Friday, August 16, 2013

Carrying the Fire

After a long absence in more ways than one, I feel like I owe something of an explanation, to myself and to others. No disclaimer for this post, although one might be warranted. Consider it Vicki Keire version 2.0. Hopefully this newer model is less buggy. :)

I thought I had learned a few things about writing by now:

There was the time I hit "publish" on my very first Indie novel, and the spiral of fear and excitement and rightness that brought. There was the time my book first cracked the Top 1000, and then the Top 500. I very nearly died of asphyxiation that day. The thought that I might actually be able to make a go of this writing thing, and the despair and panic I felt in the days and weeks and months when I couldn't. Times when words wouldn't come, and friends shot past me in sales and accolades, and other friends... didn't. But they were still friends, and I felt blessed. A publisher approaching me... ME... seemingly out of the blue and wanting me for their very own.The days when I looked around and realized I was writing, and blogging, and networking, and volunteering, and designing, and editing, and my books were published and pretty and loved and they actually had sequels that were published or nearly so, and fans.... did I mention them? The wonderful readers who stuck with me and cheered me on and pushed me, clamoring for more, honest about what they liked and didn't and what they wanted more of, always eager for that next book or Twitter chat or blog post, or just a piece of my life in general. To realize I'd gone from that single nervous button push to a life that could, and would, consume me.

And then there were the breakdowns.

I don't really know what else to call them. Difficulty concentrating. Hating my characters, unsure of what they wanted me to do next. Gut-freezing anxiety about finishing anything. Hiding from responsibilities- writing and otherwise- because I simply could not cope. Black hole days and weeks and months that I'm still not sure how to piece back together. Being crippled by the choice between a green shirt or a striped one. An inability to read. To read! Let alone write. Apathy and the bewildered hope that there is some way out of the maze, but not being able to find it. In short, going totally off the rails.

This is the part of being a writer that I'm still learning to navigate. Some of us are blessed with a kind of evenness in writing and in life that has always eluded me. It's like I've always had all the pieces of an ordered life arranged in front of me, but I can't make them fit together. Almost every single writer or musician or artist I really deeply admire has had to learn their way out of the maze. Some are, unfortunately, consumed by it. But the ones who aren't- the ones who learn the trick of shining in the darkness- these are the ones who, as Cormac McCarthy would say, "carry the fire." And that's what I want, even need, in my writing, and by extension, in my life. I no longer want to separate the two. To do so will make the chasms that much deeper and deadly.

The fun part- the recharging, soul-affirming part that is the carnival of creativity that we all live for and love- that is the easy part. I've struggled to define what kind of writer I want to be since I pushed that first fateful button. I have to define that before I can even move on to setting realistic, worthwhile writing goals. And this blog is the first place to start. Scanning my past entries, it's always been part diary, part window to my world. It is a place of honesty, and I need that more than ever now. So I will not apologize for the honesty. I can only hope I haven't scared some of you away, or made others of you roll your eyes, because so many of you were lights in those chasms when you didn't even know it. And now that I have railed, it's time to roll up my sleeves and get back to it. As the ever industrious Kait Nolan is fond of pointing out, the way forward is paved with measurable goals. So I will think on those, in writing and in life, because for me the two are one and the same.

I am finally learning that the best writing comes from a full and interesting life.

9 comments:

  1. Welcome back, Vicki. It's funny, I think we all assume we're the only ones going through the maze. I sometimes lose days to it, too. My kids help center me, because I can always come back to them as the most important thing in my life, my most important focus. After that, I have fun with the worlds I build, and try to spend time only on the parts of this gig that I love. I know that sounds selfish, but it's my life and my happiness on the line. Onward to carrying that flame! :)

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    1. You make so many good points. I did just have a baby, and she keeps my head in the game *almost* as much as she pulls my attention away from it! But they are really great motivation. So is staying grounded in the parts we enjoy. All that multitasking has to go. It really is the writing that matters. Thanks, JR!

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  2. Welcome back, Vicki. I hate the Slough of Despond with a passion, and I am happy you are back from there.

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  3. Ugh. So get this. Sometimes, (okay, often and without rhyme or reason) my sales go into the toilet for months, and I spend days thinking, "What is the freaking POINT of this? What is the point of pouring my damned soul out on the page and wresting out stories that I think are engaging when they get buried in a sea of other books? What is the point of having a mailing list of 500+ subscribers, when only ten or thirteen of them ever buy any of my new releases? Why do I always feel like I'm swimming upstream? Why is it that no matter how successful I get, nothing sticks at all, and everything goes plummeting down the ranks to sit in the six digits and die a slow, gasping death?"

    Someday I will learn not to give in to those thoughts and to remember that the reason I like to write is only that I like to write. The end. And that the money or the not money is really not that important. Someday. :)

    Hang in there, and good to hear from you.

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  4. Welcome back to ROW80 -- and to weekly posts (I hope) about your writing journey. I didn't find it easy to say, "I'm a writer." I think the writing and marketing take intense amounts of courage. But each step we take leads to understanding, mastery of new skills, and then moments of celebration! I'm looking forward to reading the first in your Angels' series. May your week go well!

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  5. Thanks everyone for the encouragement. It's goof to know even those of us who have been hugely commercially successful (ahem VJ) still struggle sometimes. Not that I wish that on anyone, but it is good to know I'm not alone. That's kind of the worst part- feeling like you're writing into a vacuum, you know?

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