Keep calm and write a novel

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I am wondering if it really is possible to “keep calm and write a novel”….

On the one hand we, as writers, are supposed to be consumed with the mighty fire of the Muse and throw ourselves like flotsam into the fray of birthing this novel.

I want to find a different way.  I want to find the writerly equivalent of a water birth – soulful, soothing and spiritual.  I don’t want to be consumed and burned up by this process.  I am on a quest to find a way of writing that feels full of a calm sense of purpose.

There is this association between art and depression/ madness that I have bought into in the past.  The romance of Sylvia Plath.  The tortured genius of Van Gogh.  The bright light of Mozart.  We want to see artists and creatives as different, dangerous, somehow defective.  We buy into this idea that angst will make us better writers, bring more depth to the process.  And indeed when, a few years ago, I played with poetry I did find that my best poems came from mining deep into my psyche and opening old wounds.  I was able to access those scars and use them to power the words on the page.

But can I do this for a 90000 word novel without decimating myself at the same time?  Probably not.  And more to the point, do I want my writing to destroy my mental health and take down the joy of those around me?  Absolutely not.

So how can I do this?

By shifting my paradigm.  Great art is not only born from great pain.  The artist/ writer does not have to sacrifice themselves to their art.  This is a story that we have been fed to justify not trying to create great art in the first place.  It is the systematic degradation of genius to the realm of dangerous and ‘sick’.

My new paradigm is that my writing can be a joyful expression of all the facets of who I am as a person.  I can write about sadness because sadness is part of my emotional spectrum.  But I can equally write of joy.  All the emotions that I feel are part of my story, my voice.  I do not need to take on the cloak of mental illness in order to be a ‘good writer’.  I can see writing as part of the expression of my whole self.  Writing should not burn me out, it should fill me up.  It should not feel like an endurance test, it should feel like playing.  Yes, playing hard and giving my all to the game, but playing nonetheless.

So today, I call upon this new paradigm to guide my process.  I embrace the idea that my happiness is invested in bringing this project to fruition, but it is the process that will bring me joy, not the outcome.  All too often as writers, we attach ourselves to outcomes over which we have no control.  And then we wonder why we get disappointed when the final ‘product’ fails to perform in the marketplace??  That is madness disguised as a industrial business model.

Today, I write for myself.  I write to express my own unique interpretation of the world.  I do not write to create product, I write to create an outlet for my spirit in all its unique glory.

Why are you writing?  Is it time for you to shift your paradigm?  Leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.

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