Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Art of Keeping On

One of the things I love about my day job is the flexibility it affords me to write and pursue my artistic projects. Even now as I write (on Monday, 10 August 2015), I’m somewhere between Toronto and Fort McMurray, cruising at 37,000 feet, a bed of fluffy white clouds below. I am literally soaring above the earth while, internally, involuntarily riding an emotional rollercoaster.

Over the weekend I celebrated my 42nd birthday. Another year older. Another year gone by too quickly. Another year gone by without an offer of publication. Another year of formulaic rejections by e-mail and letter. In the days leading up to my birthday I could hear my inner critic laughing at me, saying, “What’s the point?” That had me feeling down, questioning my own worth. And I knew, based on past experiences, that I couldn’t afford to let my inner critic win out. I had to find the courage to lift myself up.

What’s the point?

The point is this. Even though I haven’t been published recently (not for lack of trying, however), there’s nothing else in this life that gives me a greater sense of satisfaction than when I’m at the page creating memorable characters, weaving together intricate plots. Writing is the first thing that I do in the morning when I wake up. I learned a long time ago that I had to make time for writing, always, everyday, because it is that much of a priority.

So on the days when I’m feeling “down,” I have to remind myself of how far I’ve come as a writer, how much I’ve grown as a writer, and of my successes. I’ve learned to make writing fun, too. While I focus primarily on novel writing, lately I’ve been experimenting more with flash fiction, which presents different challenges. Seeing these shorter stories take shape, I see there are more comedic characters in play, and that I’m exploring new and different themes. In a new way I am learning, honing my skills, and having lots of fun outside my comfort zone.

The art of keeping on is, for me, about simply showing up at the page, day after day, and letting the writing move through me. I have to resign from competition. I can’t worry about who’s doing better than me and who’s getting published. It comes down, again, to courage the courage to do what I love to do and being completely wrapped up in it, giving it my best. Always. When I do that I know I can, just for today, keep on keeping on.

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