I sit in front of my laptop, or my desktop, or on a throwback day, with pen in hand and spiral pad underneath. I try to write. Some days I am successful. Many days I am not.
There are two books that I want to work on, am working on, will work on. One should be easy. It’s already mapped out in my head and outlined on paper. The other is more challenging, but I know I want it to be good.
My life is not where I want it to be by a long shot. I have not reached the level of success or notoriety that I had hoped to have by the age of 35. I look back on what I have accomplished and I see four novels and a book of poetry. I understand. I possess the knowledge that I have done more than what many writers have done in entire careers. I understand that five books is a good thing.
But having the knowledge is not the same as feeling successful. I write and I publish and the people say it’s good and they immediately want another, not understanding that I have put years of my life into a work that they finished in a weekend, in a day, sometimes even just one long night. I give everything and more is desired right away.
With every new book comes the dread of following it up with another good book. I don’t know that I can. I never think that I can.
I feel, sometimes, that it’s all for nothing. I am a success, but I don’t feel successful.
They want more books, but they don’t know what I have to go through to get there.
It is dark where I am. My eyes are wide open but I can’t see a thing. I know I have to go to Tartarus alone and claim what belongs to me.
I take the first step and the panic already creeps over me, but I continue in spite of the sweat that has drenched me almost immediately. I am afraid that I will swallow my tongue, that I will stop breathing, that I will die on the spot. But I don’t, in spite of a racing heart and spinning head.
I descend further and further into the abyss for days, months, years, searching for my prize. I know it is here. It is always here. My greatest creativity has always been housed in my greatest pain. I cannot leave until I retrieve it.
I finally hit the basement level of my descent and all around me are the demons I have been avoiding. I have to acknowledge them in order to pass. They demand it.
My own doubts. My own fears. They screech beside me begging for attention. I ignore them and go deeper.
The mentor who betrayed me time and again. The father who doesn’t love me. Fathers and father figures alike grabbing at my shoulders to hold me back. I break free. I break through.
I see authoritarians there. You supervised me into submission. You bossed me into victimhood. You signed my checks but you couldn’t sign my life. I vanquish you, too. I go deeper.
I see the men. I see the ones who loved me wrong. I see the ones I loved. I see the ones who inspired poems:
i was born in diana’s tide with a caul over my third eye
And I see the ones who are the reason that I haven’t written more than two poems in the past decade. I pretend as though I feel more comfortable with fiction but the truth is I feel too broken to write poetry.
And even the ones I still love are there, compassing me about. I break free.
I see me. I see body image. I see someone who doesn’t feel worth it. I see an utter lack of hope, a vision of a future that is not there, in which I have not been remembered. I am dust.
And there, just beyond the nihilism, just one more step beyond the limits of my odyssey, it is there:
The next novel.
That is what it is like to write. Every single novel.
I cannot write until things are right. Every time I sit down to work on something, practically everything, even this blog post, I feel like I am going back to Hell to confront all of my demons all at once. I feel short of breath and I give up to work on other things that make me happy and give me some meaning.
I know that being a writer is my destiny and my gift to the world, but I can’t always do it. This, in spite of the many people who ask me when the next book will be out. If I could make a living on my writing, I would write three a year. But I cannot live in the abyss in order to do that.
This is not writer’s block. This is depression.
I will beat it someday.