Through the course of my reading and writing life (over 50 years) I’ve read authors I’ve been insanely jealous of because I admire their execution of the craft. It is not until now that I find myself reading a writer I connect with on a deeper level. Before Christmas I read Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and felt, gosh I really get where this writer is coming from. So I did what I always do when a writer’s work speaks to me – I looked for more of her work. Here in the UK it’s difficult to get copies of her books from libraries. The librarian told me people borrow them never to return them. I fully understand why. I want to OWN every single book she’s ever written.
I like this writer so much that I’ve voluntarily dipped into her short stories and essays; something I haven’t done since ‘forced’ into it by a required reading list during my days at university. I regularly ignore forewords and notes from authors but found myself wanting to know every detail of this writer’s experience. So much of what she writes resonates, starting with the fact that she hates writing short stories, moving on to the valuable self-knowledge that she is more of a novel writer than anything else.
Regularly when I read or hear other writers’ experiences of writing I find myself out in the void as I feel so differently about the experience. I never suffer from writer’s block. I don’t struggle to write regularly.* I don’t panic when something is not good. I love getting feedback from readers and writing groups. For years I never admitted to any of this because I felt it would be disloyal to other writers to do so. Now I’m beginning to understand there are other writers like myself out there. So I’m beginning to feel less disloyal and simply accepting this as MY process. As with everything else in life, it’s crucial to remember, us writers are as different as individual genetic codes.
Octavia Butler’s essay Furor Scribendi (the rage of writing) completely captivated me. It’s a perfect summing up of how I used to feel about my writing. I simply could not stop. I’m sure the more discerning of you have spotted the past tense. This is because towards the end of last year I felt as though I’d lost my writing mojo. Not the ideas. They’re still plentiful. But the fire. It seemed, at times, barely a spark. I’m not sure why this happened but am very glad it appears to have passed because I can’t imagine a life without writing. The embers are glowing more brightly each day. I’m in the process of rebuilding my writing muscle memory and more importantly, my stamina.
Us humans put huge amounts of pressure on ourselves, more so than others do in fact. So here’s a bit of advice which works for writers as well as the ordinary humans out there. If things are a bit pear shaped for you at present, cut yourself some slack. I’m not saying ‘make excuses’. Get on with the business of being but be good to yourself. Do the things that fulfill you in life. Spend time with the people you love and value and who love and value you in return. That has been the greatest lesson I’ve learnt to date.
*The exception to this has been a bad bout of migraines and a period of time when I had the flu.