Getting a breakaway on Lake Superior

or Why isn’t  writing fun any more?

Didja hear the one about the hockey player who got a breakaway on Lake Superior and hasn’t been heard of since?

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The informing image of my first novel and I’m still amused by it, the idea of this crazy  Canuck hockey player, full of his own resolve, his own belief, chasing his dream, oblivious of reality.

Oh, those heady days of optimism, believing we’re in control of the puck. Such fun!

But what happened to the fun? The question comes from a colleague on Facebook and forces my thought on the subject.

At the beginning, our dreams are so far ahead of us they don’t get in our way. We’re following where the writing takes us, into unknown territory, exploring and experiencing every moment. We’re full of energy and ideas. Letting it all hang out, getting it off our chest. At the end of the day we feel cleansed, purged, purified. We have a sense of wonder at the words that surface, the revelations, the epiphanies. We are experiencing the joy of creation, the feeling of freedom that is inherent in the creative process.

It’s like Dylan says, “to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands…”

Then one fatal day we emerge from our euphoric state and find we’ve lost the puck. We’re stranded in the middle of a large frozen lake with no land in sight. We’ve lost direction. We must get ourselves back to civilization and sanity. We decide to do something constructive, like write a story, which isn’t too bad an idea in itself, except that it demands a dose of reality.

We learn that there are rules and regulations. We pay attention to our grammar, dot i’s and cross t’s. In content, we remove impossibilities and allow in only what makes sense. We let our inner censor take over and remove our foolishness. One part of us must impose discipline on the other part. Our wild free self must go undercover. Some writers actually like this part best. Now they have something to get their teeth into, something to direct and control. To shape and structure . It’s hard work but it’s still fun, mostly. At this point, no one else is reading it and that  means no critics.

Then we make the mistake of getting something published. At first, we are ecstatic, but again reality bites. If we’re like most writers in Canada, not only does our book not become an overnight  best seller, it doesn’t get reviewed, it doesn’t make it onto long lists let alone short lists. Our beautiful child on whom we lavished so much time and loving effort, is ignored, even rejected, by the big cold ignorant world out there.

Or our book is successful, which has its own problems. We are required to produce another  success. Only problem is, we can’t remember how we did the last one. Or maybe we want to try something new. But we can’t. We must keep spinning straw into someone else’s definition of gold. In short, we’ve lost our freedom.

Not getting published is equally disturbing. What’s wrong with us? All our writer friends are getting books published (it seems). We do a little self-analysis and bravely face our limitations. We study/work/study/work. We learn what’s in and what is definitely not in. We sign up for workshops and courses. We get a graduate degree. Now we can write like everyone else.

At last we’re happy. No? Well, why not?

How you handle your writing career is your affair. But if it isn’t fun any more, likely it means that someone other than you is in control of your work, which means your voice, which means you. Note, sometimes that other is you (that inner censor, remember?).

What ever you decide, just for fun, treat yourself to the wonderful release of skating wildly, madly, stupidly, blindly on that borderless frozen lake heading into the unknown, thinking you’ve got a breakaway, believing you’re in the game. Be happy in your stupid optimism.

 

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