Charlotte Rains Dixon  

The Writer’s Paradox

Scenario #One:  Life is going well.  Really well.  Your relationships are all in great shape, you're healthy, you eat right and exercise regularly.  Your like your job, you have a great place to live, you love your pets, the sun is shining.  However, your writing sucks.  Nothing that you write works.  You can't get your latest project off the ground to save your life. You wake feeling that something is wrong and you go to bed distracted and irritated.  And so, plain and simple, you are miserable. 

Scenario #Two:  Life is hell.  Your marriage is on life support, your kids are screw-ups, you're overweight and you consider taking the elevator up four floors to your tiny apartment exercise.  You've just endured the worst winter on record and your job is about to become the latest victim of the recession.  However, your writing is going great!  You wake up energized, ready to get to work, and the words flow easily.  And because of this, you are happy as can be.

If I'm writing, all is right with the world.  And it doesn't matter what else is happening in my life, I'm still happy.  Writing well gives me energy and clarity and makes me feel I can deal with anything.  But if I'm not writing well, everything feels sludgy and gray.

Isn't this an odd paradox?

The only other thing I can liken it to is kids and their mothers.  Years ago, I read an article in which Nora Ephron discussed child rearing.  She said that if you gave kids a choice of having their mother, blissfully happy, but far away, or mom, desperately unhappy, but available in the other room, they'll take the latter option any day. Which, in my experience, is true.  Kids don't want their moms happy, they just want their moms, period.

I'm not even sure exactly how that relates to the writer's paradox but I feel it deep in my bones that it does.  I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that writing is so ingrained in me that it dictates the sheer essence of my being, moreso than anything else in my life.  Like a child depending on his mother, I rely on my writing to get me through.

Is this true for you? Or am I just a total whack job?  Please tell me it is true for you, too.

**Photo by clspeace, found via Flickr on Everystockphoto and used under Creative Commons 2.5 license.

0 thoughts on “The Writer’s Paradox

  1. Julie Jordan Scott

    Hmmm. I rely on my writing to get me to understanding AND I have learned to engage in snippet writing when I am living sooooo in-the-moment I don’t have the energetic space to write-write… I am still writing.

    An example – last week I was in Tucson, sight seeing, and having an exhilarating time. Many of the photos of me include my notebook, jotting. Not quality writing – but jotting in small chunks some of which are pretty good and definitely useful, juicy and ready to be integrated with writing now that I am back to my usual writing vibe.

    And now that I am home, my kids are in heaven. I have spent time with them “sitting on the couch, cuddling” a lot since I got home, too – because I get this “Kids just want Mom” thing.

    I think when we step into the center of the paradox is when both sides work, and work well.

    I love, love, love paradoxes… and am willing to glide along and within… as I see you are. YAY! the writing life!

  2. janet

    You’re not a total whack job, but I thought you were going here with that analogy — that one’s book or novel is much like a child (and a dog, really). It doesn’t care that you’re happy or sick or sad or angry or thin. It still needs to be fed and cared for. So, show up and write. Do it, and I bet you get happy. You nurture it, and it will nurture you back, which is kinda cool.

  3. Charlotte Dixon

    Julie, I guess I need to just accept the paradox. And I wholeheartedly agree–Yay, the writing life is the best one possible.

    Janet, you are awesome, you just wrapped up the entire thing in the pretty package that eluded me. Thank you!

  4. Jessica

    I’m exactly the same. Either I have a clean and organized life, or I am writing and happy. Very rarely do the two hemispheres meet.

  5. Patty - Why Not Start Now?

    Can the two hemispheres ever meet? I’m a relative newcomer to writing, but I wondered if you were looking into parts of my life as I read this. I’m working to get certain non-writing areas of my life through a time of transition, and sometimes I think, well, maybe I should stop writing for awhile, maybe it’s taking too much time from other important things. And the answer comes screaming back to me: NOOOO! Thanks for helping me understand why.

    p.s. I love paradox too. I’m working on a piece about the paradoxes in the creative personality right now.

  6. Derek

    Charlotte, what I have noticed is that if I am going through a stressful time, I seem to stop procrastinating with my writing and it flows so much easier and I find so much more to write about. If all in the world is great with me, it’s as if I don’t have to write. For years now, I have been working on seeing all discomfort as “nothing personal” but a spur for me to focus more strongly. Focus on what is so, always brings transcendence.

    Patty, Zen practice is about transcending to where the two hemispheres meet in enlightenment. Zen masters assure us that this is possible whilst still in the physical body. With most of us practitioners, it may take a lifetime, but it can manifest in a instance right now, if the mind is ripe.

    I think if you are not already familiar with it you would love Zen with it’s paradox and can be applied to any activity. But the paradox is, don’t look for enlightenment because you won’t find it. It will be realized because it is already there!

  7. Christi

    When all is well with the world, when I have ample time to sit down and consider each word, when everything falls into place to give me quiet hours to write…I don’t. Instead, I find other things that “just have to get done.” Lame things like dishes and mopping floors.
    However, when the world is chaotic I find the words just flow.
    So, no, you aren’t crazy :)

  8. Charlotte Dixon

    Wow, you guys–thanks so much, it is good to know that I’m not crazy after all.

    Jessica, I always say that if my house is clean you know I’m blocked.

    Patty, I’m so glad that you hear that loud no when you consider stopping writing, because I love reading what you write!

    Derek, As always, thanks for great insight into the Zen perspective.

    Christi, I think that sometimes discord does feed writing, maybe because it is easier (ha!) to write than deal with the conflict?

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