Writing can feel like a game of totem tennis. Do people still play? I think so. You know what I’m talking about, right? When you stick a pole in the ground and a rope is attached to the top with a tennis ball on the end and you bash that around and around. I’m not sure if there are any ‘rules’ beyond those instituted as you go, but you know when it’s working – because that ball keeps moving – and you know when it fails – usually when someone cops a whack to the eye or the rope gets tangled around the pole. By then, players are often tired or frustrated and the game is abandoned.
While in my case I don’t want to extend the metaphor to that final point (although I might be tempted to quit on occasion, and some people do), I want to acknowledge the stresses – the work – that goes into the writing cycle. You finish a draft – hit! You get rejected – miss! You revise a piece and it’s so much better – hit! Then you might get a few good moments in a row. I remember that was the best part of totem tennis: when physics and coordination align and the ball hit the sweet spot of the racquet and went flying – one, two, three rotations before slowing down.
And sometimes a miss will hit you in the face and you need to sit down to recover.
I’ve been writing (and I will include blogging here) for so long now that I’ve needed to learn to remind myself that these breathers are okay. ‘The hustle’ can feel relentless and bleak. And, honestly, I think a lot of writers are feeling this way. It’s been a hard week in the Australian publishing world – for example, Island announced they have been defunded and may need to suspend operations. Island was one of my earlier publishing credits and is one of my favourite literary journals. I will be terribly sad if they stop.
So whether you’re recovering from a big miss, or you’re just taking a rest, I hope you’re being kind to yourself for it.