You’ve trekked through this desert as far as your memory can take you. You struggle to recall a time in which you weren’t there, flaming up under a scorching heat with an endless horizon of sand dunes being your only company. Your feet grow heavier with every passing day, your steps leaving a deeper imprint in the sand with each hour you spend on that desert.
You set off on this journey long ago, and if those loose fragments of memory that have yet to leave you are credible, you knew this would be a long trek from the very beginning. Yet not once did you stop to prepare. Your backpack holds nothing, when within it you could have hauled a month’s worth of perishables to feed you in your travels. Your waterskin empty after you slaked your thirst with it previously. A coating of sweat runs along your forehead. You swipe it off with your free arm.
What could have ever driven you to such folly? You had been so confident and aware of the choices you made in the past, which only serves to confound you with the absurdity of your current task. Beads of sand whip against your eyes when the wind lashes at you, your eyes teary from whenever they lodge themselves in them. How could you have ever done something so foolish? How could you have set yourself up to die?
What does it even matter anymore? You’re out in the middle of nowhere, your stomach is thrashing, your lips dry, and your legs could go numb just at any moment. You’re going to die and all you have left is to keep walking. Where you go? You don’t even have the slightest idea. You might as well have been traveling in circles for the past month! And what have you even been doing all this time? You’ve been alone!
All of this pain, this entire burden you have upon your shoulders and only your shoulders. Perhaps it would be better if you had suffered with another. Perhaps then…perhaps then…you would have been able to make it through this journey.
The moment comes where your feet give up on you. Your knees crash on the mounds of sand below them, the bare desert searing them with its embrace. You claw your hands into the sand, droplets of tears leave stains when they die on your arms. You would have never known either way. But the curiosity still gnawed at you–it still teased you with all the possibilities if you had gone with another. But even you crumble under your own weight, the last traces of golden sunlight fading away to black…
In order to spare all of you from my typical metaphor of writing being an uphill battle, I’ll introduce you all with a similar, albeit different metaphor. Writing is a Battle of Attrition.
But what do I mean by this?
In the Middle Ages, one of the primary ways in which wars were won were through events known as sieges. In a siege, an invading army would surround a castle and cut it off from whatever supplies could make their way in there. Since the defenders of a castle had such an advantage should the attackers wish to raid it, the idea was that the attackers would make the defenders starve until they handed the castle over to the enemy.
But a siege conducted by an army of 100 would not be able to take a castle manned by the same number. With all the time that the soldiers had to spend out in the field,
many would die due to outbreaks in camp or assaults from bands of enemies. As a result, should one wish to directly attack a castle they needed more than even twice the amount of warriors guarding it. The point is, that a siege did not require a small army, but rather, a massive one.
And I find that this image is apt for explaining one of the most crucial aspects of the writing process. The sheer loneliness that comes with this hobby can be unbearable to people. Sure, a goodly portion of writers take comfort in their status as eccentric freaks, but even they long for company to read their works. Writing can be so unlike anything else in our daily routines that it can feel like we step into a bubble whenever we type on our laptops. This creates two different realities, which rather than complement one another, could almost be said to be pitted against one another. And this can lead to a widening of the Creative Schism.
When we seal ourselves away
behind the walls formed by our minds, we become prey for pesky things like Writers Block, First Draft Depression, Description Overload, and Puppetmaster’s Syndrome. When we see these on our own, we’re overwhelmed by the copious amounts of negative energy being radiated by them. We shrivel up and lose confidence in our manuscripts almost immediately. Some of us even give up!
But we often love to tell ourselves lies that won’t do us any good at all. Lies that are detrimental to both ourselves and our writing. And one of these, among many, is that the path of writing needs to be a lonely one.
Perhaps if you had told me this a few decades ago, I could have believed you. With the severe lack of people around me that share in my hobby and have
actually gotten around to finishing a WIP, I’m usually discouraged in my writing. It really feels like I’m alone, trapped within my own echo chamber of ideas and concepts for my stories. But with the internet, this outlook that crops up within me on occasions is inexcusable.
At your fingertips, you have treasure trove of millions of writers that struggle in the same things that you do. People who feel as discouraged as you do, people whom have Writer’s Block in the same way that you do, and people who wish they could chuck their manuscripts into a crackling fireplace as much as you do. Not only that, but there are competitions like National Novel Writing Month, were you can all struggle together!
We love telling ourselves that our pain and screams are only hear by a vast void of nothingness, that everything we do is heard by none other. But one thing we must learn because of these things is the undeniable truth that we are simply not alone.
Your novel is a castle manned by a million knights waiting to skewer you at the ends of their blades. For months you have tried to siege it on your own, but you found that a lonely attempt was futile. Luckily for you, there’s an army of millions that willing to wait out that siege along your side. It’s just a matter of reaching out to them.
As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Mending the Schism, my friends.