On not writing and figuring out where I am.
I haven't felt like myself lately. Rather, it feels as if I'm simply stumbling through life and waiting for something to happen. I wish I could say it was due to severe allergies and the constant mental fog I find myself in, but if I'm honest with myself, I'm lost.
There's a saying (I don't know who said it exactly) that in order to find yourself you need to lose yourself. Only then can you start picking out the pieces that make you you and get rid of everything else. Stripping it down to the bare essentials basically.
But if you ever met me in person or went to school with me, you know I'm a type-A planner. I cross my t's, dot my i's. I follow the rules. I like order. I make copious amounts of lists: to-do's, groceries, shopping, packing, goals, and even life maps. Yes. Life maps.
The picture below is from a life map I drew in my journal dated March 2013.
If I were to strip myself down to be the bare essentials: I'm a girl who just wants to write books for a living. Not just any books. YA. This was true in 2013, and this is still true today. The only difference between me in 2013 and me in 2017? I'm not writing.
I know what you're thinking, How can you say you want to be a YA writer when you aren't even writing?
Well, let me introduce you again to me, a type A planner, who currently feels as if she's undergoing a failed plan. Someone once told me that success is really failing a lot. Just fail better each time, learn from your mistakes, and keep at it until you don't fail. Sounds simple, right? Except, it's not simple. There's a lot of pain and heartbreak in failure. There's fatigue, self-doubt, and countless moments where I want to give up because I don't want to get hurt anymore. Moments where I can't deal with the disappointment, where I feel like I'm so jaded. Moments when I don't think I'm good enough to be deserving of my dreams. These moments add up, they become crippling, until suddenly, I can't write anymore.
I told myself that I just needed a break. I just needed some rest, and then I'd get back to it. Every time I tried to though, I would be overcome with anxiety. My throat would tighten, my chest would go still, my stomach would cramp, and then I'd just walk away from computer, the notebooks, and pens.
I'd distract myself with other things, crossing off items on the more manageable to-do lists and have a few too many glasses of wine, but in the end, I always returned to this feeling of unease and displacement. This unhappiness. So I started thinking about what other things I could do with my life (which let's face it, is me just making up a list of escape routes). No matter what I came up with though, none of the options held any passion or inspiration for me to follow it through.
So what do I do now?
I asked myself this question over and over. I talked about it in-depth with my husband. I told him how this was not where I imagined myself when it came to following my dreams. I told him how I felt like I was back at square one, that I felt as if I was going backwards instead of forward. After I ranted, he told me that people think of their life, goals, or plans as a trajectory. That there's this arc that'll propel them to where they want to go, but that's not true. There's just these different planes that they find themselves in. They don't necessarily go forward or backward, there's just this sense of 'place', or in my case, 'displacement'. What I'm going through and what I'm feeling now is just a plane. And sooner or later I'll be on another.
For some reason what he said really stuck with me. I look again at my life map from my 2013 self and wonder if I'd already known this, because this life map isn't linear. There's no trajectory. It's just all over the place with turns and twists, but it's also cyclic. There's also some parts that don't even involve writing at all. There's travel, there's 'sustain a comfortable life', and even just having job.
I'd always known going after my dream wasn't a one way road. I may have a destination in mind, but I was bound to get lost. And when I do, the only thing I can do is figure out where I am and how to get myself into the driver's seat.
To be honest though, sometimes it feels like I'm going nowhere. Sometimes I feel like the road is endless. Sometimes I get so sick of driving that I need to pull over and stretch my legs. Or maybe I just need to abandon the car for a bit and hitch hike somewhere else for a different kind of adventure. Whatever happens though, I know who I am and what I want to do. I have an unshakeable dream for a reason, so I know I'll find myself back at the computer, typing away eventually.
So there's no point in freaking myself out, forcing myself to write, making myself anxious about it, or feeling like a failure. I just need to accept that I'm on a different plane right now, going through the motions, and that's okay. Sometimes the best thing I can do for my writing is to not write at all.
At least for a little while.