Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Writing Wasteland

I finally got a work laptop a few months ago -- I named him Ziggy. I got it so I could make better use of the spaces between things I have to do, like waiting to pick up kids and also so I can close myself away in my only non-toileted lockable room (my bedroom), a la Virginia Wolfe.

I think it's a wonderful setup, and I keep imagining that I'm in a wonderful writing groove. The only giveaway that all may not be wonderful in Oz is Ziggy himself. Whenever I open the lid and wake Ziggy, he tells me he needs to restart to finish installing important updates.

I'm starting to think he says this just to keep me from writing.

Apparently, the reality is that I write so rarely that teams of Windows update programmers have time to come up with important fixes while I can't seem to get a complete scene written.

I suppose this post is a friendly reminder that anything can be a Ziggy... and that we must never ever get derailed, deflected or distracted from our writing dreams.

How? How do we keep going when it feels like we are making no real progress? I think perspective is key here. I read a book recently called The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson, and it describes the journey you take when you pursue a dream. It begins with a parable, a story where the main character, Ordinary, lives in a familiar place doing all the familiar things you'd expect. He begins to pursue a big dream, which takes him on a journey that has several stages, including traveling through a wasteland and fighting overwhelming giants.

There are several dreams I've had in life that feel like this kind of journey, and in several parts of my life I feel like I am conquering giants and coming through victorious.

But with writing, wow, writing really feels like a wasteland. A wasteland -- ever feel like that? A huge, vast, dry, desert wasteland. A graveyard with no end and no life. I can't seem to cross it, it goes on forever. That could be pretty depressing and I think we writers do sometimes feel depressed by the wastelands we experience on the way to the writing land of promise.

So, like I said, keeping perspective is key. I have to remind myself that every word I type counts toward my proverbial million words I need to accumulate before I am a master Jedi writer. Until then it's all Padawan training. Okay, it's late so my metaphors are all mixed.

Please, if you feel like you're in a writing wasteland, just remember that it will end if you keep pressing on, and that in so doing you are in fact becoming the person that can accomplish great writerly things. You don't have to -- you could just give up. But if you give up, some very important stories won't happen. It is BECAUSE of the writing wasteland that you'll be prepared to live the writing dream, with all its giants and challenges... and hard-won joys.

Truly, the "joy" is in the "journey".

Write on!


  1. Thanks so much for the post, Amber. Lately I've been wondering just how much wasteland I can take. A few years ago I thought I'd found a short cut that turned out to be a dead end, so I'm back to trudging through. I appreciate the reminder that it doesn't go on forever.

    Good luck with Ziggy!

  2. Those updates are exactly why I ditched Windows...

  3. Great post!

    I think I've experienced every emotion possible while on this journey, including the wasteland (the interior journey is not always apparent to those on the outside, either; nothing like being in the wasteland and having people tell you how productive you are!). Perspective is key. But I've also come to recognized (through a repeated observation of the facts; I am a scientist after all), that the biggest giants I must battle come right before the greatest treasure. So... if I'm suddenly beset upon by a monstrous attack of writer ennui or frustration or an unscalable mountain, my ears perk up. Because I know there's a treasure (something important I'm going to learn or do) on the other side.

  4. I really enjoyed your post, Amber! Yeah, it sure is a lot longer journey that I'd ever dreamed. I've spent a lot of time in the wastelands (great analogy, by the way! I'm going to have to check out that book). It seems the fable about the tortoise and the hare is accurate: slow and steady wins the race.

  5. The book is excellent, BTW and I would recommend it highly. I taught a 4-day workshop on it to a group of young women a few weeks ago and learned a ton myself. It's great for helping one anticipate the struggles that come from pursuing a Big Dream.


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