The Fickle Ways of Love

Stories are written by writers.  That much is a given, but what makes a writer?  I’ve spent sixty years seeking the reasons that I create stories and the next guy doesn’t, with little to no result.  But this morning, with the help of a profound comment on my last post followed five minutes later by reading a post on writing.com, the lightning has struck, and I believe I understand.

Writers pride themselves on their tools.  We have knowledge of the mechanics, command of the language, and a convoluted imagination that’s constantly taking us down dark and mysterious paths.  We apply these tools without letup, constantly seeking that unique combination of words and thoughts that will make us the author of the Next Big Blockbuster.  But the fact is that most of us have these tools to some degree.  We’re raised within a spoken language, and most of us attend some form of school to learn its formal rules and how to present it on the page.  We all have imaginations of greater or lesser strangeness, and we constantly imagine things that aren’t part of our daily experience.  So, why don’t all of us write?

I now believe that the ingredient that makes this person a writer and that one not is love; a love for the act of writing.  I have had that love for many years, many decades.  To see the story coming together on the page, to feel the joy of the subtle nuance that says so much and suggests so much more, to feel that thrill of anticipation of how your work will be received when you place it in front of a reader; that is love of the first order, and it’s what you have to feel from your skin right down to your bones in order follow this wild, unpredictable trade, be it job or hobby.

And I don’t feel it anymore.  I’ve been retired for over two years now.  I wake in the morning at six, or eight, or ten, it doesn’t matter, and the day is a clean slate stretching on to bedtime, waiting for me to use as I will.  For a long time, the first activity of the day was to write.  I was usually up early, and before the day’s excitement began, there were a couple of quiet hours when I could think and plot and carry on with nothing to distract me from my goal of quality wordsmithing.  The mornings are still like that, but I’m not.  For the past weeks, months maybe, I have gotten up, sat down at the keyboard, raised that white screen graced by the half-finished tale, and instead of thinking about where to take the story, I find myself wondering whether there are any household chores that I can do, perhaps some pressing research on my IRA distributions, or maybe a video game that is in desperate need of being completed.  I dread writing in a way that I never dreaded going to my job, and that isn’t what retirement is supposed to look like.

I’m just not in love anymore.  I’m not out of ideas, oh, far from it!  The inside of my head looks like the warehouse scene at the end of Indiana Jones, with boxed and crated ideas on ceiling-high racks that extend into a haze in the distance.  Oh, I still dabble at it here and there; that’s a perfect description of my Darklighters story, but if I was in love, I would open one of those boxes and ride it to the moon and back.  But all they really are are annoyances, constant reminders of what I “should” be doing instead of what I want to do.  It shouldn’t be like that.

The fact remains, though, that that’s how it is.  I feel guilty about the things I’ve committed myself to do, and I am sad about the friends that I’m certain to drift away from as writing fades more and more certainly into the past.  But I’m just not able to get up every morning, chain myself to this desk, and force myself to do something that has become more mind-numbing than any job-for-pay that I’ve ever had.  I can’t do it.

So I’m going to step away from it.  Perhaps after a break it will return.  Perhaps it won’t, but I cannot afford to care.  I cannot afford to spend the years or months I have left pursuing a dream that is of no interest to me.  To be any kind of a writer, you must be prepared to leave your heart and soul on the page, and I can’t even drag them to the page anymore; it’s time to go, and commitments be damned.  I need to say a few things to some people to wrap up the loose ends:

  • To Bryce, hold the presses on that book cover.  Should the writing bug return, I’ll get in contact, but don’t put any more work than you already have into a project that is at full stop with no prospects.
  • To the magnificent handful who have so graciously agreed to proofread and edit The Darklighters, allow me to return some huge chunks of your time for things that you enjoy.  If anything changes I’ll let you know, but don’t wait up for me…
  • To William, I will finish your map, and with this agonizing distraction gone, things are likely to happen pretty quickly.  Watch your e-mail for updates.

To everyone else, I’m going to leave this site up, because it contains (or soon will contain) all the things I’ve written in the past that I’d like people to be able to read for as long as they might like.  All those tabs across the top contain stories and books that have been well-received by readers and critics.  Enjoy them.  It will give meaning to all those years I spent writing them.  More will be added to them for a number of months, as I transcribe my work from years gone by, and I may even post more material in this blog, though I don’t know what it would be about here on this writing blog.  Probably promoting the work of those friends I mentioned.

But all that is for days to come.  Right now, I’m off to find my blues harps that I stuffed in a drawer years ago to make time for all this writing.  Who knows, maybe I’ll have time to get my chops back.  I’ve enjoyed your company on this long and convoluted ride, and I can’t say it hasn’t been interesting.  Thanks for everything; I had a ball!

 

 

10 thoughts on “The Fickle Ways of Love

  1. Writing can’t be a ‘should,’ unless you’re selling and supporting a family by that and no other means.

    You’re right – you’ve run to the end of the current love. Don’t worry about it: if you’re meant to come back, if it will satisfy, you will return.

    If not, you’ve done what few have done, and poured everything you had into it for long enough to know your own mind. How many people can say that? A very small proportion of us.

    I wonder sometimes whether I will quit after Pride’s Children’s trilogy is complete. I don’t know. I do know I’m not ready to stop, because I still love it.

    Enjoy whatever else you are drawn to. Very best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your understanding, it means a lot. I don’t want to not be a writer, but this is where I am right now. We’ll see what happens…

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      1. You’re still a writer – you write, you’ve written. When you think of how many words you’ve already put on a page…! You’re lucky because you get to decide if it gives you pleasure. A lot less angst that way, less ‘writer’s block.’ Which is a silly concept, when you think of it.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Maxwell, it was an honor and a privilege! And let’s be clear on this: I may not feel the calling anymore, but I still love the culture, and will be seeking ways to remain relevant. There is nothing to keep me from posting promos and news, and who knows what else I might think of now that I don’t feel the need to pound out so many words every day? Save you bookmark, and check back when you see new material appear; no telling what it might be!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I presume you’re speaking of your map. No worries, I’ll be on it shortly. I’m still concerned about overwhelming clutter if I put the street names in there. I’ll save that for last, and show it to you without those before I do anything else with them. I think it’s going to be “busy” enough with just the important landmarks, but we’ll see how it goes…

      Always good to hear from you. Keep it real!

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  2. S.M. Stirling made a comment on Facebook a few days ago that I think relates to this. He suggested the difference between a writer and a not-writer is that a writer has a deep abiding need to daydream a situation or a world as completely as possible. That deep abiding need can certainly be described as love. For me, the daydream aspect comes into play in the sense that I actually feel like I spend very little of my time as a writer in front of the keyboard. A lot of it is in my own head during walks and chores and even long, dull drives down I-10. I usually only go to the keyboard when I can’t hold the daydreams in any more and I need to get them out onto the page. It pulls down the stress level of that blank page considerably.

    I pose this not so much as a “get out there and write” kind of comment as just something to ponder. Going out and doing other things may rekindle that love as you daydream about your amazing worlds. Or not — you may discover other loves and that’s good too.

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    1. Thank you, David, for taking the time to offer your thoughts on this catastrophe. I first must apologize to my friends. I have done you a great disservice. I expected the reaction to this to be a mass exodus of everyone who has ever followed me. The support means a lot, and I deeply appreciate it.

      Now, the events described in this post do not give me any pleasure, and as no result is final until they close the box, it is as you say, that I may return to the page. I hope so. In keeping with a parallel issue that I described elsewhere, I’m in the process of sharing my entire portfolio (well, most of it) for free in the tabs at the top of the page. I am currently transcribing Chameleon at the rate of one chapter every couple of days. Chameleon was my first project after I had taken in and digested the several books on book writing that have become my “degree” in creative writing, and I have noticed something during the transcription: The world of Chameleon is much richer than the world of Slayer of Darkness, my most recent book. The physical world of Chameleon feels like an expensive movie set; Slayer’s world, created almost 20 years later, is almost like the cutout backdrops of a high school play by comparison, and the thoughts in my head as I transcribe the manuscript run along the line of “I could do this again.” I suspect that my writing groups and critique partners beat me over the head with the modern mantra of minimalism until that richness of description was seen as a liability. I think that if the writing does come back, it will be triggered by the desire to be as deep and rich and detailed as I used to be. Perhaps the moral is to leave the groups and partners behind, and write the way I think is good.

      But that’s down the road. I’m enjoying my vacation, although I’m sure the villains of Skyrim, Oblivion, and Kingdoms of Amalur would dearly love to see me get back to writing. Meanwhile, I’ll put almost everything I’ve ever written at the top of this page, and drop in to keep in touch once a week or so. Best of luck to my friends who are still writing; never say never again!

      Liked by 1 person

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