I ask because I truly have no idea.
Over the last few years, I have come to a great deal of painful conclusions regarding my writing. None more heartbreaking than the fact that writing is not accomplishing what it once did for me. For most of my life I could happily record my thoughts and feelings and glow with accomplishment when I finished a book or poem or short story.
But now I stare at blank pages and create book covers to works I never seem to get any closer to finishing. Or starting. Have I said everything I could possibly think of saying? Am I experiencing burnout? Is it time to move on from something that has ultimately frustrated me for years?
I wish I had an answer, because dealing with this massive unknown has perplexed me.
It occurred to me that for all I’ve accomplished with writing, I’ve haven’t exactly gotten far. I’ve published 14 books and have in no way recouped my costs for doing so. I’ve dedicated my life to so many hours of writing, I once wrote 50,000 words in four and a half days. Years later, I wrote 52,000 words in one week, without really trying.
I could continue listing aimless accomplishments, but my ability to put words on paper has not resulted in critical acclaim, a vague passing interest from close friends and family, or units sold. While I wrestled with the reality, I have always written for myself and I didn’t need outside encouragement to do so, I could never resolve my feelings that this lack of support, well… sucks.
But it goes beyond this reality.
Even when I tell myself to write like no one is watching, there doesn’t seem to be much left in the well. I have gone through active writing periods and shifted my focus to different demands before. Eventually, I always have returned to writing. However, this feels different.
I don’t particularly want to write anymore. Which is a feeling I don’t understand.
I tried to change genres a few months ago and pen a romance novel. Something I haven’t done since my unpublished book, Scars, in 2013. But in 2023, I was drafting, redrafting, making so many changes I could barely keep up with all of them, and not really enjoying the process of it all.
Writing is work. That is unavoidable. But I always relished the work and delighted in the grind when a project looms ahead of you and you have nothing left to do except keep your butt in your computer chair.
No matter what I tried to write, poems, novels, blogs, I ended up with a lot of book covers for what I now realize are abandoned projects. I can still daydream up an idea for a narrative or image for a poem, but trying to translate this to actual words is a bit like when the Wi-Fi won’t connect and the loading icon endlessly spins.
So where do I go from here?
Your guess is as good as mine.
One thing I know is that I definitely need to step away and stop trying to force myself to write. As much as I appreciate claims that discipline is most important, and editing a bad page is better than a blank one, the more I try to resume my former activities, the more I end up hating what I’m doing.
After my identity crisis passed and I realized I had interests and achievements other than writing, I was finally able to come to terms with the fact that what I do is not the same as who I am. As many words as I can get on paper, my productivity does not equal my worth or my personhood.
Frequently Asked Questions for Potential Commenters
Q: You do realize you wrote this, right?
A: I am aware. Just don’t hold your breath for another blog.
Q: What if you start writing again?
A: I would be delighted if that were to happen.
Q: Not everyone has to read your books.
A: That’s not a question. I completely understand that writing, particularly my brand of heavy, emotional writing, might not be for everyone. However, it’s difficult to describe the feeling when you tell someone you value that you just published a book only to have them immediately change the subject.
Q: What do you expect this blog post to accomplish?
A: Honestly, it’s a bit of a relief to get this out. I didn’t realize how at peace I actually am with this. Faulkner once said, “Don’t write. Be writing.” And I tried. I truly gave it everything I had. But I know better now than I keep holding on to something that isn’t working for me solely because I can’t imagine my world without it.
Q: Are you hanging up your pen because you only started reading and writing as a form of escapism from living with mental illness and now that you have dealt with a lot of your demons, you don’t need to use writing therapeutically anymore?
A: Could be!
Q: Do you just want everyone to pity you?
A: No, that would be pointless. I don’t pity myself anymore and I don’t want anyone else doing it either. Sometimes life doesn’t pan out the way you thought it would. But that’s okay. Doesn’t mean it’s easy. But it will be okay.