Writing is a fickle mistress, and hard to keep happy.
I have much work to do but I’m like an athlete in training, and forcing myself to write something on a daily basis. Right now, it’s all of a personal nature. Opinion writing, observations, that sort of thing. So in a way, I’m “forcing myself” to write, but in another way, the pressure to do so is because I’ve had many “I want to write” moments of late. I’m inspired, and often, but I’m also beholden to work, leisure, and other living-in-the-real-world distractions.
The old “find the time” conundrum. Ahh, adulthood.
Which brings me to the idea of Writer’s Block. The nefarious “block” is a topic that makes me laugh because it’s something I know all too well. I find myself annoyed at smarmy, smug types who tell you “There’s no such thing as writer’s block,” because I’m not sure what they deserve more — a face-punch or a logic-restoring slap upside the head.
Of course there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Don’t be an idiot. There’s nothing that stands up inside you to shout YOU! DON’T WRITE ANOTHER WORD! NOT A LETTER! STOP!
Of course not. But that doesn’t mean you should be writing when it ain’t nothing but grunt. You know you’re writing shit when you’re writing shit. Why push the matter?
Wait Till You Can’t Wait No More
I’ve been forever misattributing a quote I read once, and I guess I’m so far from the original quote now that it’s unGoogleable (and all instances trace back to ME), but it went “A writer ought not write until the thought of not writing becomes unbearable.” Maybe I’m the one who said it after a fevered night’s dream.
Still, I’m not sure if I agree with that quote either, or its limitations of “wait till not doing it’s unbearable,” which sounds like the literary equivalent of blue balls. Somewhere in the middle of the extremes of workaholic craft-maintaining and waiting for the sheer passion to write is the sweet spot of creation.
I’m old enough now to understand that the life of a writer comes in waves. I’ll probably never be a write-all-the-time-forever writer, but I suspect I’ll have five-year windows where I’m on, and a little while when I’m off. Or maybe it’ll become more constant the older I get, as I learn about balance and understand what this craft does for me on so many levels. Maybe I’ve been out of the game enough to last me a lifetime.
I haven’t wanted to write for so long. I can’t explain how it is to understand that your creative self just isn’t what, or where, you want it to be. I can’t tell you how I knew I had to walk away and just rekindle my place in the world.
I can’t explain the loss of confidence I had in what I do, in how I write. I don’t give a fuck if you understand how pervasive such a thing is for a writer. It’s not about you.
Fake it Till You Make It? No.
My walk-away wasn’t all about confidence or the loss thereof, but that certainly played a role in the beginning. I totally lost my mojo in 2010 / 2011. I had grown angry at life and didn’t know how to feel other things or express more than that.
Real writing is about going to those netherworlds inside you. Dark places, places where we don’t sell admission tickets. So if what’s inside you is just blanket-angry and one-tracked, and you don’t approve of that anger, or worse, you disrespect yourself for it, it’ll be a really hard road to scrounge up personal writing that’s worth reading. I never found that road.
After I moved to Victoria, that bitterness began to vanish. The anger started to evaporate and I found myself lost in this new world around me. The will to write popped up at inconvenient times, but very fleetingly. It didn’t stick around. I didn’t get that “where’s a pen?” twitch, or that niggling sense of “Huh, I like that idea…” that made it worth the effort of recording.
Creativity was nebulous, at best.
When the desire to write started to return, my confidence issues returned too. I felt an imposter in a wordy world. Every time I wrote something, it’d be like I was walking through a garden, noticing things, enjoying the moment, then suddenly there’d be a 4-foot wall. Instead of looking for a way around or over, I’d go “Well, huh — there’s a four-foot wall. I guess that’s that.”
I wasn’t following it through, and worse, I felt I couldn’t.
And Then One Day
Writing is like anything else in the world. If you’re a writer and it’s really, really good, you just know it down inside you. It’s a feeling on a cellular level, an almost-religious experience. It pops.
I didn’t have that feeling again until I wrote Unmerciful World on Medium. Seymour Hoffman’s death hit me like a brick, and within 15 minutes I’d sat down to write in a daze. A trance, maybe.
It was the shot of confidence I needed. Arrogantly so. I was impressed with myself. I remembered what it used to feel like to crank out promising copy on a daily basis, on topics that mattered to me, rather than just work that would satisfy clients. (Which I pride myself on delivering often.)
So began the journey of trying to reconnect with writing. I started doing more, but they languish now as incomplete topics in my drives. And then I was writing a lot. But still not for your enjoyment. I started a very personal project I think will become an ebook by Christmas, for instance.
Still, writing for yourself, in silence, gets a bit masturbatory and creepy. It doesn’t take long before objectivity vanishes and a me-me-me mentality storms in.
Now I’ll need to find a balance between the two. I’ve alluded to projects I want to write and share with you. I have two books I want out this fall. (And since, unlike cooking books, there are no product testing, re-testing, photographing, or complex layouts involved… I expect it to be a much simpler and far more fulfilling experience! And quicker to bring to fruition.)
And there are others. I have creative ideas for weird experimental writing I’d like to try. As my confidence bubbles up, I’ll put those in the mix too.
But like a long-cooked stew, these sorts of odd projects are sometimes best when simmered on low in the background for a good long time. And so they are.
Writing is exciting again. The challenge is nearly titillating. I’m beginning to anticipate the onslaught of winter, where I won’t feel like two selves are pulling in me — the one who wants to scream FUCK IT ALL and go running for the beach versus the other who wants to pull the sunny windows closed, mutter darkly “Fuck it all” and stay at the computer, pounding out words.
And in between it all is that damnable presence of the bank and a life that needs to be earned before it’s spent.
Writing, like all things, needs to be bad and uninspiring for spells, so we creatives can truly love and appreciate these rare periods where inspiration comes knocking and our keyboards answer confidently.
I’m not upset that I’ve had such long durations out of the creative world. I won’t apologize for it or beg you to take me seriously after it. I think I’ll be a better writer for the experience. I’ll simply have to prove it.
It’ll be a fun ride as I find out.