"Hello, I am a writer. My pastimes include not writing."
(And I'd post it and give credit for it, but now I can't find the stupid thing... Guh. So that was originally made by somebody somewhere.)
After I was done laughing and quoting it to myself a few times (Come on, other people must do that when they see something funny, right? Where else would we get those Youtube comments that are literally just one or two hilarious lines from the video?), it reminded me of something I'd been thinking about the other day.
One of my friends once pointed out that as soon as your writing turns into a job, the drive to write vanishes.
That's certainly been the case for me. Sure, writing more than three pages at a time has always been hard for me (three pages seemed to be the max I could write in one sitting for many years), but at least when I was younger, I just wanted to create stories. The sheer fun of it kept me going easily. I remember sitting down for hours writing early drafts of The Victor's Blade. Now I'm lucky if I can stay focused on it past forty-five minutes.
Writing just isn't quite as fun as it used to be. It still can be fun. I still get a thrill--maybe even a bit of a buzz of euphoria--when I feel like I've nailed a scene or a character, or when I've delivered a line of dialogue that just makes me laugh out loud. But it's way easier for me to write for fun (roleplaying, for instance) than it is to write in The Victor's Blade.
I wonder why that is.
Sure, it's partially the "work vs. fun" problem: The Victor's Blade is actually getting to a point where I have to start taking it seriously. By contrast, roleplays are usually just games to me. Of course I'm going to want to do something fun over something that seems like a job.
But how did The Victor's Blade end up in the "job" category at all? Is it just because I've started realizing "Oh crap, this is gonna be a real thing that's going to (hopefully) make me real money someday"? I don't think so.
I know part of my problem with TVB in particular is how long I've taken to write it. I kept taking breaks, and I've lost a lot of the passion for the characters. I've been trying to rekindle that passion and revamp the characters as necessary, but it still leaves me with this feeling that the characters are... stale. And I wonder if that's just me, because I've spent so much time with them, or if it's a red flag that something about these characters is dangerously lacking.
Wow. The cast of my magnum opus might have some severe issues? There's something to kill the fun in writing.
Another part of the problem is that TVB has gotten to a point where I have to work. It's not just a series of unrelated scenes that happen whenever I feel like writing. I have to tie things together with transitions and plan out pacing and figure out when and how to drop in key plot elements. It has transcended fun and games. Now it's into the nitty-gritty. And that's just plain ol' not as fun to write, because that takes more brainpower and revision.
Buuuut even so, just because something requires some rewrites and brain-flexing doesn't necessarily make it "not-fun" for me. Take one of my more recent time-devourers, a roleplay I've been working on for the better part of three years. That's finally getting down to the nitty-gritty, too, but working on it has actually been--gasp--fun, even though it's got its share of hard work. Heck, I just spent two hours late Wednesday night photoshopping a map for the campaign. Hours of strenuous, complex, hard work for a minuscule part of the roleplay as a whole. But I couldn't put it down, because I was having so much fun working on it.
What makes the difference?
I think a big part of my struggle to write is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of being judged. Fear of the criticism I'll receive. Fear it just isn't good or will never be as good as I envisioned it. I have a crippling fear of sharing a piece of myself and being misunderstood and rejected or shot down or ripped apart. I see it happen all the time to others--and it's happened to me before, too. A lot. To the point where I have to push myself to express my real feelings about a lot of things. To the point where I'm not sure I can count on one hand the number of people I've really opened up to recently.
And since I believe that what I write is a reflection of something I believe, or even a little piece of myself, it's terrifying to think that what I write might not be any good--or that it might be misunderstood so people say it's not any good (even if it is)!
Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I need to separate myself from my work. I'm not my writing. It's not who I am at my core. And other peoples' opinions aren't me, either. They don't know the full picture of who I am. Heck, not even I know that. I think only God does.
Easier said than done, but it does make the thought of taking criticism a lot easier.
And maybe I can pull out that keyboard and pop out a few pages today, after all. Guess I won't know until I try.
From Him, To Him