Anger and Writing

So often I read Steve’s “Writing Wednesdays” posts and think he’s writing about me.

Did you read his last article? It’s the one titled “Being Ignored.”

Steve tackled why he wrote—not for a New York Times review or a spot on a bestseller list, but for himself:

I wrote for twenty-eight years before I got a novel published. I can’t tell you how many times friends and family members, lovers, spouses implored me for my own sake to wake up and face reality.

I couldn’t.

Because my reality was not the New York Times or the bestseller list or even simply getting an agent and having a meeting with somebody. My reality was, If I stop writing I will have to kill myself.

I’m compelled.

I have no choice.

I don’t know why I was born like this, I don’t know what it means; I can’t tell you if it’s crazy or deluded or even evil.

I have to keep trying.

It wasn’t my own writing that came to mind while reading “Being Ignored,” but something that has shredded my heart for almost a decade, a thing that occurred to someone I love. I’m not going into it here, other than to say that I’ve been fighting for this loved one and in the process I have gained weight and wrinkles, lost hair and humor, and for as many rivers I’ve cried, my creative output has gone dry.

Like Steve and his writing, it would be accurate to say I can’t not do what I’m doing, because not doing it isn’t an option.

That’s the part of “Being Ignored” that resonated with me. I have to do what I’m doing.

I’m not doing it for the New York Times or Oprah or any other fame, but . . . I’m angered by the response to my efforts, similar to an artist carrying anger for the response to a book or painting or album not being what’s expected or wanted.

So much time and energy and heart are invested—and then mix in the pain of doing the work.

It’s hard not to be angry.

Enter Steve’s article “Fruits of Our Labor,” in which he mentioned Krishna’s instructions to Arjuna:

“We have a right to our labor, but not to the fruits of our labor.”

I’m angered by the shape of the fruits of my labor (and the lack of fruit, too).

Stopped me in my tracks for a long time.

Sucked every bit of creativity from my soul and passion from my heart.

And I let it.

It wasn’t responsible for the taking.

I was responsible for the giving.

The time for family? Gone.

The time for friends? Gone.

Laughter? Gone.

Happiness? Gone.

Creativity? Gone.

All because I wouldn’t let go of wanting to control the results.

That thing in my life looks like writing in someone else’s life, and painting in another someone else’s life, and starting a business, and doing whatever it is that is that someone else’s thing.

Being ignored hurts.

Being angry at being ignored will shred you to bits, to the point you aren’t creating anything worthy of being ignored anymore. Vicious cycle—and one I needed to be reminded of this week in particular.

“Being Ignored” hit on Halloween.

Halloween is one of my favorite days. It marks the anniversary of the day I discovered a new creative outlet: makeup and costuming. I love bringing to life different characters, using my kids and my husband as my canvas. I almost gave that love away this year.

So . . . Thanks, Steve.

I know you weren’t writing about me. But as far as “what it takes” goes, this is exactly what it took for me this week.

I wanted to be angry, but I needed to create.

 

 

Posted in

THE WAR OF ART

Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.

The-War-of-Art

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1

THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

noboybookcover

TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

19 Comments

  1. Mike on November 2, 2018 at 4:28 am

    That was great.

  2. Mary Doyle on November 2, 2018 at 6:14 am

    Great post Callie! Changing the tense, I’m posting this above my computer: “I want to be angry, but I need to create.” Thank you!

  3. Gwen Abitz on November 2, 2018 at 6:34 am

    THANK YOU, Callie. Having felt “ignored” and “nobody has ever listened to me” had been “my state of being” for more years then I want to admit too being in a pain/ego body. What I now KNOW, I no longer want to be “in costume” wearing the same Halloween mask year after year after year. Good timing as I woke up this morning trying to remember the words: “We have a right to our labor, but not the fruits of our labor.” Sharing what Jon Kabot-Zin said in an Omega Institute Interview about PRACTICING MINDFULLNESS: “Homo sapiens sapiens – the species that knows and knows that it knows – in the awareness of our own awareness is what it means to be human.”
    Which then reminded me what Steve wrote: “I like to believe the future already exists. It is known or can be known. Can any of this be true? But I act as if it were.”

  4. Ken Robertson on November 2, 2018 at 6:46 am

    Callie,
    Thanks so much for sharing. Due to caring for family illnesses I’ve had little time or energy for my musical pursuits. When there’s no time fo my passions, visions, and dreams, my spirit is vexed (some might say toxic) and difficult to digest. Thanks for sharing this perspective. Just what I needed.

  5. Matt on November 2, 2018 at 7:03 am

    I often feel like dung beetle rolling a big ol’ ball of dung around–and most times that ball of dung rolls back on me–but it’s my dung and no one can take it away from me!

    Self-publishing my own work has helped my confidence tremendously.

  6. Jerry Ellis on November 2, 2018 at 7:06 am

    Thank you, Callie. Good post. If the fruit is not in the labor itself, little or no fruit will come from the Tree of the World.

  7. Joe Jansen on November 2, 2018 at 7:12 am

    Every time, I think you can’t be more open or vulnerable or honest — or trusting. That you can’t go any deeper. But then you do.

  8. BarbaraNH on November 2, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Brava, Callie! Thanks!

  9. Joel D Canfield on November 2, 2018 at 7:44 am

    I lost 3 years of writing because of my anger. Once I came to the realizations you describe and gave them time to heal me a little, I exploded creatively again, some of the best stuff of my life.

  10. Andrea on November 2, 2018 at 7:59 am

    This POST has “shredded my heart”. Thank you so much, Callie. Onward with all the feels.

  11. bob therriault on November 2, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Thank you Callie,

    This is a great post and reminds me that I get many chances to learn the lessons that I need to learn. Sometimes that means that I don’t get a chance to learn the lessons that I want to learn, but the ones that I need are more important and often more difficult. Thank you for sharing your lesson about creativity and the way to recognize anger as a signal. I can’t always avoid the obstacles, but sometimes I can adjust the effect that they have on me and that gives me enough space to move on and create..

  12. Bill Evans on November 2, 2018 at 8:28 am

    My son killed himself 16 years ago at age 18. For the next decade after, writing was the only “healthy” way I could cope. And it did not make me more accepting or philosophical about it, but it did help keep me from following his example. Four finished books of poetry, and a 5th still waiting to be polished – and I would rather have not written the first of them. I ignored my best companion who is my wife, and did damage to our relationship that I may never be able to repair, for no other reason that if I didn’t write obsessively there was no point to keep living. I can only imagine how abandoned that made her feel. Steve’s original essay, “Being Ignored” keenly resonated in the sense that writing defies rational purpose. But reading your response touched even closer to home. The pain is universal, and while I would like to believe that writing is a gift, I’m not always sure that it is. This is perhaps the flip side of your essay.

  13. Beth Barany on November 2, 2018 at 8:52 am

    So glad you rediscovered your need to create, Callie!

  14. Tom Bentley on November 2, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Callie, tough and touching words. Thanks for your vulnerability, and here’s to the light shining through the cracks, and bringing warmth.

  15. Brian S Nelson on November 2, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Callie,
    This blog is way bigger than creating. Thank you so much. Thank you to those that post. Thanks to Steve for leading the way with vulnerability, and making it ok to struggle. I check in here to check my azimuth.
    bsn

  16. Marina Goritskaia on November 2, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    If anyone makes art for the sake of art, no wonder they end up angry when it is ignored.
    Any art has a purpose, like for SP it is keeping him from madness – he promotes sanity, not just ‘creativity’.

  17. JP on November 2, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    The late William Peter Blatty of Exorcist fame gave a long interview some years before his death. Few people realize, but he was the original screen writer for the Blank Panther. For nearly a decade he had his niche. Then abruptly his kind of humor became passe, old fashion. He not only lost his job, but suddenly agents didn’t return phone calls, and studios and production companies ignored him.

    But, he had an idea for a story. A story of which he had no idea if it would work. What he needed was money. Something to tide him over for a few years while he wrote a draft of his story. Out of desperation, Blatty entered a game show. In 1968 he won the game show and its $10,000 prize. He now had the money. And he wrote his story. When he finished, he found an agent and a publisher. In 1973 the first edition came out. No one was interested. The book launch was fast becoming a disaster. As luck would have it, Dick Cavett had a sudden opening. But, Blatty had to be at the studios in less than an hour. He ended up running the last mile or so to meet the show’s deadline. His interview was a smash hit. Within a week, the first edition sold out. As did subsequent editions. He wrote the screenplay, which was picked-up by a major studio. He ended up getting an Oscar.

    The Exorcist is now considered a horror classic. But in the interview, Blatty said the story was in fact a love letter to the Jesuits (who educated him), and to Georgetown (A Jesuit college) which allowed him to transcend his destitute childhood in Manhattan. It is no surprise when analyzing the Exorcist one finds the protagonist isn’t Fr Merrin, the girl who was possessed (Reagan McNeil), nor her mother. It was Father Karras, a priest who went from crippling doubt to Heroic Faith. Blatty said people just remember the projectile vomit and spinning heads. But, the real reason for writing the story was gratitude.

    Talk about a great story. Blatty never wrote another hit with that kind of impact ever again. His life still had tragedy (one of his children committed suicide). But, a few years before his death he still expressed deep gratitude.

  18. Margie on November 2, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Wow. Thanks again for a thought provoking and well expressed post. I

    t seems that both you (Callie) and Steve are amazing writers as are people who expand on your thoughts in their comments. All I can say is thank you.

    Thank you for the courage and conviction that compels you to keep writing to all of us whom you may not know – and would have no way of knowing- that we (I) look forward to every word you write. And, yes, you may never know how you touch our lives. But you keep at it. And I am grateful because you breathe hope and courage through your stories into our minds and hearts.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing your art.

  19. Regina Holt on November 3, 2018 at 10:08 am

    Heart!

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