If at this point you fall out of your chair screaming and spraying me with holy water like “I THOUGHT SHE DIED,” I won’t blame you. Also…majorly long and stream-of-consciousness blog post incoming. You have been warned.
So if you haven’t guessed already, I’ve been in a major slump recently. Everything about writing started feeling more and more like some big machine. I spent more time reading blog posts and keeping up with social media than actually writing. I got obsessed with doing everything “right” when it came to blogging and publicity, as you can tell from the fact that I bought a blog domain and then stopped blogging because I couldn’t figure out how to make a mailing list work. I started a YouTube channel, but realized I really didn’t like video editing (at least not with the limited supplies I can afford right now), so that died off. I made plans and never followed through with them.
About a week ago, this all reached a breaking point. I’d tried “just writing,” and I just ended up feeling horrible about myself. I shelved the project I’d been working on for almost a year now, and started re-dabbling in fanfiction, just to see if writing held ANY joy for me anymore. And I didn’t find it. Although I had a little fun, in general I just felt incapable, and so frustrated about how slow, slow, SLOW the whole process of writing — and reading — is.
I also started watching more anime — Haikyuu!! and Free!, to be exact — and I realized that what I like best about stories isn’t verbal. I like colors, pictures, voice acting, music, and hundreds of things happening at once. I hate those first few paragraphs in written stories where you don’t know what anyone looks like.
You all know how I spent three and a half months in Spain, right? Well, while I was up there, I discovered a particularly frustrating thing about communicating in a second language. It kinda feels like you’re wearing some sort of muzzle. Sure, you can communicate some thoughts and ideas, but you’re restrained from saying what you really think. So many times in Spain I wanted to express myself, but had to keep quiet because by the time I figured out how to kind of communicate my feelings, the conversation had moved on to something else.
I started feeling this way about writing. It took paragraphs to convey information that on screen would be conveyed in a matter of milliseconds. It took days to enjoy a story that on screen would be over in a matter of hours — and years to write this sort of thing. I felt like everything I had in my head was being reduced to hundreds of lines of code, like stretching out a string of DNA for miles and ultimately not finding anything like the person it belongs to.
So one evening I decided to give up writing.
I didn’t ban myself from ever setting words on a page again. Instead, I gave it up as a dream. I gave up the idea of being a published author, of being well-known as a creator of a kind of media that I was disliking more every day.
The effect was…weird? At first I felt freed. Finally, I could throw away all these restraints I’d put on myself. Feeling guilty for not posting more often. Evaluating my unwritten stories against percentage-based outline systems to cut back on work I’d have to do later — if I got any preliminary work done at all. Stressing over whether my characters were offensive, or what my family and old friends would think if my writing was, erm…more liberal than they liked. Falling further and further into obsession with the public side of things, with the idea that without a “writing platform” I’d never make it anywhere as an artist.
I started focusing on other things. Learning Japanese, doing yoga, planning to audition for community theater, practicing voice and piano and ukulele. I came up with alternate plans for my future. Maybe I’d teach English in Japan (a strange choice given my multiple breakdowns in Spain, but an intriguing idea nonetheless). Maybe I’d just take a string of random jobs and travel wherever I felt like going. I could do anything, really.
On one hand, it was great to have time to focus on my other interests. On the other hand, I felt…kind of dead. I hadn’t realized how much of my identity I had poured into being a “writer.” I still came up with story ideas every other day, although I was afraid to write them down, since they’d probably become just as mechanical and meaningless as my previous attempts at novel-writing.
I also noticed that I didn’t hate reading, as I’d come to feel I did. I enjoyed White Cat, a book my sister bought me for Christmas. As I dove into fanfiction, I realized it made me feel much more than published writing normally does. Feeling is how I rate fiction. Got good sentence structure and grammar? Fine. Engaging plot? Well, I’ll read it, but I won’t necessarily like it. But feeling? If you make me feel an intense anything for the characters, your story will get a four- or five-star Goodreads rating from me. Of course, fanfiction can easily capitalize off the attachment I already have for a franchise’s characters, but that’s not always what happens. Sometimes a piece of fanfiction creates feelings for a character I previously disliked. Sometimes it forces me to look at characters in a different light. Sometimes I character I didn’t care about in the past becomes extremely dear to me. Although fanfics often throw plot to the wind, I found myself much more engaged in fandoms than I’d ever been in an original work. Occasionally — as is the case with Harry Potter — I find myself liking the fandom more than the story itself. Obviously, fanfiction writers are onto something or other that really seems to be missing in mainstream novels.
Where was I? This is a very stream-of-consciousness post. Um…oh right, me quitting writing. Anyway.
So, I never had a “writing is not for me” realization, or a “I can never quit writing, it’s my DESTINYEI AHLE” or whatever. So far, this is really just…where I am. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the blog, my writing, or YouTube. I’m not asking for advice or anything. Just…yeah.
Oh, the other thing, too. See, I’m a very instant-feedback kind of person. I’m not very good at that whole “write for yourself” thing. And what frustrates me most about blogging, YouTubing, Twittering, and writing itself is the nagging feeling that no one cares. No one cares. No one.
(And okay, I am one of those people who counts “someone” as being a few hundred/thousand people, because yes I am shallow like that. Sue me.)
I gotta say fanfic does have an advantage there. Instant posting, instant-ish feedback, no real expectation of literary excellence. Just again, whether or not you can promote feeling in your writing.
Ironically, as much as I want attention, I’m also intimidated by the idea of it, especially since I use my real name on the Internet. (I’m terrible at anonymity.) What if something happens? What if I put out something I regret later?
And also, to blog or to YouTube?? I express myself more easily on camera, but like…I don’t even have a camera!! Also, more writers frequent blogs than YouTube — you know, that whole instant feedback thing — so like, blogging makes more sense, and also is easier for me cause all you need are thoughts and a word processor, but like, YouTube is fun, so…
Yeah. Anyway. What’s the point of all this? Well, at first I thought there wasn’t one, but I have noticed a distinct change in the way I view myself now, so that’s worth mentioning.
As I mentioned, I used to define myself as a writer. Now, I’ve backed off using “writer” as an identity. Instead, I’ve placed my identity in my ability to adapt; to do anything I put my mind to. So now, I’m an adapter! Wait…that’s already a thing, isn’t it.
Yeah, I knew it. Anyway, it’s helped me calm down when considering my future prospects. This is my free time, so why spend it in a way that stresses me out? I’ve always thought that if I really liked something, I would attempt to do it without having to force myself. If I can’t do that with writing, well, then I won’t try to make it a career. I’ll find something else to do on the career front, and spend my free time doing something that actually relaxes me and helps me become a better, fuller person. On the other hand, I still kind of like writing, so maybe I’ll continue it as a hobby? Who knows.
Anyway, if you’ve made it this far you deserve to know I just got Hannah Heath’s new book, and so there should be a review of that in some form or another surfacing in the next few days. Someone hold me accountable for this. Hannah works hard and is consistent (unlike me) and we must reward the brave few who behave like this.
Anyway, that’s all from me for today. Maybe you like…related to this? Or not? Anyway bye.