Is Writing in your Soul?

Do you ever ask yourself if being a writer is not what you do but who you are?

You may have a day job that pays the bills and keeps your head above water, this is what you do to get by but deep down you are a writer. You know this because you write. You do it because you must. You are compelled to write. Let’s face it, writing is an addiction.

I’ve been writing since I was a boy and I’ve never asked myself why I do it. I suspect the same can be said for anyone who thrive on their passion – a musician, fire fighter, wedding cake maker, teacher, lawyer…and so on, they do it because it’s who they are.

But why?

In September 2011 I finished the latest draft of my current writing project, The Range, to let it simmer on the back burner for a while. I started work on a follow-up called The Survivors and set that aside to embark on the NaNoWriMo challenge. I cranked out 85,000 words in 30 days and my story was left unfinished.

In between those big writing projects I love the challenge of writing short pieces for Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press. Some no more than 100 words, but more often than not my short fiction runs to around 3,000 words. Other tales have spanned 20-30,000 like Ground Fall and Arcane Insane. Short fiction is a different process compared to penning a novel, the writing has to be more concise, and more often than not you have to get to the point quicker.

Even when I’m not tapping away on a keyboard I’m still writing. In my head, my dreams, while I eat, brush my teeth, watch TV…every waking moment is occupied with writing. I think about my next scene, chunk of dialogue, chapter structure, possible short story idea, what to write on my blog – the stream of thoughts about writing is never-ending. I jest at times by saying the writing happens 24/7, and my fingers are just conduits for the deep torrent kept at bay by the writing damn until it can be unleashed onto the screen.

I’ll tell you about the Hollow.

I don’t have writer’s block and doubt I ever will. But the Hollow is different. It’s hard to describe but I’ll try. I want to write. The urge is there, bubbling away under my skin. It never goes away and, as I’ve said, the writing continues without pen or keyboard. But sometimes that drive is filled by a cold hollow feeling, not in my head but physically felt.

I hate the Hollow.

It feels as if my body has ejaculated every last scrap of passion, and all that’s left is my skin etched in words and ideas. A mannequin is a good metaphor. It has skin, of a sort, plastic that’s a few millimetres thin, the rest of it is empty. The Hollow is different to writers block because it doesn’t prevent me from writing, but it makes the act seem pointless, grey, devoid of emotional connection or purpose.

The Hollow makes me question whether being a writer is in my soul at all.

My closest friend once told me that I’ll never stop writing, that even in my darkest times (Hey, even a happy smiling chap like me can still have moments of darkness) I’ll still find a way to write, regardless of emotional state of mind or spirit. I know the obvious answers to combat this feeling, take a walk, leave the keyboard alone, do something else…take a break for God’s sake!

Does a daily writing regime really work?

I know there are many who say that if you want to be a writer you must write. A plumber plumbs, and when he doesn’t plumb he isn’t working. So the same goes for a writer. Write a hundred words and ninety of them may by total shite, but at least you have ten good ones. But what if you want to write and your inner author is screaming at you but the Hollow has filled you with icy black space that has robbed you of your passion? I can write through it but I wouldn’t enjoy it. And isn’t that the point?

So maybe if I try writing in bursts, as and when the inspiration comes, would that be better? Some will argue, hell yeah, let it scream out of you when the dam finally bursts. I like that method and it works for me. I write every day, well, more days than not let’s say. But I don’t get the same buzz as I do when I open those gates and let the creative surge thunder and roar.

It’s OK to question my motivation for writing, right?

Here’s a short story! On my desk I have three draft copies of The Range, read by close friends and littered with comments, spelling mistakes, grammar oopsies, suggestions, ideas, questions, plot holes – you name it, they’ve given excellent feedback. I’m still waiting for my dad to finish his feedback because, as writer himself, I value his feedback even if I may not agree with it.

I made start on my edit just after Christmas. I wanted one of those document holder things to rest my copy on, but they’re expensive! So I fashioned one out of a box file and it works a treat. I had my own notes, bits and pieces I wanted to change, extra scenes I felt were needed and so on. I got to work on the start, shifting the story back a little way, and wrote a new opening chapter.

I was happy with how it flowed as I wrote it but I haven’t looked at it since the first draft. I ploughed on into the next chapter, checking my notes, referencing comments made on the three drafts on my document holder sat on my desk.

Half way through that chapter I stopped. Other stuff got in the way. Life stuff. That’s acceptable I guess but now those three copies sit beside my PC gathering dust. They stare at me with papery eyes, begging for attention. I told Evelyn at Filling A Hole that she must crack on with her NaNo edit, how could she leave her precious words all alone and unloved?

Ha! Talk about being a hypocrite!

I know what my problem is. I can’t muster the energy to get back into the editing process. I need uninterrupted time. And when I do lash myself to my chair I know that sooner or later someone will call, or I’ll have to leave to cook dinner or something else will drag me away. So I think, why bother starting?

I know you what you must be saying to your screen right now, dear blog reader. Hey, Dave, you’re using up that precious time to write this blog post you moron, sheesh, that’s what we call procrastination you know!

Yeah, yeah. I know. I want to do it. But the Hollow is a bitch. I laid in bed this morning planning my day. Breakfast, washing, play with the dogs, then sit down and work on my edit. By the time I turned on my PC the mood had left me. I didn’t want to start editing and not be on top form. I don’t want to miss something or make a mistake. I checked my emails, sent a few texts then realised I had changed by blog schedule for Writing Tips Wednesday to Writing Tips Thursday.

Awesome! At least I had a reason to write, okay not on my novel edit, but my fingers would be doing something. So as I sat staring at my screen I wondered what to write about. Should I do a piece on characters or plot or the nuts and bolts of writing? That didn’t fit my mood, the Hollow was eating away at my body and my shell wasn’t feeling up to the task.

And the question popped into my head.

Is writing in my soul?

I once said that if they took all the pens, pencils, paper and computers away I would write on the ground with my blood because I have to let the words out somehow. But do I? If I stopped writing would that urge dissipate? Would I fill it with something else? And would I be happy going to work, coming home, watching TV and slipping quietly into a grey, unthinking drone like those I see around me?

Is my time well spent? When I spoke to my dad the other day he said he had the new Tomb Raider game but hadn’t had time to play it, and when he thought about it he figured it would be a waste of his time as there were more important things to do. I replied by saying it depends on how you value your time. Would he feel enriched by taking a few hours out to guide Lara around a tomb or two?

Increasingly I find that time is an annoying witch that steals moments when you’re not looking. I’ve been writing this post for an hour now, and at the back of my mind I know I have washing up to do, dog poo to pick up and dinner to think about. And maybe writing this probably isn’t a very effective use of my time. I admit it has been therapeutic but is that enough?

Is there a simple answer?

I wonder if I took a break from writing, would it make me a better writer? Would I enjoy it on my return? I honestly don’t think I could take a break, and I guess that probably answers my blog post question. For those regular reader you’ll hopefully have noticed I’m a happy, smiling kind of guy, but even the most positive person is allowed to have doubts, right?

What do you think, dear blog reader?

I’d love to hear what makes you tick and why you keep on writing.

Write for you. Write with passion. Love it. Live it.

Is writing in your soul? And if so why?

Do you ever have doubts about your writing passion?

If you have any writing tips and advice and feel like sharing, pop me an email or rant in the box below!

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10 thoughts on “Is Writing in your Soul?

  1. I Have no idea if I am funny or not, or if I’m just relief for those that compare their workdays with their own…

    I like writing or typing and even telling a few yarns around the campfire while having some tucker…

    Though to be honest… I write/type and draw for myself, it’s good to see people enjoy themselves laughing at the story or laughing at me.

    I get into trouble the way I type though… Pretty much how I type here without as many paragraphs. I don’t seem to keep on track but whatever I say is on topic. Using the jargon of work and slang from the sunburnt land throws a lot of people off apparently breaking the flow of story, but adds (insert some fancy word) to it allowing people to enjoy a whole new style that they seem to never encounter… Seriously? Almost every bloody work mate seems to write their reports much the same I do… Though, a lot of us had to rewrite them, sometimes more… Comparing this to how I blog – write – type and stuff, I am constantly badgered to change sentances (although great bad spelling when I type because I don’t watch the letters form like I do writing) because the sentances are filled with words or comparisons that people need to look up or take a few moments (sometimes days) to understand…

    On the subject of editing… I hate rewriting what I wrote… It made sense when I wrote it, it still makes sense to me (and those close)… Leaving blanks, leaping gaps in time lines… It’s my story dammit, why do I need to fill the gaps, it’s from a perspective, how the hell is someone suppose to remember anything when they write it down…. So why assume that the person remembered? Why would a person want to write the boring parts… His long drawn out thought processess of recapping what he needs to do, and recapping it again, and questioning it, and deciding it needs to be revamped, and stuff…

    That’s the other thing I KNOW i do wrong… “And stuff” “Etc” “And many more” “With the other items/people/places/stuff…” and that kind of thing… 😛

    Mind you, everyones their worse critic.. I look at some of the short stories I wrote for mates (yeah I know they are amatuer and FAR from greatness…), but I look and truly wonder, “How the hell do people put up with my writing?” I like it because I can read it, but I stare wondering if I should change words like “Tucker” to “Food” or stop using work terminology like “Highwall” and actually explain that “A highwall in mining is a dug out wall without any support such as rockbolts, meshing or shotcrete. These walls stand between 10meters (30 foot) and 100 meters tall depending on areas that you are currently working in.” Than have to explain that 5 posts later just in case people didn’t join when I first started posting…

    I know not everyone has an OCD that makes them have to read every page and post on a site they joined recently… (Don’t ever get me onto webcomics – I am lucky that I am back down to 80 due to discontinuation of comics)…

    As for being overwhelmed, taking up other habits, I’ve always drawn… no matter what, then I think of stories for my drawing as I draw, later I write them down, or remember the main points when I get to finish the drawing later. As for story telling and (at this point) essentially dobbing in dumb work mates and some friends, I started in a diary… (seriously some stories REALLY REALLY shouldn’t be told – and some are humorous to be told)… from that diary I got them onto facebook, where I got into trouble by some friends who were furious I told the story publicly on the internet… So I change my identity and moved to wordpress… Where they can easily find me from my facebook likes and shares of my pages, but seem to leave me be to type… I thinks it’s because I am not singling anyone out… I post about ALL my stupid mates and colleagues…

    Dammit I wanna stay on track about stories… but essentially the ponts are the same…

    Well, I’ve had my rant… I’m happy I could beat myself up.. it’s fun some days… especially when the fingers just don’t stop and you read back and are like WTF? eh screw it this will do Hit the “post comment”

    • I have to say your reply really cheered me up! I’ve come home from a hectic day at work, wasn’t sure if turning on the computer was a good idea or if I should just slouch in front of the tv for several hours until my legs went numb. I’m glad I pushed that power button!

      I particularly liked your last line – eh, screw it this will do Hit the “post comment” button. I don’t do much editing on my blog posts, I check to see if the colour of the font is all the same, run a spell check and hit publish. But there are time when I read it through and think, what’s that bit all about? Where was I going with that again? Aww man, that’s not gonna make sense to anyone….er, is it?

      And then the exact same thing hits me. Just click publish and go have a cold one! It seems like your writing is driven or at least influences by the world around you, and you must have a seemingly endless supply of stuff to write about…hey, there’s nothing with “stuff” at all. Stuff is awesome. Stuff is just there, everyone knows what you mean when you add “stuff” on at the end. You can’t beat stuff.

      Thanks John, you’ve made me smile. My happy is very grateful!

      • No worries mate. I’m glad I can feed your Happy.

        As for the “Hollow” (Better term than my “Brain Fart” by the way), I’ve encountered many of times, being nowhere near any training except for excerpt I learnt from school and (believe it or not) tips picked up from you… “Cut the Crap!” posted by, yourself on October 19 of 2011 hit me hard.

        I thought (and sorry about the language – edited it out if ya want) “This barstard read my stories and is making bloody fun of me…”

        I got to thinking more, “Well actually the “author’s voice” is actually what I’ve conquered for myself. You can pick up anything I’ve ever written and tell I’ve wrote it. The switch between slang and Aussie colo… colloqual… *writes the words backwards* colloquialisms. The actual thought process included in my typing or writing, along with the semi-attitude of DILLIGAF mixed with actual topic interest/knowledge. Lastly the unique ability to derail the topic until I get to the original point.

        The original point: THE HOLLOW.

        My “brain farts” hit mid sentence or after saving for the night. It dead set just annoys the crap out of me. So I push, writing just utter crap story line until I hit something that tweaks my thoughts and I’m on a roll again… cutting and pasting the good bits I start again with a new direction. But sometimes, I need to step up, walk away, spend some extra time with kids, bug the wife while she tries to catch up on the shows she missed during the week, have a coffee and cigarette (I learnt that if I say smoke people think it’s drugs and not just tobacco when they are not Aussie…) or just simply “Switch off”.

        The switching off process is for me, doing other projects or procrastinating by chatting to fellow bloggers who have a great way of keeping me distracted and much like yourself, listening to music (except it doesn’t inspire me to write – just distracts me).

        PS I sing (see:yell) along in the car too, and many of times I’ve caught the car beside me rocking to the same song.

  2. Oh, that bitch of a hollow – don’t I know it well, but if I wasn’t suffering from it, I would probably be too busy at 12.40 p.m. to be reading your wonderful post on the subject. I would have been disciplined, and read it after I’d done some work.

    I’m going to post a link to it on Litopia Writing Colony in a minute, so any colonists suffering from the hollow, will feel comforted by your words.

    🙂

    • That’s very kind of you Sarah, I’m just glad someone else knows the hollow too. Well, not glad as that’s a bit like saying “hey, I’m glad your leg fell off as well!”

      One thing I didn’t mention in my post was the importance music plays in my writing. About 14 years ago I was living in a horrible high rise flat in a town I hated. It was a low time in my life and serves me well as a reminder that to enjoy the highs you have to experience the lows.

      However, despite my financial drought, and feelings of “must escape, must escape” I was comforted by the fact that I could always write. And with the writing came listening to music, depending on my mood I’d listen to pretty much anything.

      On the way home from work this evening, stuck in traffic in the town centre, a song came on the radio that reminded me of that going nowhere time, Oasis, Champagne Super Nova. It lifted my spirits. Half way through the song I glanced at a couple of school kids outside the bakers who were staring at me.

      I just smiled and kept on singing at the top of my voice!

  3. Ahh…the Hollow. Actually, you put a better name to something I’ve been dealing with than I could. I’ve been calling it writer’s block, but the Hollow is more accurate. Still haven’t figured out how to deal with it – I think it comes from creative exhaustion in part, but I think the largest part is Doubt.

    I think writing is in the soul, and like any other facet of the soul, what is watered grows. Good,bad, and ugly are all there within us – what blossoms is what is watered, whether intentionally or unintentionally. And that which is not watered will wilt, until it is watered again.

    *shrugs* them’s my two cents worth, haha

    • Doubt is a big part of it for sure. The Hollow is like an army of doubt, but it also steals enthusiasm in huge amounts. I like that though – what blossoms is what is watered – guess you have to keep watering away and prune the bad from the good.

  4. I get this often and its so frustrating. the urge to write is there, overwhelmingly so, but there is no creativity. I do better when I take a day or two off.
    I dont think we can define our own souls. we cant see our own beauty so much of the time…
    but those who care about us can see it…
    yes, its in your soul.

    • Writers are their own worst enemy. But then I guess anyone who plays to their passions has doubts as to whether their talents are worthwhile or worthy of continuously striving for improvement.

      Just gotta keep smiling & keep writing eh!

  5. You really need to finish your writing projects and at least try and get something published 🙂

    I believe whatever your passion it stays with you whether you do it or not. I was a classical guitarist. Music was my passion and then I injured my hand and could no longer play. However, I believe if I resumed playing now, I would be more musical and the passion for expressing music would be stronger born from some yearning from within. Perhaps it’s the same with writing?

    I enjoy writing, but is it a passion yet?…I don’t know

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