When Writers Stop Writing

I feel like a fraud. A zombie Steff in a fake world.

I haven’t been writing. Haven’t had it in me. I’m on auto-pilot. Wake, skate through life, meet required time obligations, get the 40 hours of work in per week, plus the paid blogging, plus the client stuff, plus the rehab back appointments, plus… plus… plus… Oh, look at the shiny sunset.

When life becomes a thing of clock-watching, it’s hard to find the inspiration.

Every now and then, I’ve wished I could stop time and just write, but the day has been full of needs and requirements, and pressing pause would mean falling too far behind to make it through the week while sleeping through my nights. So, instead, I take a picture and I move the hell on. (The photos seen here are all in the last 10 days.)

But these are the choices in the life of those who do what they love outside the hours of that which they do for survival.

When you’re a writer, the unexamined life is like the tree falling in an empty forest. What’s the point?

I’ve taken pictures in the month that has lapsed since I last wrote for you. I’ve made a lot of good food, cleaned my house, walked a lot, spent a lot of time just sitting on the ocean shore and staring into I-Don’t-Know-What.

It hasn’t been an exciting life, a life worth writing about, but for all the little brief moments of awe and wonder during a life filled with stress and time-management, I think I found a livable balance. For a time.

But that’s not who I am. I can’t do “livable balance.”

I want to do life.

Balance THIS, grasshopper.

You know, when I got my new driver’s license photo issued in October, I spent a while reflecting on my last five years, four of them spent with chronic back pain issues. I refuse to believe my back can’t be healed despite all the obstacles and setbacks I’ve had. No one has told me it’s a cause not worth fighting for, either.

A young couple catches the sunset at Victoria’s Clover Point.

That was the catalyst for my choice to make my back a priority, the top priority, for 2–3 months. I’m tired of a life spent in half-measures.

Working so much so I can throw money at trying to make my body relax after years of trauma and stress is a strangely paradoxical life, and it does not fill me with joy, inspire me to wordsmith, or make me feel like sharing myself with others.

We do what we have to, so we can do what we want, is what Forrest Whitaker’s character espouses in the rousing drama The Great Debaters.

What I want to do is travel. I want to be able to go on long distance cycling trips. I want to hike into the backcountry. I want to be that chick you look at and go, “Look at her go.” I want to know my limitations are far and that it will take me a long time to reach them. I want to know the world out there isn’t too much for me.

I want more than what I have now.

If that means I walk around for a little while as a zombie, while thoughts wither and die without being recorded on the page, then I guess that’s what that means.

I hate it but I need it, I guess.

I may have to get all Dylan Thomas and rage, rage against the dying of the light, because that’s what not writing is starting to feel like to me.

I’ve been here before, almost dead inside, just because I stopped writing after my mother’s death in ’99 till ’04. It’s not about writing for a living or a big audience or for slow-claps or rousing applause.

When you’re not writing, the idea of writing isn’t about the end-user’s experience, it’s about existential relevance.

Deep down inside, I think there’s a kind of egoism that writers have to have. We believe we see the world through an interesting filter. We believe our thoughts have relevance. Unfortunately, this feeling applies to far more people than it should.

Fortunately, some of us are right.

Just before a foggy nightfall, Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park.

Not everyone cares about having an audience. I’m not sure I do. I’d like to have the money that comes with one, but even that barely motivates me to do a “real” book or product for purchase. (But that day is coming.)

I toyed with advertising a long time ago, and hated how it made me feel pressured to produce, and loathed the standards I was churning out as a result.

It’s why I won’t create content for you right now “because I need to post something.” I won’t stoop to the Obligatory Posting point ever again.

For now, I need to fix my back. It’s the number-one thing that will prevent me from going further as a writer, because I do not like the filter I see the world through when I’m in pain. The limitations hurt my soul, and it affects what I put out in the world. That’s not the writer I want to be. Not anymore.

Not writing, though, makes me feel the same. Ah, a cruel contradictory ailment.

I’m five weeks from the end of my hardcore time-management needs for back-rehab, and similarly five weeks from my first REAL time off in more than a year, since this year’s vacation time all got spent on finding a home and moving into it.

But in the last few weeks of not-writing-just-staring-at-the-ocean, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about life and my place in it. Who’s expendable, who’s not. What I value, what I don’t.

Yesterday, I awoke with back stiffness, it was grey and miserable, and I spent 20 minutes talking myself into a dawn walk. By the time I returned home 90 minutes later, I felt grateful for where I’ve moved, the life I feel I’m on the path to have, and the world around me.

I also realized I’m at the dramatic midway point in the film that is representative of this year in my life.

It started with adversity, began in a turn-around, and now I’m at that challenging climax where the protagonist has to ask herself how badly she wants it, and how much she’s willing to do to get it.

And just on the other side of all this is the triumphant conclusion where she rides her bike off into the sunset, without taking an anti-inflammatory, then can skip stretching so she can write a blog post about it. Or something.

We do what we have to, so we can do what we want.

Somewhere in the mix of this zombie-like obligatory sense of life, my frequent pauses to enjoy the world around me, and the quiet I’m starting to find, I feel like this miway-movie point in my present is a really, really neat place to be, if also blood-draining exhausting.

I’m still looking forward to what’s around the corner, and especially finding the intersecting of both the will and the time to write, albeit I’m finding a lot of little small moments to enjoy in the middle of all my crazy.

Sometimes, it’s not a sin to live life. Sometimes, it’s the only way you’ll survive.

Even writers have to make choices. Today, this writer chooses Everything Else, but only because this writer knows that simply won’t last. Eventually, the word volcano has to bubble over and spew. The writer inside always emerges.

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