Actress Sally Field is known to have said, "The struggle is the work."
I remember reading this in a Ghost newsletter, and although I can't find the exact words, I remember interpreting Field's words to mean that all the peripheral activities we deem as admin work are as crucial to fostering our progress as our own art is.
For an indie author like me, this would mean that all the work around formatting the finished work, designing book covers, writing blurbs, uploading the books on various retail platforms, and doing the work around promotions and marketing are as crucial as the actual writing itself.
Off late, I've come to interpret Field's words a little differently.
There is the struggle of doing all the other things that are required to keep my books in the market and in public view, and then there is the 'struggle' of doing the writing itself.
It is very common among writers to talk about how we're glad to have written but are not glad about writing.
I was in that boat too for the longest time. There were days when writing didn't seem 'fun' and I'd get into this mental battle with the manuscript, questioning everything I wrote, everything I had written, so much so that sometimes I'd even dread getting to work!
Which is not what I had signed up for when I decided to write full-time. I mean, whatever happened to writing because it was such a delightful and joyful act to engage in?!
Many contemporary experts, long-term prolific authors who've been in the writing and publishing business for decades such as Dean Wesley Smith, keep talking about 'keeping the writing fun'.
The funny thing about words is that they can be really inadequate when it comes to expressing some very important yet profoundly simple truths of life.
Writing hadn't been 'fun' for me in a long, long time. Which led me to believe I was doing it all wrong. That I wasn't passionate enough, that I wasn't dedicated enough, that I wasn't writerly enough.
Which meant there was no hope for me. I had written all the stories I had wanted to tell, and that this is it, this was all there was to my author career.
That was a terrifying thought, because if I'm not a writer, then I truly don't know who I am.
And then it clicked. This contradictory juxtaposition of 'struggle' and 'fun' suddenly began to make sense.
The 'struggle' for me is not the writing itself, but the part when my brain keeps coming up with the most innovative (or perhaps, utterly clichéd) of ways to keep me from getting to the writing desk.
My head was often filled with angry thoughts about the past, about the future, about the present even.
I'd often get into imaginative arguments with members of my family and have an entire drama play out in my head at the end of which I'd actually be standing muttering and swearing as if I were in a combative, confrontational conversation with this other person in real life.
I'd also get into such scenario-building in my head about the future, especially when it comes to D.
My brain, my body, my senses had gotten so used to being angry, to having this adrenaline rush that came from fighting with someone in my head, that they had forgotten what it feels like to be at ease, at peace, and filled with joy.
A couple of weeks ago, KrA gifted all of us Fitbit trackers. We have a trial access to the Premium version of the Fitbit app, and I've been using some of the audio workouts to engage in power walks, amping up my usual walks to some extent.
And boy! The endorphins that those audio-led power walks are pumping into my body and brain are unlike anything I've experienced in a long, long time.
Plus, having a coach – even if it is only a voice – cheering me on and encouraging me to keep the pace has been a game-changer. I look forward to these daily walks now, and no matter how busy my day is, I make it a point to not miss going out on a power walk.
I'm so much more productive and full of energy simply because of having taken the time to head out for walk with a coach's voice giving me much-needed encouragement to the accompaniment of delightful workout music into my ears.
Life is so different when we have an encouraging voice to support us.
I realized that for me this is the struggle: keeping my mind and body healthy, so that I can get to the fun part, which is the writing.
My struggle has nothing to do with the writing itself. It's all the unhelpful thoughts that keep me away from the writing desk that I struggle the most with.
Once I get to the writing desk, once I've told this Critical Voice that I don't believe it one whit, the words flow naturally and writing is fun, the challenges are delicious and mind-bending, and life flows on an entirely different plane altogether, one in which the possibilities are endless!
And it's not just the writing that becomes effortless. It's my entire life that changes when I refuse to believe in that Critical Voice which keeps telling me I'm not good enough.
One thing KrA and I realized a couple of days ago is this: because we are financially and materially not in a place we had expected to be in, given our very strong academic and professional backgrounds, we had fallen into a tendency of believing that we are not as smart as or as intelligent as our peers, many of whom are in a very different place altogether when it comes to financial success.
We had fallen into this trap of believing we're not smart enough to make good choices and wise decisions. We subconsciously told ourselves that we did not deserve the riches and wealth so many others have because we didn't have it in us to make smart choices. In other words, we deserved our lot because we were no good.
These are really harsh statements to make to anybody, let alone ourselves.
And the worst, or best, thing is that none of this is true.
Perhaps it is all the extra sunshine and brightness the changing of seasons is bringing us, or the power walk endorphins that are making my brain happy, but there has been a shift, something like the lifting of a fog.
I've had a couple of very busy days but I've somehow still managed to find the time to add words to a story I'm writing, and it's just been fun!
Whenever my brain begins to concoct an imaginary fight with a family member who is not even on this continent at the moment, I have begun to stop myself, saying, "No, I don't want to go there again." These thoughts typically tend to crop up when I'm cooking, for reasons I'm well aware of.
Now, with a bit of mindfulness, I can shift from getting into imaginary fights – which feel very real to my body because of the anger and adrenaline that course through my veins – to thinking about getting back to my manuscript and writing the next scene in the story.
It's almost like visualizing getting back to the manuscript, which makes it easier to actually get back to the manuscript once I've finished cooking or whatever I'm doing.
So this is what I have to remind myself: the struggle is not in the art. The struggle is in doing the work to keep my mind and body healthy so that I can create and live and laugh and love and be a new me, the person who waltzes through life with optimism and courage.
I used to be that person a long time ago. Now that I've found her again, I know for a fact I will never let her out of my sight! She has a forever companion in me!