WRITING IS HELL

Hell2jpgLet me repeat that. Writing is hell. Of course, sometimes it’s joyful and wonderfully enlivening and all that, but there are times when it is just plain hell. Lately I have been struggling with the historical novel that I have been working on for the last couple of years.

My frustration with this enormous task has been building. Yesterday, I was ready to give up and stop. I was in such a dark place that the whole gargantuan enterprise and my entire life seemed a crazy waste. Such global negativity was a clear signal to me that I needed to Get Present. So I called a friend who knows the Compassionate Witness Process from the Creative Explosion workshop and I enlisted her help.

As I focused on my body sensations, I felt such anger and frustration arise that I wanted to trash my room and throw my computer out the window. After satisfying that fantasy, I started feeling deeply sad. It seemed that writing this book was like digging a tunnel with a teaspoon. The image was vivid. But, worse, in this moving picture in my mind, I was not attempting to get myself out of prison, I was stupidly digging my way into a jail cell. So when I completed the book, that’s where I would land—trapped in a jail cell with my unpublished, unread book. Horrible. Why would I want to do that to myself? What was the point? No one asked me to write the damn book. I don’t have to. I could stay out in the sunshine, relax on a bench, watch the world go by, and do nothing. Why would I want to engage in such a useless, Sisyphean task? How self-punishing!

That’s where the Getting Present Process ended. Of course, the purpose of being present is to be present. Many times enlightenment happens in the Process, but sometimes, for those of us so trained in childhood to suppress feelings, we need help just to feel. I know I do.

An hour later, I met via the phone with my wonderful writing support group who encouraged me to keep working on my book. When our meeting finished, I got up to make a cup of tea. Crossing the room, I was stopped by a kind of stunning thought: “What if you are digging this tunnel, not to put yourself in jail, but to rescue and release something or someone that you deeply love to get them out of jail?”

That was a much better version of my tunnel digging. More about love than ego. Trying to get something or someone out of jail. What?  I don’t know. Maybe I’ll find out when I get there.

My despair and frustration lifted. I know that this shift in context doesn’t mean writing this book won’t continue to be like digging a tunnel with a teaspoon, but now I feel as if I have a greater purpose to deal with the difficulty of it. Now that original picture of digging my way into a prison seemed wise and right—as if some higher part of me was trying to tell me something I had misinterpreted.

This blog deals with the Being Present Principle and using the Compassionate Witness process. 

6 thoughts on “WRITING IS HELL

  1. I love this piece, especially the image of digging a tunnel with a teaspoon. Most of us remember digging to China with a teaspoon. That didn´t work out in the moment but in some way many of us got to China or to wherever we wanted to go and/or we´re still enjoying the journey there and having other adventures along the way.

  2. It’s amazing how strong these feelings can be. Nothing wrong with taking a day off to relax on a bench or whatever. Sometimes that’s needed to allow some perspective. You have done such a great job of the novel that I know you won’t abandon it. Or your writing friends will have to come after you with a teaspoon!

  3. I love how you had that intuitive thought: you are digging to release someone or something from prison. Perhaps the story that’s inside you? Thank you for this post. I think all writers can identify with feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of a project. You are so gifted, Katherine. Write on!

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