So I’m having a week. Or was having a week – I don’t know, I feel like I’m coming down from this hazy funk, and all I remember is craving sleep and drinking coffee and working…and not really writing. This post isn’t informative so much as an I wanted to talk about personal writing stuff kinda thing. There’ll be some of those, if that’s cool.
I hate those weird periods where I’m staring at my computer screen and there’s a nice brick wall separating me from the story I’m trying to tell that I can’t scale or throw a climbing rope over or blow up. Or maybe I do get a few paragraphs out, and my God, I might as well have been writing gibberish or just pounding at the keys like a hyperactive illiterate toddler for how terrible it is. And yet I pound away, hating every minute of it, trashing over half of it, until I finally walk away in disgust and actually go to bed.
I know I’m not the only one.
Does it not just feel like you’re uncomfortable in your own skin when you can’t write? Nothing makes me crankier. I know periods of terrible writing happen all the time, and we all eventually trudge through it, but criminy – cut a girl a break, brain. This particular bout’s been relatively short, I’ll admit – I’ve gone months, and it’s been like trying to wring droplets of water from a dish rag that hasn’t been used in two days. This one culminated from work stress – both jobs – and a disrupted sleep cycle that I just can’t shake (thank you, three hour drive one way to attend a redonkulous work conference…rally…thing the next state over, requiring my butt to get up at 3:30 am). You know, I used to wake up and actually feel refreshed. Napping is like my favorite past time, and I haven’t had the time to indulge in a good three hour coma in awhile – that sucks, y’all.
I tried, all last week and this week, and it was like writing a paper for a class I hated. So then I’d fart around, play Whirly Word on my phone, take care of a little WDP business, and watch an episode of Hoarders. Then my coauthor shoots me a text, a little chirpy ‘how’s the backstory coming along?’ and I look over at all that blinding white space on the word document, and tell myself repeatedly that it’s okay to write garbage as long as it’s garbage I can see and edit and change. Just write it.
But it’s so haard, my inner child whines.
Quit your crying. There’s work to be done. These characters have a story to tell me, even if the message is breaking up a little. I have to make sure I keep a close eye on that inner five year old that would rather do anything but focus on seeing the world I’m trying to convey on the page and let the story come out – would rather say screw it all, take that nap, go visit a friend, read a book, or watch a movie. The more I give in to that whiny little brat, the less chance I have of actually being satisfied with the story that’s crafting itself through my fingertips. So hush up in there – let this gal write. Maybe we’ll have cake later, I dunno. If you’re good.
Maybe that wall will come down, either by my own means – like a mental grenade – or it’ll crumble on its own, and amidst choirs of singing angels and blowing trumpets THERE is the story I want to tell on the other side, oh my God it’s been so long how are you?! I haven’t heard from you in months, not an epiphany or a snippet of witty dialogue, not a single inspirational dream or thought I have to scribble down on a receipt at work or put into my phone for use later. Let’s work together again! Team work is so much better and fulfilling!
I want that. (Every time I write or say that phrase, I always think of the woman from Napoleon Dynamite, lusting after the ship in the bottle. Every single time)
But we can’t always get what we want, and I’m definitely firmly entrenched with the writers who struggle to get that story out to perfection with every single page (which would be, like, every writer, I’m pretty sure). Sometimes it’s like woah, and amazing, and in one afternoon you bang out five thousand words, and you are WRITER, HEAR ME ROAR. One day, out of fifteen where you feel like your life’s passion has been reduced to a hobby where you sometimes write, but it’s not very good, and you don’t know where it’s going or if it’ll be allowed to go anywhere.
The gist of this is to not let days like that – which sometimes far outnumber the really, really sweet, fantastic days where you’re totally in sync with your characters and their story – make you doubt what you’re doing. It’s worthwhile work. For a lot of people, myself included, it’s what keeps us sane. I have to remind myself of this, too. Just feed that lazy little inner child who doesn’t wanna work anymore some treats, do whatever you need to do to either eliminate distraction or set aside a certain time if your schedule is just insane, or if you have kids who never sleep or leave you alone, and write that garbage. There’ll be some stuff in there that shouldn’t be thrown away, and building upon that always feels pretty good.
I’d be interested to read what everyone else does to combat a dry spell. Sometimes I find setting aside the current project I’m working on and dabbling with something else helpful. A change of scenery, so to speak. Music, too. Or just catching up on my dang sleep.
So, yeah. (Dude, every time I say or write that, I immediately hear Eddie Izzard saying it in my head)