Writers: Dare to Be Unhappy


Each time I sit down to write, my heart begins this obnoxious thumping, seeming to warn me that I’m about to do something risky. You would think I had an appointment for my yearly exam, the old ‘put your feet in the stirrups’ and stare at the ceiling while the doctor gropes around for something neither one of us is expecting or desiring. Fortunately she doesn’t often discover anything. But when I sit in front of the computer with pounding heart and labored breathing, discovering something is exactly what I’m afraid isn’t going to happen.

Writing should be fun–and it is to an extent. Especially when you finally finish the novel you’ve struggled with for months or, perhaps, years. At least, for a while, but then you’ve got to sweat out wondering if anyone will even notice. (Excuse me, I’ve got to get on-line and check out my sales for the umpteenth time today.) Nope. Damn!

I guess you’ve guessed that I’m not always happy when I’m writing. Ironically, I’m even more unhappy when I’m not. Oh, I may be dancing wildly with anyone who’s brave enough to share the floor with me or clapping and cheering without any modesty for my grandson as he bows after his piano concerto or even rolling raucously around on the floor with my daughter-in-law’s Shih Tzu, Nala. From all appearances I have a perfectly joyful life. However, there’s always a tiny voice in my head that keeps repeating, “You should be writing … you should be writing …you should be writing.

I  feel quite confident in my feelings. After all, the incomparable Ben Jonson said, “Who casts to write a living line, must sweat.” More simply: Writing’s work. “Let’s face it, writing is hell” (William Styron) or “It’s a nauseous process” (Rebecca West). However, I must admit that once the juices start flowing, my heart beat slows and my breath comes more easily.

Yesterday I finally sat down again to work on my third novel, Voices in the Dark. It’s the third in the trilogy, The Beryl Stone Series. Getting started wasn’t easy. From 9 a.m. to 11:30, I had to reread what I’d written, make notes, etc.–after all, it had been three weeks since I’d sat down to write. At 11:30 I escaped to the rec center to clear my head and, then, began to make headway in the afternoon. I’m happy I managed to write a bit over 1000 words in that time, but unhappy because it took me so long to begin. And there’s the fact that I can’t write again until this afternoon as my morning is jammed with the paraphernalia of life. I should be writing … I should be writing … I should be writing.

I think I’ve “simply got the instinct for being unhappy highly developed.”