I started writing a post the other day about the angst I sense in some of my fellow writers. Then I deleted it, feeling sure that what I wanted to say would offend. But the thing is I keep reading angsty stuff – and it bothers me that people would waste so much energy in being counter-productive. There, I’ve said it.
Now I realise this anxiety is not the preserve of only writers (everyone is affected by the same sorts of emotions) but the writerly space is the one I hang out in. And what I see is anxiety which goes around getting published, not getting published, staying published, marketing oneself, finding an agent, not finding an agent, losing an agent, the state of the economy, the effect of the economy on publishing, the effect of digital publishing on the future of writers and gatekeepers. If you worry about it all, I’d guess there’s enough there for a nervous breakdown or spontaneous self-combustion!
I accept it takes all sorts to make a world. I also realise that for the most part, I’m one of those irritatingly glass half-full people. This is the result of life experiences, parents who insisted I look for the positive, my spiritual beliefs and goodness knows what else. I fully accept that life does not always appear to be fair, but I firmly believe that life is what you make of it. You can be a victim or a victor. It’s entirely up to you. No one else, just you.
I, like everyone else, have my baggage – you don’t need to know about it, you just need to know that if you have baggage, I get it – I know what it’s like, and never mind the half empty glass, I know what it’s like to be at the very bottom of the glass. But what I’ve come to understand is that while life throws curved balls and it can deal a shitty hand – it’s ultimately it’s up to the individual to decide how to play the game. You can curl up and die or you can find solutions.
I was watching Kung Fu Panda the other day, for the umpteenth time...
“There are no accidents,” said Master Oogway
“There is just news,” he said, “There is no good or bad.”
“My friend the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control,” he told Shi Fu.
And when Po was angsting over being the Dragon Warrior or quitting and going back to making noodles, Master Oogway said to him: “Quit, don't quit? Noodles, don't noodles? You are too concerned about what was and what will be. There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the "present." “.
“You just need to believe,” said Master Oogway.
I love that Turtle, really I do.
We spend so much time worrying about tomorrow, fretting about yesterday, troubling ourselves about things over which we have no control. We forget to live, to be. We chase dreams and rainbows and are in turn chased by nightmares and demons. We forget how to believe. We forget that we bring the good or the bad into our lives through our own attitudes and thoughts.
I write because I love to write. I’ve written since I could first string two sentences together. I love to craft a good story, I love to try and make that story the best I can – I enjoy the challenge, I thrive on using my intellect and exercising my creativity. I’ve realized that while it would be deeply cool to be published, and that it would bring a whole lot of new experiences and new learnings (and what is life without new learnings – it’s how we grow), I also know it won’t kill me if I’m not published. Sure, I would love my stories to go into the world – and I believe if they are meant to, they will. I accept that if my getting published is meant to be, it will be. If it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to, and while I am trying, it’s a helluva ride and I love it. As Master Oogway says, there are no accidents; in other words, everything is as it should be in this moment – even if it doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Do you know how much easier that makes life? I don’t sweat the small stuff because there’s no point. I change the things I can change, I influence that which I can. Yeah, I chuck the odd hissy fit, get down and have periodic rants –but none of it lasts long. I do it to acknowledge what I feel or let off steam but I don’t stay in that space because, honestly, I don’t like being negative. Negativity mires us and traps us in sludgy fear. Who’d want to be there? I mean, really? So I accept that there is much I cannot control, and I work within those parameters.
I work hard and I enjoy it. Sure, rejections aren’t fun, but they don’t kill me and they never will. I accept it when someone says, “It’s not right for our list” - it probably isn’t. I accept that perhaps I sent it to the wrong publisher or that the manuscript needs more work – and that gives me something concrete – I can focus on making the manuscript better, that’s in my control. I accept it if an editor says, “The market is saturated” – it means I got my timing wrong – I may have written a great story and that in itself is the victory. Being rejected may suck, but lots of things in life suck – but it doesn’t mean the end of the world. It means it’s time to move on and write something else.
In the same sort of way, I don’t believe in writer’s block, just like I don’t believe in a whole lot of other man-made concepts. Man-made concepts are seldom about the truth. I do, however, believe writing has a rhythm, just like the seasons do. If the words aren’t there today, or I don’t feel like writing, I honour and respect that – and do something else. If, however, I have a deadline to meet, I meet it – that’s about discipline, that’s something I can control because it’s about me and not some funky concept with which too many people to beat themselves up.
You see, we choose how we respond to situations – if we are angry, happy, sad or anxious – that is our choice – no one else is making us feel a particular way – we’re choosing to feel that way. We can just as easily choose to feel differently. It’s like the person who constantly complains about an ache or a pain and you say, “Go and see So-and-So, she’s a brilliant doctor.” And the other says, “Yes, sure, I will…” and they don’t. You know what that tells me? It tells me the person enjoys hanging onto their pain – they’re getting something out of it, they’re getting off on being in that space. If they weren’t, they’d do something about it, even if that means conquering a great fear.
Like I said, don’t think that I write this from a position of having lived the fairytale/dream life. I don’t. I write from this position because I know how tough life can be. But here’s the thing – your glass can be half full, or your glass can be half empty – that’s something you can control – because you choose how you want to be.
So, here’s my wish for all those, writers or others, who’re feeling anxious or gloomy – live in the moment, remember the now – today is a gift, respect and appreciate that. With just a little help from you, tomorrow will actually take care of itself – and it will be what it will be – and whatever that is, it will be the right thing for you.
Videos courtesy of YouTube, images nicked from the internet.