Turning point

Silk’s Post #157 — In two hours I’ll be sitting down around a table with the other four of the 5writers. By the time I stand up again to leave for home, my writing career will have taken a new path.

At this moment, as I sit on a ferry crossing the Georgia Strait to Vancouver watching the fir-clad shores through Active Pass crawl by the ship’s windows, I don’t know what that path will be. This is the last moment I can capture my feelings about The Big Drought in my writing life before I decide what comes next.

Writers whose passion never flags, whose dedication never falters, will have trouble understanding how I – and to varying extents the rest of the 5writers – lost momentum over the past few months. Or maybe over the past two or three years. Our 5writers5novels5months blog has been all but abandoned since the start of 2016, some brave efforts at a rally notwithstanding. The simple functional reason is that our collective writing output has slowed down to a trickle. For me, less than a trickle. Not even a dripdripdrip.

But the bigger question is: Why?

While each of the 5writers has undergone significant life changes since we embarked on this journey together six years ago (can it have been that long?), that’s the too-easy, unsatisfying, explanation. Competing priorities, new interests, personal setbacks and triumphs, family matters, lifestyle changes – all have had their influence. There’s only so much time, after all, and how we spend it comes down to necessity and choice.

Choice is the point. A passion for writing – a mission to complete a book and get it published – is inherently a crazy ambition, a calling, a driving obsession, an act of faith. We all know how many published writers there are in the world. One zillion. For every published writer, there are probably 100 unpublished writers. We knew all that.

Yet, like most writers who love the creative process and (somewhat blindly) follow their dreams, we chose to believe in ourselves. We chose to spend our precious time tapping out words without knowing whether they would ever reach an audience.

True writing passion is supposed to be unquenchable. A life’s work. Not a transient hobby.

And yet. Here I am with three unfinished books and virtually no new pages so far this year. No wonder it’s been challenging to keep the blog going. Writing about our writing progress and the lessons learned along the way became the biggest chunk of my output of fiction.

But today the 5writers meet again. It will be a reckoning of sorts.

Can we resuscitate our gasping blog? Only if we can renew our writing commitments. Some of us may burst into bloom once more. Others may fade. No choice is wrong. And it’s not that we need each other’s permission or depend on each other’s choices to make our own decisions and go our own way. We’re five different people writing five different things, not a collective that can only thrive or perish as one.

However, we are each other’s witnesses. We each promised ourselves we’d become serious (aka, published) writers, and we pledged to support each other in those efforts.

It’s so easy to let individual passion for a difficult and emotionally risky venture die quietly while no one else is looking. To busy yourself with other matters, salve regret with new diversions and let forgetfulness heal your disappointment in yourself. My abandonment of what once was an animating passion is a deep, slowly diminishing ache.

But someone is looking. My cherished writing colleagues. Their witness is something I can’t put in the bottom drawer and forget about, like my manuscripts.

And today, I have to think about it all. Talk about it. Unflinchingly. And make a choice about my future path as a writer. It’s going to be a turning point that will impact my life in a big way. In just a couple of hours.

Thank God for a great writing group.

Stay tuned!

7 thoughts on “Turning point

  1. May you all share and live into your individual Truth. Have a wonderful fruitful meeting. Sometimes Life has other plans 🙂
    I’ve recently come to a new place of clarity myself, about the choices I make – seeing truly that *I* choose – everything, every moment. I’ve found a great freedom in it.

    • Thanks Alison! We had an encouraging meeting and, with some reservations but lots of good will and intent, have chosen to re-commit to our writing lives together to the extent that each of us is able. It was an important re-think for me and I’m excited. It won’t be the last of the challenges, I’m sure, but for now I’m feeling really good about it.

  2. As an envious onlooker, I too was absent from reading and responding to your blog for the last 6-12 months. I am very interested in how you 5 sort out your process, individually and collectively. May I ask a favor that you write about it, one or all? I volunteered to give a talk in September about this very topic–how to step back, sort out what you’ve done and where you’re going, figure out what you need and don’t. I appreciate you all!

    • Thanks for your kind words and interest Elizabeth! We had a good and open meeting and made a commitment to try going “back to the basics” to revive our flagging writing lives. We started out as a critique group, and that regular practise with its deadlines, feedback and face-to-face meetings seemed to be when we were all the most engaged and productive. While getting the 5 of us together on a fixed schedule — given our evolving lives and shifting addresses — will be the challenging part, at least we made a first pass at a calendar of meeting dates. I think we’re all feeling a bit of angst about getting back in harness, but I’m hopeful! We’ll also get back to more regular blog posts, though not quite as ambitious as before. Stay tuned!

  3. I think a lot of people feel that writing a book will be a great experience. The realities that many top selling authors took fifteen or more years to make a sale, that almost none were able to get their first book published, and that few made/make enough money to compensate for the time they invest in the writing, are realities none of us wants to believe for ourself. We want to believe we will be the exception.

    We can be extremely hard on ourselves when we don’t achieve intended goals. We shouldn’t be, because ‘real life’ is seldom a straightforward journey. There are many reasons why some people don’t succeed. Sometimes it means abandoning the goal; other times it means readjusting it or readjusting the timeline. Hopefully the re-evaluation you five are doing will help each one determine the direction your writing should take.

    • Thanks for your wise words Carol. Yes, after 6 years as a writers’ group, and many more years of collective experience, I think we’re getting realistic! I came away from our meeting with the sense that we’re heading in a good direction. Amazing how much it means to have helping friends on what is essentially a solitary journey. Now, back to one of those unfinished novels, with new enthusiasm. Thanks for being with us!

  4. Don’t give up on yourself, Silk. this passage is terrific prose.

    “It’s so easy to let individual passion for a difficult and emotionally risky venture die quietly while no one else is looking. To busy yourself with other matters, salve regret with new diversions and let forgetfulness heal your disappointment in yourself. My abandonment of what once was an animating passion is a deep, slowly diminishing ache. “

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