Guest blogger: Billy Coffey (@BillyCoffey)
I’d heard how it sometimes happens—quick and violent, like a spasm that spares the body and strikes the soul. I never really believed it was true. Couldn’t happen, not to me. It was just another myth, on par with writer’s block and the notion that persistence without talent will eventually lead to success.
But then it did happen. Last Tuesday afternoon to be exact, though not in the way I’d heard. It wasn’t quick but it was violent, a wave that built with a sense of silent ease before crashing over me. I felt it in my body just as much as my soul:
Writing no longer brought me joy.
To admit that feels like a confession. Even a week later, I find I cannot not write those six words straight through. My pen stopped between “longer” and “brought.” My hand went to my forehead, as though I was trying to hide myself. Writing has become a pillar of my life over the years, just as much as family and faith. To have one of those pillars shake and buckle was not an easy thing to endure. Writing is what I do. In many ways, it’s who I am. To find the delight and purpose gone from it brought a sense of hollowness.
I felt I’d lost one of the most important things in my life, and at the worst possible time. I was in the middle of promoting one novel while editing the next and writing the one after that, trying to keep up with my website, trying to stay on social media and discover new contacts and seek out new opportunities—everything a writer in this modern age was supposed to do.
I’ve been coming here to Rachelle’s blog since before she became my agent. The advice she gives is solid and practical, and even now there is much she writes that is new to me. I don’t have much to offer you in the way of nuts and bolts that she hasn’t already covered. I don’t consider myself an experienced enough writer to offer any insights to the craft. I have little authorly wisdom.
But I do have something solid and practical to tell you, and it’s this:
You think your problems will be solved once you’re published. That isn’t true. You only exchange one set of trials for another, and you’re still faced with the very same obstacle as before—you’re trying to be found in a crowd of thousands of other writers out there. You’re trying to scream and wave and say I’m here and they’re all trying to do the same, and the result is an unending clatter that drowns everyone out. And you know what? It gets tiring sometimes. You begin to wonder if it is worth it, or if what you’re really doing is gazing at solid ground while mired in quicksand.
That, maybe, was what finally crested that inner wave. It all became too much.
It’s hard to feel joy while you’re sinking. Hard to keep moving forward when everything tells you you’re not.
There are few callings higher than that of a writer. We inspire through story. We remind others of truths that have defined humanity since the beginning. We provide a necessary break from the monotony of the everyday. We create worlds. The words we string together serve an invaluable function: They become a mirror the reader holds to himself. They show us not how we are so different from one another, but how we are so much the same.
Perhaps it is because that calling is so high that it is also so fraught with peril. Writing is not for the weak or timid. It requires courage to face the page every day. To send out queries that may not even be answered, to pour yourself into a story that may or may not be read, and to lay yourself bare to a world that may only reject you.
We can endure all of those things only so long as we have joy. Joy is how we can laugh as we fight the good battle and how we can dance even in the rain. Joy is what we need, just as much as platform and presence, plot and characters.
It is a tenuous thing, delicate and at times fleeting. And I’m here to tell you that losing it is not a myth. It happens. But as long as you can find that joy again, as long as you can hold it tight, hope is never lost.
Billy Coffey’s critically acclaimed novels combine rural Southern charm with a vision far beyond the ordinary. His latest is When Mockingbirds Sing, and he is also the author of Snow Day and Paper Angels.
Billy lives with his wife and two children in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Visit him at www.billycoffey.com.
See below for a video in which Billy explains the truth that gave him the idea for his latest work of fiction.
“I’d lost one of the most important things in my life.” @BillyCoffey reflects. (Click to Tweet)
Author @BillyCoffey reflects on the one thing every writer needs. (Click to Tweet)
“Writing is not for the weak or timid.” @BillyCoffey on what a writer needs. (Click to Tweet.)
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