Terri Windling's (I love her blog for the pictures of her awesome pup, Tilly, the beautiful countryside where she lives, and the rich well of quotations she draws from) post on creative burn-out (third in a series)
is worth a read.
This in particular resonates for me:As younger writers or artists, with energy to spare, we often pushed ourselves to produce and produce and produce, living on caffeine and nerves and adrenaline...and that's fine, even fun, at a certain age, but not sustainable over a lifetime of work. Now, as a woman deep into her middle years, I know I must find a different rhythm -- one that is cyclical, seasonal, sustainable.
This resonates both in itself, as being very true for me, and also in the connected issue it raises, which has been much on my mind of late--and, well, bothering me, which is why I write posts like this, to process, in the hope that said processing might also be of use to other folks.
That issue is the getting older part of it, and where I am--and where I'm not. The getting up there in years without having achieved a lot of writing career
success. I know so many writers younger than I, or who have been writing for much shorter period of their lives, who have significantly more career success--more productivity, more books published, more kudos. I've been writing since I was nine, which was when I decided that writing fiction, specifically fantastic (or speculative, or F/SF, whatever you want to call it) was what I wanted to do with my life. Also specifically, novels
Clearly, I'm not the most successful puppy on the block when it comes to realizing your dreams.
On the other hand, I'm still writing, despite a quite miserable childhood which left me pretty damaged, no family support, and no one egging me on for the first two thirds or so of my life. I was gonna do it anyway, goddamnit. That was the energy and adrenaline of my youth, and it kept me going and writing a long time.
I got a masters in creative writing and several years of fellowship support as a fiction writer, despite having dropped out of highschool in tenth grade (to smoke dope and travel back and forth across the country, work at Ren Faires in California, and, all the while, write).
Now, my dayjob continually tries to eat my life, I have no mate to give me a hand here and there, and I still am here, writing. Getting stories published (though sometimes I wish I'd just been writing novels all along and never drunk the koolaid about making a short story career happen before you could have one as a novelist). The occasional shiny review happens. A couple members of my family came back into my life in supportive ways; I have wonderful writer friends, all supportive.
There was that first novel, from a small but well respected press...with its dreadful, lets not give this book a chance in hell cover. Still, a lot of the people who read it had awfully nice things to say about it.
Now, seven years since that novel was published...well, I finally have an agent. Huzzah! I have my first Edit Letter from said agent and am revising the novel the agent took on, one of a couple other novels I have under my belt.
Maybe all of this self-doubt and disappointment in where I am--and where I'm not--is natural at a couple years shy of...mumble mumble, how old I will soon be. But it's hard sometimes not to feel like what I've actually become is an office drone of an editor instead of the novelist I meant to be. And I just don't seem to have quite the stubbornness, cussed determination, and belief in myself that I had with regard to writing when I was younger--for a long time, it was the thing that spurred me to the bravest acts, decisions, and leaps in my life.
Also, as much as I love the photos Terri Windling posts of where she lives, they fan a sometimes unbearable longing to live somewhere that beautiful, and have the freedom to roam it daily, to have a life built around creativity and joy and engagement, a life that daily feels worth living.
Nothing to do but keep on, find the joy where it is, simmer plans and possibilities for change on the back burner until something clearly becomes the thing to do, and write.
I'd kind of like some of my cussedness back, though.