Up days, down days

“How’s it going?”

If you have any answer to this than “it depends,” I want to know your secrets.

This whole situation (you know the one I mean) has been basically this:

Can you relate? I think the only variable is the relative length of time the solid days last vs. the hell zone. Sometimes, honestly, it’s 1-to-1.

Fortunately, I’m a veteran of this crazy-making oscillation, because I make myself write for fun! Writing hell zones are frequent, but on the plus side, the “solid days” are much better than solid.

Witness:

On an up day, I might get some really amazing feedback in the inbox from a member of my writing group. She gets the book. Her feedback, combined with some other more tepid feedback, gives me some great ideas for tightening the story. I have a few new blog ideas. I look for agents on Twitter and I find lots who seem to be describing my book in what they want. I feel certain that at least a few of them will request my full manuscript, someday, and that something will, eventually, come of this. Because the fact that it’s not easy? All that means is that I’m persistent. I’m pushing through in year 5 of doing this with no pay and no official encouragement. I’m a boss. I am absolutely crushing it.

The next day is a down day. I reflect on how many people have read part of my book without finishing. Or how many have said “it’s great!” and had not much else to say. Or who have had criticism (how dare they). How, unaccountably, this blog has yet to go viral (I mean!). How I have no niche and don’t really want one but that’s holding me back if what I want is a following big enough for someone to give me a book deal. I’m wasting my time and embarrassing myself.

The problem is, both of these, the up and the down, are about external validation. That means trouble. I need to lead myself.

On more enlightened days, if I stop and think about it, the ups and downs are all within. An up day might just look like the words flowing out. Or, in this month, the word cutting flowing, because I’m trying to chop my baby down by 20% and that is hard. It might look just like having a really great idea to connect two loose ends while I’m out walking. It might just be the tug inside that makes me want to write, rather than just doing it because I oughta.

Likewise, there are purely internal down days. When nothing is coming. When I can see the gap between what I envisioned and what is actually on the page.

Or, so much worse, when I look at what I envisioned and go, ugh, why would anyone ever read that?

The point is, even if I’m doing it all for the right reasons, doing it all for my own joy rather than for external validation, there are still down days. That’s life.

Today is an up day, so I look forward to tomorrow’s inevitable self-doubt. Then Saturday will probably be decent. And, with any luck, the pandemic hell zone will stay at bay a while.

At the very least, I know that when a hell-zone day and a writing down day coincide, I can feed myself some cheese balls and take a nap. Write that down: it’s solid advice.

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