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“We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have.  Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task.  The rest is the madness of art.”  Henry James

I have a confession to make.

This week I almost decided to quit writing.  Not just today, not just for the weekend, but for ever and always.  It’s been a month of obstacles and what I call ‘growth opportunities’ when I’m in a good mood.  The tension between what I want to do with my writing and what my current reality allows me to do is becoming unbearable.  Add that to my constant and ongoing battle with the belief that I really don’t write well enough to make it worth the trouble, and you have a recipe for writerly angst and yes – even the temptation to just chuck the whole thing for once and all.

Here is the fantasy:  I become a ‘normal’ human being, whatever that means.  Come home from work, have dinner, watch TV with the kids, read a book, putter.  On my days off, I stop stewing about things that get in the way of writing time  and throw myself into something like home decorating or baking, or even , God forbid, cleaning.  No more dark nights of despair, as I realize my complete inability to translate what is in my head onto the page.  No more hopelessly wishing for quiet spaces and rooms of my own in which to pursue the creative process.  No more angst about rejection letters.  Just an acceptance of life the way it is.

A lovely little fantasy, which doesn’t take into account how miserable and unhappy and downright bitchy I get during periods of non-writing.

Enter the Henry James quote – “we work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have.”  That is the mandate.  If I can’t see to the end of the story line, I can write as far as I can see.  If I can’t write what I want to write, I can do the best I can.  And if I don’t have the time, the resources, the attention that I wish I could give to this novel, I give what I have.

I’m reminded of one of the Terrible Sonnets by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

“Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.”

Or, in this case, not choose not to write.

It is Friday, still, and the Weekend Challenge still stands.  My goal for this weekend?  Carve out an hour a day and do what I can. What about everybody else?


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