A Writer's Come Undone
A come undone.
If you're from the Deep South, you've heard the slang. If not, stick with me and I will drag you into the light.
Unraveled. Hit the wall. Stumped your toe on the block.
If you write, you will have at least one come undone during your career. If I call it a career instead of a hobby, I force myself to take it seriously and hunker down to the work.
I do love an analogy, so here goes.
Compare a come undone to a plateau in a weight-loss diet. You've bumped along nicely for a bit, started to view the bathroom scales as a tool instead of a fiend. You've walked every day and avoided the bakery aisle. Then, it happens. You skid onto the plateau.
Days pass without so much as an ounce slipping away. If you eat one more salad, you threaten to run naked, screaming, to Georgia. (Insert the state line nearest to you here. Mine is Georgia, and thankfully, not too far to run. If I was a runner. Which I am not.)
You rage. Consider giving up and wolfing down the cheesecake bars in the back of the freezer--left over from some long ago occasion, but why quibble.
You don't. You hang in there. Finally, the scale shows meager success.
Until you hit yet another plateau.
A literary come undone follows the same spastic samba. I clip through the rough first draft, thinking myself somewhat clever. Days pass, months.
One day, I sit down to the laptop and come undone.
Why am I doing this? Is it a huge waste of time?
I consider pitching the laptop to the curb, watching it arc high, then crash. Brush off my hands and go inside and, I dunno, take up dental floss crochet or clean the baseboards.
But I don't.
I persist. Write pure crap I wouldn't read to a rabid raccoon. Work through it. And guess what? My writing improves. A novel emerges on the other side (in this case, Secondhand Sister.) It is my favorite child, to date.
I did not major in creative writing. I grew up at the feet of master storytellers. Everything I've learned has been by trial and error, heavy on the error. Critique groups, beta readers, trusted author friends and editors: all have helped me limp my way along.
None of us perform this art in a vacuum, though it seems very lonely at times.
And we all will stall at some point. If not, we're not digging in hard.
Breathe. Embrace your come undone. It will pass. The writer that emerges on the other side will gain a seasoned patina she, or he, didn't have before.
One more thing: come undones and chocolate mix well, for me. Find your crutch and lean on it. For a beat or two.
Then get back to that manuscript.
It's only a come undone, honey.
Southern Fiction Author