I want to reflect a little on the roller coaster ride we know and love. Yes, I’m talking about you, writing. Writing is a roller coaster!
I write a lot. In 2020 on the blog (I’m writing this post about three quarters of the way through 2020… maybe more like five sixths), I’ve written over 400,000 words. That’s the equivalent of four-100,000 word novels, or eight-50,000 word novels. And I’ve written all that on top of… let’s say three novel drafts, which amount to about 200,000 words between the three.
I don’t say all this to brag, just to put it out there that I write a lot, and am thus subject to the roller coaster ride of writing at all given points of time in a year. I’m also subject to a lot of mood fluctuations — for example, between September and November of 2020 I had lower average mood levels — but I write through all of this.
My mood affects my writing. And… my writing might affect my mood?
How can we untangle these factors?
In September, after I announced my hiatus from Voyage of the Mind, I started working on a crazy work-in-progress titled O Beautiful. The title comes from the song “America the Beautiful,” and the story is essentially about the apocalyptic collapse of the United States. Gee, real bright. It’s actually one of the most depressing pieces of work I’ve ever written. It’s also an epic novel, and I only got about a third of the way through — to around 50,000 words — before calling the draft quits for the moment.
I think I wrote about the apocalypse because the apocalypse was sort of happening. In my mind, at least. I’d given up hope for the moment, for a variety of reasons. I’m glad that I’m back in a better frame of mind now. At the end of the day, though writing O Beautiful depressed me, it also helped cure me. It helped me work through and process my thoughts and feelings on the time at hand. It allowed me to dig my escape tunnel. With a tunnel, you’ve got to dig down before you can dig out.
I won’t be returning to O Beautiful anytime soon, but it was just the most recent iteration of a project I’ve been working on for a long time, a project you can read about in my post “The Evolution of Writing Projects.” And now, I’m working on another iteration, drawn in some ways directly from my work in O Beautiful.
Writing is a roller coaster. It takes you one way, then another, up and down. There are the highs of finishing a piece of work and the lows of realizing you have to revise or work on another, the lows of having to set something aside and the highs of starting something new. In my mind, it’s no wonder why people have drawn links between writing (and other forms of art) and mental illnesses like bipolar disorder. I don’t know the true nature of the relationships between art and mental illness, but I’m pretty sure some relationship exists.
In my younger years, I “managed” the emotional highs and lows of writing by simply moving onto a new project as soon as I finished my work-in-progress. Unfortunately, this meant that I never dealt with the tumultuous period of rewriting and revision that must inevitably follow any writing project to make it truly successful. Now that I do rewrite and revise, there are lots of other additional factors. The boredom factor, for instance, or the impetus to change a story even when you know you’ve already got it pinned down into a pretty good form. All of which I have to work against.
Anyway, back to my work-in-progress. It’s under the tentative title Devil’s Advocate, which I highly doubt will remain the title throughout, and it centers around the life of one of the characters in O Beautiful, but through a literary fiction lens. And I’m pretty sure it’s a story I’ve always wanted to tell. I can’t wait for the day I can share it with you. Just don’t expect it anytime soon!
Meanwhile, I have a lot of projects on the back-burner, namely adultified versions of Blue and White and The Many (now titled City of Gold). Yeah, my writing life is messy. But what can I say? Writing is a roller coaster!
Thanks for reading!
You can check out my completed work on Amazon — a short story and poetry collection under the title Metamorphosis, for $0.99. That’s an affiliate link, so if you choose to buy through it, I’ll earn a small commission.
In the meantime, drop me a line in the comments about your writing life. Namely… are you working on anything good? Has a work-in-progress healed you? What do you think about the connection between art and mental illness? All hot air, or is there something there? (I almost never mean to rhyme when I’m writing prose.) Talk to me about anything!