Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Writer Regrets

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to speak on a panel at a writer's retreat in a gorgeous lodge in Sundance. The food (three meals) was cooked on site by a professional chef and was amazing, the lodge and surrounding views were gorgeous, and I got to hang out with fellow writers and editors for a whole day...it was as incredible as it sounds.

That's me rocking the panel with Valynne Maetani,
Courtney Alameda, and Marion Jensen. 

Author Mette Harrison hosts these retreats about once a month. Contact her if you're interested and she'll give you more info. on pricing and schedule. You can't beat a private critique session with a visiting editor/agent in addition to a great day of writerly classes. (And the location!)

Our panel was about breaking into the publishing industry, and I think it was a success. Our scheduled one hour morphed into two-and-a-half as the questions kept coming, and I enjoyed every minute of it. One topic brought up was about what we regret in our experience so far in our publishing journey, and for the first time, I voiced something I've kept quiet about until then...

I wish I never started writing.



I know. Possibly the worst thing to say at a writer event, but on most days, it's true. I started writing in 2010 as a bucket list item to check off. But once that writing fire was lit, I couldn't keep it under control and it spread. If I had known what this writing life would be like, I don't know that I would have started. Because it's hard. So so hard. There are oh so many ups to balance those downs, but all that movement can make you kind of dizzy too.

I've been more emotionally unstable, anxious, stressed, depressed, impatient, and frustrated in the last few years than I've ever been before, and the insecurity I feel has only increased the longer I do this--it's like the more I learn what good writing is, the more I realize my writing needs A LOT of improvement. My house is a mess, I don't get enough sleep, my family eats a whole lot of cold cereal and pizza, and I don't have time to volunteer for so many worthy causes I wish I could. Life would be SO much easier if I wasn't a writer.

I've tried to quit. Really, I have. But writing is like a drug. I'm fine at first, but then I start to have withdrawal symptoms--anxiety, insomnia, restlessness. I can't concentrate on normal everyday things and feel depressed and cranky all time. And none of it goes away until I get that next fix: fingers on the keyboard, playing with the characters and stories in my head.


Do I regret becoming a writer? No. I don't regret it. I LOVE writing, now that it's a part of my life. A part of me. But if I had the chance to choose it again, I'm not sure I would. So if someone asks me if they should become a writer, I'll probably tell them yes...but only if you can't NOT write. And you love it. REALLY love it. Because it will kick your butt.

Do you love being a writer? Think you could quit? Any writer regrets?

I get to see this band live tonight along with Paramore and New Politics. I can't wait!

My songs know what you did in the dark...

18 comments:

Murees Dupé said...

Enjoy the concert. I gave up writing for a few years to pursue a serious career and still regret it to this day. I love writing and being a writer, but like you said, it is so hard. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as a career if they don't love writing.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I understand how you feel. This journey isn't like anything I imagined and I do think if we knew before we began we would never start. But there are things we gain that are priceless.
And for the record, I keep trying to quit. Everyone tells me not to, so I don't.

Leigh Covington said...

You are AMAZING! I'm so glad you shared this. I totally needed to hear it. Also - extremely jealous of this retreat. I will definitely be looking into it one of these days.

Jessie Humphries said...

I want to go to that retreat! Oh Ilima! You are so spot on. This writing life is so hard. I compare it to my mission--the most rewarding and valuable experience of my life...but if you asked me to go again? NO! H no!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Wow. Such a great post. And it's crazy true. I keep thinking about all the others things I used to do. I keep telling myself it's because I work full time and have to squeeze in my writing time. I hope that when I retire in a few years and have more time to write that I won't feel this way. I hope.

Cortney Pearson said...

I'm so with you on all the other quality things I could accomplish if I wasn't writing. Like family history and spending more time with my kids, brushing up on my education and reading reading reading. I've always been a writer though, even as a child I wrote books. I can't imagine doing anything else. Congrats on being on that panel. And I'm glad you're a writer, Ilima, otherwise I never would have met you!!

Cortney Pearson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. A. Bennett said...

I so understand this!!! It really drains you, but it's so important to me to keep going. I may never publish a novel, but I can never quit being a writer. It has it's ups too, just has a lot of downs as well. But you know, I wouldn't take it back. I feel like I've had this hole in my identity that wasn't filled until I became a writer. So here I am!

jaybird said...

Of course right off the bat you know I wish I could go to this concert with you!! I hope you have a killer time and enjoy yourself. It sounds like you need a little break and a good night out having fun!

Being a writer does bring out all kinds of weird insecurities in me (that I don't have in my normal life) and I am not nearly as far along in my "career" as you are. I can't seem to pull it together and get anything finished and it's killing me. It haunts me, knowing I have characters in my head whose stories need to be told, but at home, I have commitments to my church ministries, laundry that has piled up to the ceiling, kids that need to my attention 24/7 and a husband who invented the word demanding; who am I to sit down at my computer for hours at a time just to write? But that's when you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? For me, it is. It may take me forever to get something published (if ever) but it is still my dream and I won't be satisfied with myself until I achieve it.

If you can't live without the writing, no matter how hard it is, you are going to find a way to forge on and find a balance that works for you. I think getting together with other writers and airing some of your insecurities always helps. In the meanwhile- I'm glad you shared this. It is not easy to admit the truth. And on a personal note, I think you are one of the most amazing people I have ever "known"!! *Hugs*

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I know what you mean, and it's nice to know it's not just me! I love it, but it is hard, heartbreaking, work. Hopefully the ups outweigh the downs. :)

Morgan said...

Oh Ilima… I GET this. I really, really do. I wish I hadn't started either. Life was so much easier back when I didn't have this writing thing on my shoulders… I'd love to be back in that naive place--back when I was genuinely HAPPY just LIVING… now, even when I *am* happy, there's this constant voice inside of me pushing me to work harder, be better, accomplish my goals. And that voice never goes away. And I wish I could turn it off. But I get the other side too. I've tried to walk away too--and I haven't been able to. So I'm still trying to come to terms that maybe this is just my new normal and I'm going to have to get used to the good and bad. But yeah… I'm sooooooo with you… (And I'm also surprised by how many people agree… are we all just INSANE????)

Carrie Butler said...

I completely understand the sentiment behind that! Sometimes, writing makes me think of Blues Traveler. "The hooooook brings you back..."

Mark Murata said...

Asking me to stop writing is like asking me to stop reading.

T. Drecker said...

I never thought it would be this stressful. And let's not even start about the unkept household or time it consumes or guilt trips or... Yeah, it's crazy alright. But I couldn't quit. I've always written and always will. It's the trying to get published part which has been thrown in on the side.

Johanna Garth said...

I relate to this deeply! There are times when I can't bear to read something because the writing is so much better than where I am at the moment. But I can't bear to stop because it's so good. And then my writing, it's a full time job in the way no full time job could ever be. You know exactly what I mean!! :)

Kristin Smith said...

Oh wow! I felt like I was reading my own thoughts and sentiments EXACTLY! It was like an excerpt from my own life!

Thank you for putting into words how I've been feeling for the past year and a half. Only those who have experienced this "fire" can truly understand, which makes it hard to explain to my husband, friends, or family members. My poor family's bellies have definitely suffered since I took writing to a whole new level. When I'm focused on a novel, there are rarely hot meals. I often ask myself, how long can I do this before I burn out? Or before my family gets sick of it? But like you, I feel like I have to write. It keeps me sane, it keeps me happy.

I have to say, I wish I lived closer to Utah—those writing retreats at Sundance sound AMAZING!!!

Tammy Theriault said...

I see what you mean. I have my regrets. I've had heartaches along the way, and some very personal. never would have happened if I kept my love for writing under the rug. now that I'm doing it again, I can't seem to stop either. guess we shall go loca together!

Charity Bradford said...

So many of us feel this same way! You put it into words so well. I keep trying to quit. It's not what I thought it would be and my family needs me, but the same thing happens. I get anxious, frustrated, cranky and feel generally LOST when I'm not writing.

*sigh* I guess we just keep writing then, even if in the end its just for us.