I have a confession to make, but before I begin be forewarned. What you are about to read is not for the faint of heart.
It first started when I realized I had written forty five thousand words on my third book and what I wrote was not the story, the real story that I wanted to, needed to tell. I was downhearted, in fact crushed that I had fallen prey to the age old malady of word-count-ism and lost the story within a jumbled mass of written garbage.
We’ve all been there you may be thinking, and I admit that I have at times succumbed to the word count illness as well, but this time it was different. This time I found myself abandoned and lost, mired in a mass of ill-conceived words and sentences, bereft of a solid foundation, the weight of my written albatross serving no purpose except to expedite my plunge into the depths of a sucking pond of quick sand.
To make it worse – and I did make it worse you’ll see – I chastised my stupidity and chose to punish my heinous crime by refusing to redouble my efforts and return to my notebook, the one containing all my thoughts, characterizations and plots on the story.
I just stopped. I stopped writing.
I told you it was bad.
Then life reached out and smacked me in the face with a physical ailment, a temporary and yet perfect justification for my poor decision making process. It’s known as the flu and I suffered with a particularly nasty strain that humbled me for three weeks; contorted me into little more than a pitiable couch potato content to watch mesmerizing, hypnotically mind numbing television shows.
But that was okay, because during the three weeks I had an excuse for my depression and frustration about the book, my anger over losing the story. I had a physical excuse for not doing what I loved to do, a hall pass for not working on the story and my mental sickness loved every minute of my three week respite.
After all I had the flu right?
Fellow writers it gets worse.
The flu departed and my body healed, but over those three weeks the tendrils of frustration and depression grew stronger, wrapping around my brain, keeping their hold on their refuge inside my head, successfully deflecting any of my attempts to purge it.
It has now been two months since I have written anything, or even thought about writing. Instead of fighting back against this mental scourge I even stopped reading, another carnal sin in the writing community.
There have been times over these months when I tried to fight back, struggling against the malady, at times even overcoming the torture long enough to pick up the latest tome I was enjoying, but each time I tried, the sickness inside swelled up and consumed me offering a sinister, whispering promise that I could return to the world of enchantment tomorrow.
“What’s the rush P.G.?” it crooned. “There will always be tomorrow.”
Yes, the vile sickness in my head was right. Tomorrows continued to come and go and I continued to stay away from writing and left the books on the shelf. I continued to listen to this modern-day Wormwood as it burrowed deeper into my thoughts and paralyzed my actions and until yesterday I was about to throw in the towel and turn my back on my passion.
What happened yesterday was something that not only spurred me to write this confession. It was something that almost brought me to tears of joy – be advised it’s okay for men to cry – something much better than therapy, something more powerful than a double shot of Wellbutrin.
I found the story.
It happened as I was listening to the endless loop of thoughts in my head playing out my counted sorrows, Wormwood’s tale of platitudes and promises, terrible justifications for my even worse behavior. Starting as a small spark of an idea it quickly roared into a blaze of illumination before old Wormwood could stamp it out. The tape of my counted sorrows medley curled into a melted mess and there it was the real story, the one I knew I wanted to tell, waiting for me. I rushed to retrieve my notebook and began writing, yes writing the story line down, and then began to read the notes I’d jotted down in my notebook, soon realizing that the story line on those pages complemented the new thoughts I’d just written perfectly.
Though I must admit I still have a long road ahead of me before I consider myself cured of this malady, I will tell you fellow writers that I’m making positive progress every day.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that depression frustration and anger – whether repressed and channeled in your writing or released at the gun range – are hereditary by-products of our craft. If I have learned one thing about these last two months it is that this it-can-never-happen-to-me state of mental fatigue has happened to me and that when you step away from your passion, you are probably stepping away from the one thing that can actually save you.
They say confession is good for the soul so yeah, I guess I’m starting to feel pretty good right now.