I do not have a story this week.
Nor, in fact, did I have one last week.
Sometimes that’s the way life is. Things get messy, life gets messy, and creativity goes out the window. As writers, I think we’ve all experienced this a time or two in our lives. It’s very hard to be creative and have a story in your mind when work isn’t going the way it’s supposed to, relationships are crumbling, and the bills aren’t being paid.
We all know this, don’t we? We’re writers. We’ve all hit a place in our worlds where everything seems to pile up and the stories we’re supposed to love so much just can’t seem to get our attention. On paper, being a writer is awesome. We get to daydream about characters and places we’ve never been, come up with epic fight scenes, explore new worlds, and discover the magic of what our imaginations are capable of. Sometimes, it almost feels as though our story already exists, and we only have to sit down and write it out in all its intricate, beautiful detail.
Being a writer is an incredible privilege, an almost sacred trust, and the closest thing to magic I’ve ever touched.
Except when it’s not.
Because there is another side to writing too. A side with day jobs, and bills that don’t get paid, and a passion you have to sneak in around the ‘important’ things in life. It’s early mornings before work, trying to get in a hundred words before you have to go focus on your ‘real’ job, it’s work that you don’t get paid for, and projects that you spend hundreds of hours on that simply . . . fade. It’s work that people call a hobby, and a business that you manage all alone. It’s choosing to write instead of heading to the movies with friends, and being called antisocial because you want to finish one more chapter before work on Monday morning.
It’s a business, and for some of us, it’s an investment that we’ve poured thousands of hours and hundreds of dollars into, and haven’t quite gotten the payback for yet.
Are you nodding yet? Congratulations. You’re a writer.
So why—in the name of everything good and holy—have we not given up yet? Why haven’t we trashed the manuscripts, pulled the plug, and found a job that pays the rent on time every month?
Dearest writer, I have a theory.
It starts with being still.
When we are still—really still—and we can forget the hectic jobs, the bills that haven’t been paid, and the dishes that aren’t done, we will hear something.
The thread of a story. The first breath of a character. The tug of an idea.
I have never known a writer who got started because they wanted to rich. It’s not that kind of industry. Stories don’t pay well, authors aren’t generally famous, and critics are harsh.
But we keep writing because we have stories inside of us.
We are creators.
There is something more to our writing than how many hits we get on our blog or how many books we sell or which agents rejected us and which requested full manuscripts. Our writing is a business, but it’s magic too. When we’re still, when we’re quiet, that magic is whispering. Yes, the day job is still frustrating, the bills aren’t paid, the dishes aren’t done, and that one relationship is still not fixed—and may never be. But our stories are a gift, a privilege not offered to everyone.
For me, that whisper reminds me that there’s more to giving up than just trashing a manuscript. It means trashing a part of myself that I treasure, and I’m not quite ready to do that yet.
I’ll figure out a way to pay the bills somehow, and my dishes will learn to wash themselves. (Not.) I’ll get there someday. For now, I’m committed to enjoying the journey and preserving that whisper.