They imagine me a sitting comfortably in a chair all day long, but that’s precisely the problem.
I don’t want to die like the French novelist, Honoré de Balzac. He was plagued with health problems because he often spend over 15 hours at a time at his desk, writing and chugging coffee, for years. He died in 1850, five months after he married at the age of 51.
Sitting is bad for your heart.
I make sure to get my body moving every hour or so. I drink a lot of water, and that forces me to at least get up to use the bathroom. I stand whenever possible when I write, too. I set my laptop on a step stool on the kitchen table, or on a Rice Krispies box on the counter.
Sometimes I sit on an exercise ball instead of my chair. I also built a laptop shelf out of cardboard for my recumbent bicycle so I can pedal and write. I get some of my best ideas when I’m on the biking or walking my dog.
I have issues with carpal tunnel, but it’s manageable as long as I wear wrist splints every single time I’m at the keyboard.
It’s mostly a problem when the writing gets difficult and I decide to clean out a closet instead. Then I take the splints off and forget where I put them. I have several pairs scattered all over the house.
I’m not going to get into bifocals and my ongoing attempt to get effective computer glasses.
Those Horrible Negative Voices In My Head!
Pushing my way through a first draft is difficult because the writing seems mediocre at best. It’s not cohesive. There’s no drama, no excitement. The plot is weak.
I become plagued with self doubt. I fear I’m wasting my time, kidding myself when I say I’m a writer, flogging a dead horse. Oh, those horrible negative voices in my head!
It takes faith to believe you’ll be able to massage it into something better later. You know what saves me? The early drafts of my published novel.
They were really really bad.
I’m glad I kept them because looking back at them is reassuring. I also remind myself I can’t rewrite something if it hasn’t been written.
The Darkest Moment: When My Dreams of Publication Seemed Trivial
The second darkest moment in my writing career was when I reached that awful juncture with my then-agent: she asked if I had anything else to show her because my manuscript didn’t sell.
Editors overwhelmingly praised it, but they wanted the next bestseller, not what they call a mid-list novel.
It was a crushing disappointment. I had a few other ideas, but getting motivated to put the same amount of time and energy into something new was a struggle. The fear that it too would languish was hard to shake.
Then, the unthinkable happened—the darkest moment. My eldest child, at age 32, lost the battle to depression and took his own life in 2011.
My dreams of publication, my writing goals, everything seemed trivial. The first year after his death was the hardest, and the second year just seemed cruel.
Derek often called me in the afternoon when I was writing to talk to me about philosophy, mythology, Egyptology, Jim Morrison, travel, whatever. It was impossible to sit at the computer, knowing the phone would never ring with his call again.
So I shut my computer down. I let it all go. I had to trust that the desire to write would return when I was ready. If not, well, that was okay, too. Why push it?
My husband and I adopted an adorable one-year old corgi that needed serious retraining, so what little focus I had was funneled into working with her. She was good for me. Clementine didn’t care if I cried when we went on walks. In essence, she became my therapy dog.
What If Everything I Wrote Sucked?
There were times I wondered if I could ever write again. What if I only had so many phrases or sentences in my vocabulary that could be put on paper, and they were all used up?
Would I ever feel that familiar thrill when I discovered a new plot twist or character flaw again? What if everything I wrote sucked?
After two years, I decided it was time to find out whether I’d flounder or flourish. Remembering that my son was proud of my prior writing accomplishments convinced me it was okay to have dreams again.
My heart wasn’t in the new work, though. I didn’t want to give up on the manuscript that didn’t sell. What was holding it back? Could I fix it?
I spent a few months revising it, including changing the point of view from a first-person narrative to a first-person/second-person address. Soon that wonderful enthusiasm for writing returned.
I consulted an author/editor for feedback, and she gave me the confidence to go forward. Following her advice, I changed the beginning and picked up the pacing. I retitled the manuscript In the Context of Love, queried a handful of small presses, and, shortly after, Buddhapuss Ink offered me a contract.
When I look back, I believe the agent couldn’t sell the manuscript because it wasn’t ready.
The One Thing That’s Kept You On Your Path
I love the sense of purpose writing gives me when I push the world in a certain direction. It all comes down to the message, whatever that message may be.
As a writer, let me help you make sense of the chaos we call life through my story. Let me lead you to a safer place. Let me entertain you. Let me teach you something new. Let me turn your world upside down, and let me set it right again.
I guess this answer tells you I want to share my work. My goal is to get it published.
Writing also offers me a relatively painless way of learning about other realities by allowing me to vicariously experience things I might not otherwise. Through my writing, I can triumph over adversity, explore a world different from mine, go back in time, and challenge myself. I can fail and then get back up.
Advice for a Beginning Writer
Remember that writing is a process. Dealing with self doubt is a huge issue to writers, and all artists, really. So much of what we do is internal. We plot and plan and have moments of clarity, but we’re never sure it’s good enough.
There are times you fear you’re in over your head, and you don’t know what you’re writing about. This is when you have to trust that you’ll somehow figure it out. If you have a dream, don’t let it go. Don’t let rejections discourage you.
Don’t ever quit.
Life threw a lot of monkey wrenches at me, but I kept at it, and now I have a published novel. Writing is a process— it takes time, desire and determination.
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Linda K. Sienkiewicz, author of In the Context of Love, is a published poet and fiction writer, cynical optimist, fan of corgis, tea drinker, and wine lover from Michigan. Her poetry, short stories, and art have been published in more than fifty literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, Clackamas Literary Review, Spoon River, and Permafrost. She received a poetry chapbook award from Bottom Dog Press, and an MFA from the University of Southern Maine. Linda lives with her husband in southeast Michigan, where they spoil their grandchildren and then send them back home. In the Context of Love is her debut novel.
With her two children in tow, she leaves her felon husband and begins a journey of self-discovery that leads her back home to Ohio. It pains her to remember the promise her future once held, that time before the disappearance of her first love, and the shattering revelation that derailed her life and divided her parents.
Only when she finally learns to accept the violence of her beginning can she be open to life again, and maybe to a second chance at love.
Available at Amazon.