Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path: Step 1 – Unhappiness

I found this book hidden away on one of the shelves of my store.  I thought perhaps I remembered one of the staff mentioning it to me before, but it had slipped my mind.  Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path is not exactly a title that fills me with confidence, because I am wary of anything in the realm of self-help.

I say wary not because I think it’s all bogus but because, like all other forms of media, ninety percent of it is mediocre (or worse).  And when it comes to a topic as important as writing, not to mention understanding your own personal psychology, something mediocre (or worse) can be downright harmful.  These are not waters to be tread lightly.

But the fact is I’m in a rut.  Ever since I finished Getting Rid of Gary‘s first draft I haven’t had any motivation to write whatsoever, let alone edit.  I have three books I’m supposed to edit and yet I don’t even want to poke them with a stick.  Instead I’ve lost myself playing Fallout 3 (again).  And even now that I’ve started the edit of Last Dance at the Kitten Club I find myself letting myself get distracted and playing Lego Harry Potter with Gillian instead.

Then I think about Gary and the other book Trooper #4 (working title) which are both in first draft state and it’s even worse.  At least Kitten Club has some sense of revision to it – but then just redoing the prologue I felt like I was completely re-writing it.  What if the whole book is that bad?

And of course there is the book that is supposed to be published this year – Bleeding Heart Yard.  Only I haven’t heard a peep from anyone at Mundania about it.  I don’t even have an editor yet.  Sigh…

I feel at loose ends.  I feel like there is no point in editing those books because none of them are any good and no amount of editing is going to save them.   I feel like I’ve been forgotten at the publisher and am afraid to speak up about for fear of someone going “Oh, we forgot to tell you we changed our minds.  Sorry.” (That’s just paranoia, I know, but we’re talking about feelings here).

And so I started reading Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path only to find out that I’m at the very first step – Unhappiness.

On the one hand you might say, “well, DUH,” and you’d be right.  But there is something comforting about recognizing that what I’m feeling is not only normal, but experienced by most creative types.  Unhappiness isn’t about depression, it’s about feeling that void and the number of ways we try to distract ourselves from it.  The good news being that it’s often a sign that you’re just about ready to start something new.

Now the book itself is written in a nice light tone.  It’s also full of anecdotes from other writers (and quotes along the margins of most pages) which is helpful – it’s always good to realize you’re not alone in this process.

While it smacks a bit of that “self-help” vibe, the majority of what I’ve read so far is more about examining the stages, what they’re about and why you go through them.  Personally I’d stick with those and let the reader figure out the rest, but as I said the majority of it is, so if there’s a little Doctor Phil thrown in I won’t begrudge it.

I reckon this will be a book I’ll report on step by step, so expect six more updates about this book.  So far, so good.

3 thoughts on “Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path: Step 1 – Unhappiness

  1. Go take another look at Durer’s “Melancholia” 1514. Then pick up Dame Frances Yate’s “The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age” and read from about pp64 to 70.

    Or as a USAF wag in Vietnam put it

    “Yea though I walk through the Valley of Death I shall fear no evil

    ‘Cause I’m the meanest damned sonofabitch in the whole Valley”


  2. Well one of the points this chapter makes is that you have to let yourself feel the unhappiness, not to reject it, deny it, or try and force your way through like cheese through a strainer.

    In short, it’s not just a matter of knowing it happens and accepting it, but riding it through rather than trying to force yourself to create before you’re ready. No wine before it’s time, I guess.

  3. Your contract with Mundania should have in it somewhere a clause about how long they have to bring a novel to sale after contracting it. Check it out and see if they’re keeping to the rules.

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