unnatural to fight that. Our heads are the same way. Intellectually, we recognize the blackest thoughts, even when there is little illumination for us to see that.

In closing, here’s another admission, though an easier one to share. I stopped writing this post at the last paragraph and set it aside for months. My purpose for writing it, a desire to lift my spirits, had been achieved. Rejuvenated, I immediately went back to writing and the following weeks were happier. I’ve completed it for your sake and mine. We might not need reassurance or a kick in the pants today, but on another day we will. And this post will be waiting for us.

Good luck with your writing!

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, March 2022

Privilege in a time of chaos and injustice

I live in a Minneapolis suburb, though I am far enough away that I cannot see the smoke. I cannot hear the protests. My sleep is not disturbed by the sounds of gunfire and sirens. While the murder of George Floyd has angered me, I have been separated from the cacophony of a world aflame.

I have felt helpless and rooted in place, and it has forced some introspection. I know I do not truly understand the emotions or thoughts of the communities affected by this murder. So I have been listening. As I hear the anguish, the powerlessness, the frustration, and as I read what it’s like to fear a similar fate as George Floyd, I have been reminded that I have lived a privileged life compared to many people in my country.

A decision lay before me: to live within the comfort and protection of my privilege or to use it for something positive. I chose the latter.

I took what I heard and wrote this.

***********************

I am not black.

I am not of eastern Asian descent, nor Slavic or Middle Eastern, nor a member of most of the other wonderful ancestries that humans are blessed to have.

I am not Muslim, nor a member of any of the non-Christian religions that bring people comfort across the world.

I am not female, nor any of the other genders we are discovering in our DNA.

I am not gay, and I do not fit into any of the sexual orientations that close-minded people refuse to acknowledge.

I am not missing any of my five senses or four limbs. My brain doesn’t process the world in a way that requires additional interpretation.

I’ve never been impoverished or homeless.

I am a straight white male living in America and there are very few words that we use to modify that description. We live in a country that must label people to remind them they are different than a particular type of person – that they are other. That they do not have my privilege.

I recognize that in the United States, I have more privilege than all of these wonderfully different ways to be human.

Continue reading

Writing Update: Dec 12, 2017

This post is approximately 700 words.

On December 10, 2015, overwhelmed and underwater in life, I sat at the keyboard to begin writing the first book in The Lost Royals series. It had been years since I’d seriously written, but I recall how quickly the inspiration blossomed again.

Two days ago, the second anniversary passed by, unremarked. When I realized this today, I knew I needed to refocus myself.  Of late, my head has been so far up my own rear end with responsibilities and disappointment and anger and frustration and regret, that I’d taken my eye off the ball. Off the work. Instead taking the opportunity to reflect on how far I’d come – as I’d done last year – I simply forgot about the date.

But at least I did some writing.

My intellectual side knew it wasn’t a big deal, but my emotional side Continue reading

April 30 writing update

This post is about 400 words.

There’s a quote attributed to Anton Chekhov that goes something like this:

  • If there is a gun on the mantle in the first act, it must go off in the third.

mantle

In other words, don’t put in unnecessary details, especially when they seem to promise something that will never be delivered. I’m sure we could endlessly debate the literary merits of this kind of thinking, and we probably should. At a later date. And over beers.

I was reminded of this quote today when I realized that I had my own version of a gun on the mantle and it was never set to go off. At least, not in this book. Writing to resolve this situation would have added at least a chapter, or another couple thousand words. I’m already a bit concerned about the novel’s length, but more importantly, I didn’t want to accommodate this need.

But I really wanted to keep the passage.

I love fairy tales and folklore. I love rhymes and songs, and I partially attribute my affection for Tolkien to these things. Inevitably, they make it into my own writing. I was particularly proud* of a bit of verse I’d written earlier in the week. Besides the fun of writing it and the whimsy it conveyed, like most nursery rhymes, there was a cautionary tale within the words about a particular creature. A creature that never appeared.

Then I had a literary epiphany. You’ve probably experienced the same thing in your own writing: you’ve written yourself into a corner and you’re certain your hero will not escape. And then, the answer comes out of nowhere. The solution to the problem. It’s so simple and effortless, you can’t believe it works. And while you’re happy, a small part of your brain nags you for taking so long to figure it out. That’s OK, because you have a solution and it feels natural.

There’s an element of surprise that the solution creates, so I won’t spoil it. However, don’t forget that, when you’re creating words and creatures, the definitions of those things can be exactly what you want, especially when your story uses general English and made-up languages.

So now, the gun has gone off and I’m very happy with the results.

WaterPistol

Until next time!

–Michael

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*”Proud” is usually followed by a feeling of abject despair when, upon reading the passage, I realize it’s rubbish.

© Michael Wallevand, April 2016