Thursday, April 29, 2010

When The Honeymoon Ends

There was a point in my writing where I was madly in love with it. I could write all day if I was allowed. Sometimes I did, and my fingers would bruise and cramp and rebel. Still I would write. I just couldn't get enough. I knew this was what I wanted to do forever.

Well, that phase is over, quite frankly.

It came as quite a shock, when the intensity of my passion began to wane. I felt like I'd lost something. I wondered if I'd ever get it back. I doubted my choice—was this really what I wanted to do? Am I even good at it?

Before it didn't matter if I was good or not. I loved it and that was enough. But suddenly it was...hard. I didn't love it like I used to. I questioned everything—my ideas, my style, my skill, my talent, etc. And all the questioning made it even harder. I was paralyzed. Just looking at a Word document made me ill. I had gotten in so deep and accomplished a lot, and yet at the same time I felt like I'd gotten nowhere.

It was a scary time for me. Some of my closest friends know just how bad it got. I honestly, truly considered walking away. It was the only time on this journey when it just didn't seem worth it anymore. I was tearing myself apart, and I didn't think I had any more to give.

This was March. And I'm telling you this so you know that it's not all roses after you get an agent. Not to say I'm ungrateful or unaware of how amazing having an agent is—because it's truly a wonderful thing I'm still trying to believe is real—I'm just saying this doubt and fear can hit any writer at any time.

Sometimes our own inner struggles are the hardest to defeat.

I tried to hide it, but I think it was probably obvious to anyone who knew me even just a little. Part of me was broken, and I didn't know how to fix it. I was beyond burned out, overwhelmed, and just plain done.

I felt like a failure for not being emotionally strong enough to handle things. I knew I was overreacting, and yet I couldn't seem to stop myself from thinking it was the end of my little world.

So I walked away from my writing. I closed down Word, put away all my notebooks, and told myself I wasn't going to do this if it turned me into this awful ball of mess I was.

I played Warcraft. I planted flowers and herbs and a beautiful Japanese Maple. I cooked. And cleaned a little. I talked with friends. I exercised. I did some soul searching.

I didn't read. Or write. Or take notes. I didn't even critique others' work because I couldn't bring the icky stuff inside me to their words. The only thing I did was think about writing, and even that I tried to do as little as possible.

During all this doing and not doing, I realized something. My love for writing hadn't disappeared—it had changed. I have changed.

It's not passion and obsession and fire anymore, but it's still there, like a dear old friend I can't imagine my life without. I knew deep down I still wanted to write; I just had to believe in my love for it. Even if that love has become quieter outwardly, it's grown deeper and stronger inwardly. I don't have to prove it with crazy writing mania anymore. I know it.

I remember once hearing a story about Mother Teresa, how she was overcome with inspiration that told her to serve. It was so intense and strong that she gave up everything to serve others.

Then she never felt that intense inspiration again. Yet she continued her mission. She never stopped serving.

Sometimes I wonder how I would have reacted in her shoes. I wonder if I would have been angry that God never visited me again. Or maybe I would have questioned that one moment of inspiration, convinced myself it wasn't real. All I know is that I wouldn't have been that strong, that's for sure.

But that story always helps me remember that you don't have to feel passionate every moment to keep going forward. A good thing never stops being good.

So I'm still here, and I'm not going anywhere no matter how hard my relationship with writing gets. We've grown too much together to stop now.


  1. That was very powerful, Natalie. I cried a little, maybe because I understand where you're coming from...

    Thanks for posting this--it's one of the many reasons I love your blog because you are so real and down to earth. You don't know how many people you're going to help by sharing this. So, thanks :)

    And I am glad that you didn't give up!

  2. I'm at a loss for words. I don't know whether to say I'm sorry you had to go through that or I'm glad you made it to the other side, because it's both. But mostly I'm happy you shared this and that you figured it all out.

    Also, I'm not kidding when I say you're made of awesome. :)

  3. I feel your pain. We all go through it at all stages...

  4. I'm going through this right now. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this post, knowing you've gone through this and come out still committed to writing. Thank you.

  5. Wow, Natalie. Just wow. As if your words weren't enough on their own -- which, actually, they really wee -- that Mother Theresa anecdote really hits the point home.

    While reading this, I kept nodding, because I've felt what you've felt (and maybe even now feel it a little, as I am sick, and daunted by some revisions I have to tackle). But at some point, I stopped nodding and started... just reading, in awe. I don't know how to explain that transition, really. I guess it wasn't about feeling sympathy anymore. It was about feeling inspired.

    Thanks, girl. And keep at it. Don't you know how much you rev the rest of us up? Well, take a little bit of that spark and light yourself on fire. Because you've got what it takes, trust me.

  6. Natalie, you are definitely not alone. I think we all struggle with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy at one time or another. And we all occasionally turn into frightening, obsessive people who are difficult to live with.

    My husband is often (unfortunately) reminding me, "Your hobby is for you, Krista, not you for your hobby. You be the boss." Easier said than done, I know. But I'm grateful he keeps reminding me - and that he hasn't given up on me. And I'm glad you're not giving up on you, because, frankly, we might not let you:)

    Ninja on, Natalie. Ninja on.

  7. Wow Natalie, that was deeply honest, thanks so much for sharing.

    I don't have nearly as much experience as you but I imagine it's a bit like a relationship, falling in love is wonderful, but staying together is damn hard work.

    Okay, I'm totally biting Krista's very cute sentiment here but I've always loved saying this:

    Wasabi my Ninja?

  8. Wow, this is a great post. Thanks for sharing this story. The story about Mother Theresa really made me stop and think. To always continue to serve... I am going to remember that. Thanks.

  9. Hugs. I'm sure sorry you went through this. I hope I never have to deal with this sort of thing. I don't know that I'd be strong enough to push through it. Hope the future goes better.

  10. Natalie, that was such an honest and inspiring post. Thanks for being so vulnerable, and for offering this perspective. When so many people are watching you and looking to you for advice - just yesterday, you posted about your blog/Twitter following, for example - it's got to be hard to allow yourself to feel (let alone express) the hard things, the doubts. Having/showing weakness doesn't make you less respectable, it makes you more relatable. I'm glad to hear you came out stronger on the other end of doubt.

    - Kayla Olson

    PS: I checked out your rununculus photo on Twitter - so pretty! It makes me want to grow flowers. Mine are all green plants and succulents. :)

  11. I'm in the middle of my own March, and I needed to read this today! Thanks. I appreciate it.

  12. I can really relate to this one, believe me. I used to think getting an agent was all gravy, but now I know better (although it is pretty cool and you've got an awesome one who, I'm guessing, is going to stick by you). I HAVE given up on writing. I have SERIOUSLY QUIT like a MILLION TIMES. But I can't stay away. What I have sort let go of is trying to get published, at least for now, because I just want to work on the writing. That's it. That's all. And I've switched gears into new genres, flash fiction, screenplays, and it's fun again. I have so been there. You're so awesome for sharing this. What I like about your blog, Natalie, is that you share the highs and lows. We love the highs! And, at least for me, I can certainly relate to the lows. You don't just brag about your progress or writing or life. You are down to earth and awesome. And seriously, I've been waiting for Book Deal post because I just know it's coming. You deserve it!

    Remember, HAPPY writing! =)

  13. You are absolutely right that writing isn't just something we do it's something we have a relationship with. As you are aware I've been struggling with all these issues myself - constantly wondering if I should focus my life elsewhere. I too have found myself turned off by even the thought of the written word … and yet here I am … back at it again, because, like breathing, for every inhalation that fills us with life enhancing oxygen there is the exhalation to rid ourselves of the toxins which makes you have to breathe in again. And like breathing it's essential.

    If you ever find yourself blocked again there's a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron that I heartily recommend.

  14. Oh. My. God. I needed this SO much right now. Thank you for posting this!

  15. Ok, now it just sounds like a This was great and I think it was perfect to step back for a while and take a vacation from it. I don't think love should ever end, just change shape now and then.

  16. I really needed to read this right now.

  17. Thank you for such an honest & moving post. That takes guts to share things like that. I'm so glad you did; it's so comforting to know other people understand the highs AND the lows of this journey. I'm so glad you didn't give up (as I'm sure you are too) and for sharing this very experience and the wisdom you learned. :-)

  18. That should gave said difficult experience. Thanks again!

  19. I love the power of this post Natalie - maybe because I have been right where you are...recently! It happens to intense people, regardless of your vocation.

    For me, I didn;t have to completely walk away to find myself and my love for writing again...I simply had to remember why I write in the first place!

    Thanks for sharing this part of your journey. I'm glad you have decided to stay with it.

  20. That was a beautiful and honest post, Natalie. I lurk around your blog quite often because I love your voice, your humor, and the advice you share on writing.

    Even when the intense passionate relationship disappears, a comforting and strong friendship can remain. And with that friendship can be a love that will stay for life.

  21. Thanks for your honesty, Natalie. I've been going through something quite similar, although I'm not as far along in my writing journey are you are.

    While I certainly feel your pain, I'm also heartened that others go through it, too. It's always nice to know we're not alone, you know?

  22. The thing that keeps me going is knowing that I can always go back to my previous career. So whenever I get stuck, I just think, "well I could go back to software" and suddenly the pen moves of it's own accord since the thought of going back horrifies me.

    But in your case, I think I may see the issue. Just like any relationship, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Make sure you're not working on only one project. Break things up. Start a new novel. Write some flash fictions. Go to a conference. Go for a walk. My wife just went for a trip to see her mom without us...everyone needs a break, even marriages!
    Good luck! You can get back into it.

  23. Thanks for speaking from the heart to hundreds of us who don't know you personally.

  24. This was a great post. I really needed to read something like this. Your clarity will help me when I'm battling with my writing issues. Thanks.

  25. It's not all roses for the pubbed author, either, but writing is a part of us, and to deny that, even if it's a painful part, is like an amputation.

    Someone once told me that the absolute best way to ruin a hobby was to turn it into your way to make a living.

    I agree that it changes things. When you have people who are depending on you for part of their living, complete and total strangers and not The Husband or The Kiddo, well, it sort of freaks you out. You DO question everything.

    Glad you got through it. I've BTDT, and it's no fun.

  26. I'm so glad you posted this. It's what every writer needs to know. Writing feelings go up and down. Sometimes you'll love it and sometimes you won't.

    The Mother Teresa thing, way cool. I had never heard that before. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Great, great post, Natalie. I wish I had some sage advice for you, but I don't. Yet I feel that becuase of this, you will emerge on the other side a better writer and, more importantly, a better person.

    To Cynthia Reese:

    Your statement about making your hobby your profession is very true. Besides writing, sports has always been my other big passion. I eventually became a sports writer for a newspaper. After the novelty of it wore off, it became just a job ... one that I often enjoyed, but not always. Perhaps what we're all talking about here is the transition from being an amateur to becoming a professional.

    Not sure.

  28. I'm glad to hear that you pulled through all that bad stuff.

    I think it's an important thing to discuss, especially because we all go through it. My thoughts about my writing tip from one extreme to the next in a matter of hours.
    Writing can be such a lonely, soul-crushing pursuit, so while it's great to talk about the highs, the lows need to be addressed too.

    Thanks for your honesty.

  29. Thanks for sharing. I thought I was the only one having nervous breakdowns because of writing. I think my husband is getting tired of saying 'everything will work out, just keep going', because every time he says it, it becomes a little more agressive =). It's nice to have someone who supports you, but even more nice when you know you aren't the only one going through it.

  30. This was a great post. Today has been a sour day for me, so it was much needed. You brought up some great points, and the story with Mother Teresa is one I won't forget.

    Thanks for sharing.

  31. Thanks, Natalie. I'm not Wee James in a fortune teller's booth, but your moment will come. You work too hard for it not to. And I've seen your writing here on your blog improve over the year or so I've been reading. It'll come.

    And then your 500+ blog followers will rush out to buy your book and recommend it and buy it again for presents . . . :)

  32. Whoa. I am so glad you posted this because that's exactly how I feel right now! I've been working on my first (and only) book for awhile - longer than I care to admit, in fact. And it's so true - once that passion starts to wane, and the 'Am-I-Crazies' and the 'What-if-I'm-Not-Good-Enoughs' set in, it can be pretty rough to keep going. But that certainly doesn't mean that I want to give up. And I'm really glad to know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I was uber-impressed with your presentation at the writer's conference on Saturday and you can bet I'll be a regular visitor here :)

  33. Thank you!

    Current schools of positive thinking would lead us to believe that we should be happy ALL the time. But is there really happiness without pain?

  34. A very important article. Our chosen love can be so isolating. Loved ones don't get it, I know I feel compelled to hide it from friends & co-workers. It's so nice to see someone else having those days, especially someone who is as far in as you. Makes it easier. Thank you so much for sharing

  35. "I'm not going anywhere no matter how hard my relationship with writing gets. We've grown too much together to stop now."

    I think those two lines said it all. For the most part I think a lot of people glamorize the writing process, they don't often see the hard work behind the pages. I do and I'm delighted to see your still sticking it out.

    There is a quote by Anne Morrow that I love, "I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living." I keep it on my sidebar to remember . (Hugs)Indigo

  36. Every time I sit down to write, I think of wanting to make it fun, just like it always was when it didn't really matter and was just a fun thing to do.

    Sadly, it can't always be like that, and I appreciate how the inner battle — between conflicting POVs about your stance to it all — can be infinitely more heartbreaking than dismal word counts, unforgiving edits, or anything to do with the words. As you say, your ickyness can then become infectious, and spread to other people and things.

    I suppose you have to slay your 'inner dream writer' along with all those babies.

    As for the feeling passionate 100% of the time, I'm reminded that although the secret of live theatre is to feel every moment, right down to the last fibre of your being, if you're going to survive seven shows a week, month after month after month, mortality dictates that there has to be at least some small smattering of pretending.

  37. Perhaps what we're all talking about here is the transition from being an amateur to becoming a professional.

    I'm coming into this conversation late, and toward the end of the comments, see that someone else has made the point that I want to make.

    As a writer who has gone through many of the same steps as you and who is a little further down the road (first book sold, about to be published, working on second), I can tell you that I've experienced a lot of these emotions. And I'm pretty sure it's a process that many writers go through as they make the transition from writing being a hobby or a passion to writing actually being a job.

    All of a sudden, it's not just about you any more. It's about your agent. It's about editors. It's about being judged in a totally different way, about having obligations and deadlines, about others having expectations of you and your work. You feel -- or I did, anyway -- that you have other people out there who are depending on you, and you don't want to let them down.

    It can get pretty heavy (just wait till you hit Second Book Angst).

    The upside though? I don't know if I'm really going to be able to explain this, but after you go through all of this angst and stress, you come out the other side with a sense of yourself as a professional. And professionals are people who are good at their jobs. And that simple truth feels really good, in its own way.

  38. I commend your inner-strength and the courage to post this for other aspiring writers to learn from.

    Thank you!

  39. I lurve you for this post, Natalie!
    Excellent and validating. Thank you!

  40. I am so thankful you wrote this (and I found the link from Elana's blog). I haven't written since November, and have barely been able to read, so I completely understand this. I'm so glad I'm not the only one that's felt this way. Thank you for posting this.

  41. What a powerful post. I wish you the best and I'm sure you will do great. I think we need a break sometimes just to breathe and re-evaluate our lives.
    You are very inspirational and I wish you the best.
    Good things will come to you.

  42. I'm still in the honeymoon period for my writing, but I see this coming as well. Thanks for posting!I'm sure you're going to do just fine with your writing. I have no doubt about it.

  43. Thank you for sharing this. It is so personal and honest - and validating. I think passion for your craft needs to wane and change, and that is a really scary thing - because what if that rift remains?

  44. Oh, I've been there. LOVE how you put it--the CHANGE is the key. The love isn't gone. It's just different. I think back to how I viewed my writing a decade ago compared to today--not even almost the same animal.

    And like you said, a step (even a big one) toward success doesn't make for happily ever after.

  45. Thanks for speaking your truth, Natalie, and validating me in every moment I've felt the exact same way. Writing is so emotional, and not always in a good way. It's you against you, sometimes. Those are the hardest moments, the ones that challenge us the most. I needed to read this today. Thank you, thank you!

  46. That was cool. As if you got into my head, and then spoke my mind.


  47. Thanks for sharing that. Glad you're feeling better. I have to take breaks every once in a while, and I always wonder if I'm going to be able to come back to it.

  48. Thank you so much for posting this! I went through the same thing a couple months ago, and then again a few weeks ago. Writing is hard- even though it's wonderful and freeing, it's also the most difficult thing I have ever attempted at times.

    I think you worded it beautifully though. We just have to remember the highs and ride out the lows. I firmly believe that anyone who wants it and works at it will be published someday!!

    I also think that it's wonderful for you to point out that even after getting an agent people still have these thoughts. This was a really helpful post! Thank you!

    I'm glad that you and writing are speaking again :) Your posts are always really good so I can only imagine how made of awesome your MS's are! Keep fighting the good fight!

  49. Natalie, it's been a while since I've visited. Elana sent me over today. I've gone through similar emotions. It is rather shocking when it happens, when love walks away and a new, more real friend enters in. I am hoping the more real friend will endure, even if the sparks are not as brilliant this time around. :) I've also found that sometimes finding Plan B avenues helps. Sometimes we just get stuck trying to Plan A, when Plan B is every bit as beautiful. It might still involve writing but maybe not exactly what we'd initially envisioned. All best to you in this winding journey we share.

  50. Great post, Natalie. Thanks for sharing. I too came here from Elana's blog, and now I'm going to put you in my Google Reader.

    I know what you mean. I go through that too from time to time, but not so much that I don't want to write, but that I'm not good enough. Writing is hard. It is personal. And it is, at times, draining. But it's wonderful.

    I can honestly say that I can't live without it. If I never get another word published, I could never stop writing stories -- and I'm talking fictional, get all your emotions and creativity on the page kind of writing, because I'm a journalist by trade, and that's not the same.

    When I don't write, I can feel the difference in every other aspect of my day. I'm less patient, more aggravated. But when I spend time with my characters every morning, life is sweeter.

    That doesn't take away the doubts, though, which are hard. I try to just push them away and get lost in my next story, not worrying about agents or publication or anything. Just me and my characters.

    Thanks again for sharing, and I'm glad you found your friend again.

  51. Glad you got through it. Writing is tough and inspirtaion is sometimes nowhere to be found. When it happens to me, I will take a break, read a novel or two, and listen to lots of rock music. Some days I feel like if I ran fast enough, I could fly off the ground, and other times I feel like my neck can barely support the weight my head. All things pass and someone is always worse off than you are.

  52. Your honest expression of your writer's journey speaks to so many people. It's weird, I just posted on this, too. I wrote an article for a local women's magazine on the Devil voices that keep us from working towards our dream. Thanks for sharing your story.

  53. Thank you so much for sharing that, Natalie. You are obviously s true writer at heart to go through something like that, come out the other side, and be able to write about it.

  54. Powerful, honest, beautiful. Glad you emerged from the other side still a writer. =)

  55. Thank you, thank you. What an inspirational post, Natalie. What you said at the end gave me tingles.

    Glad you reached the other side!

  56. Powerful and full of encouragement.