Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Detachment...an ongoing practice

In Yoga, detachment is the practice of withdrawing the senses from stimulation. This works on many levels. At most basic – for instance closing your eyes – it allows you to go deeper within yourself and simply be a witness to your body in the pose. Not to judge, or compare yourself to your neighbor whose bakasana defies the laws of gravity, but to let the pose come naturally into your body all the while accepting, even embracing, your limitations. On a bigger picture level, it’s about relinquishing control. Not giving a person, place or thing so much importance that when your desires aren’t met it causes you suffering.

Ah, about that bigger picture stuff…

In writing, at least for me, detachment means letting go of desired outcomes. Easy? Um, no. I’ve been struggling with revision – and by struggling I mean completely paralyzed with fear about going back into my manuscript and making changes. Maybe it’s that I hypnotized myself into believing that my first draft was actually a finished novel (HA!). Maybe it’s that once I start playing and picking and killing my darlings I’m worried the whole thing will unravel and I’ll be left with…nothing. Whatever it is, I’ve been avoiding my 3 ring binder like it’s going to grow teeth and devour me.


Because I have absolutely no control over the million dollar question…will my work be picked up by a publisher? And if not, are the hours, days, weeks, months, even years I put into a project worth it?

This is where I’m trying like hell to practice detachment. My writing has brought so many wonderful experiences and people into my life but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping and ultimately working toward having something more concrete to show for it. There’s no secret handshake, no list of steps that will ultimately lead you to that book (or books) on the shelf with your name on it. There’s hard work and more hard work. And absolutely no guarantees. Why, oh, why do any of us pursue this?

I’m not sure I have a simple answer to that. And that’s okay. So for now, all I can do is take a breath, close my eyes (momentarily at least) and open that 3 ring binder to begin yet another journey along my writing path. Not worrying about the outcome, but focusing on writing the best book I can.

How about you? What keeps you going on your writing journey?


  1. Robin,
    A beautifully written and thought provoking post - as usual! I don't know what keeps me going other than writing has become an essential part of my life.

    But to be honest, I don't know if I would still be so wedded to it if I'd never been published. I have great admiration for those who keep writing and hoping. Always remember there are others hoping right along with you!

  2. But you do have control -- you use that control by putting in the hours, days, weeks, months and years it takes to write good books.

    The only way I would ever stop writing is if I no longer enjoyed the writing process. Or, if I found something I enjoyed more.

    That doesn't mean rejection doesn't bother me. But it does mean it won't stop me.

  3. Gale - Thanks! Writing has become an essential part of my life as well but at times it feels like a love/hate relationship. To say there isn't a shadow side to all this lovely creating would be lying on my part.

    Judy - Your outlook always inspires me! I know I have control over what I WRITE but unless I self-publish I don't have control over whether my story will ever reach a bigger audience than my crit buddies. That feeling of having to create something that is *marketable* is daunting at times. That's really what has me frozen. Detachment from that particular outcome is what I'm trying to practice - so I can get to the story, and past all those editorial voices.

    I just want to be clear I LOVE the craft of writing. Dreaming up stories, creating characters, putting them together and seeing what happens - but it's hard to substantiate the physical hours spent toiling away when your family is looking for clean underwear...ooops!

  4. Oh, Robin. I solved that problem. My kids have dozens of pairs of boxers.

  5. Aaahhhh, Robin … the recurring dilemma of Why Do I Continue to Bang My Head Against the Brick Wall of the Publishing World? We do it because we are writers, because we have to, because we believe, because we KNOW someone out there (besides our critique-mates) will love our stories.

    And you do have control. Like Judy says, its the control of your work - to make it the best you can. And you will. No story is complete in a draft (well, very, very few are). And I've heard that many published authors, even after their work is on the bookstore shelves, wish they could have changed just one more line.

    The only answer I have to your question of what keeps me going, is that I love it. Even when I'm sporting a big ol' bump on my head from that brick wall. Maybe when someone establishes a 12-step program to stop writing - Writers Annonymous - will I be able to stop.