My husband and I have a running joke about talking dogs. There are some things people need to talk about, like dreams, that, no matter how much you love someone, you don’t necessarily want to hear about. It’s not that it’s difficult, but for the love of god, it’s just so boring, and that’s why we need therapists. You hire a therapist so you can talk to them about your dreams, the ones that were so intense and where the dog talked, but that no one in your real life probably gives two shits about.
Also in this category of things no one wants to hear about: how hard it is to write. I think most writers (although not all) go through phases where the writing is hard. For me, this talking dog reared it’s mouthy head last year. I didn’t want to work on stories or a novel; I didn’t enjoy even the thought of writing; I talked endlessly to my poor husband about how the dog just wouldn’t shut up. I had recently (ten years late to the party I didn’t want to go to in the first place) joined social media which had sent me into a tizzy about how I was fairing in the publishing world and worrying about this stupid thing called my career rather than what really matters: the writing.
What finally helped me break through was deciding it was okay not to write fiction for awhile. To keep me still in the game as far as working on something and engaged with the literary world, I turned to book reviews. I set a soft deadline to get the first one done, then a soft deadline for the second, and soon I realized the reviews themselves were getting easier and I was really, really enjoying writing them. I felt more up on contemporary short stories and, while I’d been reading stories all along, it had become rare that I’d sit down and read a collection start to finish in a few days. I started actively looking for books to review, excited at the prospect of engaging.
About this time I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which is wonderful on many levels, but was particularly touching for me in that the main character Cath is lit on fire with the love of writing. She does it in all her spare time, not because she should, but because she wants to. She struggles a bit with what to write–what she wants, versus what’s expected–but that pure love of writing was good for me to read. Eventually I wrote a short essay. Eventually I revisited a draft of an earlier story. Eventually the dog mumbled that maybe I should pick up that novel again, the one that couldn’t possibly suck as much as I remembered. Everything I wrote, I did without pressure. “Don’t worry about the end goal,” the dog told me. “Just enjoy creating something then eventually making it better.” And that’s what I did.
I think we all go through periods where we lose track of the real goal, or concentrate on the wrong aspect. We don’t want to exercise, forgetting how nice it is to be outside. We dread doing homework, forgetting how curious we are about the world. For me it was worrying too much about the publication side of things, forgetting how much fun it is to put word in motion.
“Don’t worry about the end goal,” I tell myself. “Write because you love it.” And for now, that’s just what I’m doing. Woof.