Emotional wrestling match

Back in the day, when the world and I were young, there was only one Elvis my generation cared about and who could gain the unanimous approval of the student union bar. Elvis Costello, singer songwriter nonpareil. And Elvis once said, if memory serves, that the only true emotions he ever really felt were bitterness and jealousy.

I like to think I have a slightly broader emotional palate than that, though I do see where he was coming from – I would say that the emotional range he described was that of a very young person. I remember the days when I used to get jealous when other writers achieved success and bitter if I was rejected by an agent or publisher, or if a story I’d written failed to win a competition.

These days I waver between being pleased or indifferent when other authors taste success and as for bitterness – well, I’ve accumulated that many rejection slips over the years I could paper my house with them and make a start on your lounge – they just don’t sting any more. I’ve learned just to count the successes, and ignore the failures. And thankfully there have been some successes.

These days I’d say a big pair of emotions for me are guilt and laziness. Is laziness an emotion? Well I certainly feel lazy a lot of the time so I’m saying it is.

The way this pair work is like a tag wrestling team. The other day I was planning to go out running for example, but it was bitterly cold out and frankly I couldn’t be bothered. Yet I knew I should and had promised myself I would. So there we had guilt in the blue corner and laziness in the red corner, seconds out, round one.

In the end I went for the run. When I got back I couldn’t feel my face for a whole hour. It was still there though, I checked in the mirror.

The whole business of writing for me is balanced between guilt and laziness. I am not currently writing fiction. I promised myself a break when Song of the Sea God was published. But that was four months ago now and I should really start again. I should, but I am too lazy. Yet not writing is making me feel guilty. The guilt will slowly build – do gym work, take steroids, until it is strong enough to get in the ring for the final showdown with laziness and whup, as the Americans would say, its butt.

At that point I will get back to it – until then idleness reigns.

What’s your motivation for writing?

Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God. You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

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8 thoughts on “Emotional wrestling match

  1. Guilt and laziness sound like your two alter egos here, Chris 🙂 They also sound like the emotional state of someone who has a pretty busy (mature) life, but would also like to do something for himself. I know that feeling very well, especially when it comes to running, My problem is the cold itself. I just cannot bear it :-p My motivation for writing? I don’t know, really. Just something I do when I have time. So if I’m not marking student papers or emulating the local cat fights with my violin practice, I write 🙂 Great post as usual

  2. These are very interesting points, Chris. I don’t understand your feeling though of ‘should’ be writing. “I should really start again”, you said. That intrigues me. What lies behind that ‘should’? But only you know… I don’t think you’re at all lazy, quite the opposite. What compels us to write? Everyone has a different reason. I once met a writer who started later in life with a novel and said that she first decided to finally get down to writing her first book because it became too painful not to. I confess I don’t really understand her motivation but it seems that writing taps into some fairly complex psychopathology doesn’t it, and some deep desires? Things well beyond our grasp at times, I think we’d all agree.

    • I understand the idea of your writer friend finding it too painful not to do it. Personally I feel compelled to write – as if that’s what I’m useful for – so I suppose that’s why I feel I ‘should’ be doing it, even when I’d rather goof about on Twitter. Not that it’s made me hurry back to it at the moment though!

  3. Love this post! And the comments on it! Thinking of what motivates me to write enabled me to look at my writing – and the two plays I am trying to revise – from a different perspective. I have been letting imaginary people make me feel guilty – so I’m off to kick some characters’ butts!

    • Thanks Linda – a new perspective is a fine thing to have with your writing I think. I know what you mean about your characters too. There are one or two people in my current book who I feel I let down as they met fates they didn’t deserve. But it’s been out for six months so I don’t think the publisher would be too happy if I rewrote it now!

  4. Yes – a really interesting post. I don’t think I ever felt bitterness and jealousy when I was younger, but I did feel a desperate anxiety about it all, and was certainly driven. I went through a stage of feeling very bleak about rejection when my then present novel was with my first agent and got to the point of being almost published twice. A friend told me I’d eventually feel better about it all, and I did. I can’t really define why. Writing feels like part of life now – i just keep plodding on. I feel good when success comes, but it’s not the massive High I imagined it would be. The better days are when I feel I’ve worked well. Then there are days when I really wish I could give up. Why can’t I? Why can’t we? Might be interesting research.

    • Yes, I don’t get a huge high from success either. The peak of my personal mountain was having a novel published – I remember a friend asking me if I felt really happy once I’d done it and I had to admit that no, I didn’t really. What I felt was satisfaction, and relief.

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