I’ve not been as invested in my writing of late. I go through seasons of dedication and productivity, interspersed with long, gloomy periods of low energy and minimal motivation. Perhaps that is just what the increasingly heavy state of the world does to us. It seems an insurmountable challenge to be joyfully creative when there are much weightier issues to be concerned with.
Amid the January blahs at the beginning of this year, I wrote an article: How to Recharge Your Creativity. It was full of suggestions on how to refill those depleted reserves when writing has started to feel more like a chore than a passion. If only I could take my own advice and somehow muster up the gumption to start churning out the words again.
It’s not that ideas are lacking. In fact, I think the opposite is true. As I listened to a podcast on my drive to work the other day, a seed of an idea for a YA novel crept into my mind, planted itself, and started to unfurl. The main character already seems real—I can hear her voice and see how she would react to things around her. The premise makes me laugh and practically rub my hands together with glee at all the potential for character development and conflict. Do I want to sit down and start to write it? No. Not at all. Not for ages.
I’ve had several minor epiphanies with regards to my current work in progress as well. I returned to the master and delved into a favourite Agatha Christie again and realized that what my plot-heavy novel lacks is more character, emotion, more chemistry and tension between the leading players to draw the reader in. I keep jotting snippets of dialogue and bits of colour to add. Do I want to sit down and work them into my draft? No. The gap between where my manuscript is currently and where I want it to be terrifies me into a hopeless state of muddled paralysis.
In the past, I’ve turned to flash fiction as an outlet for that need to get a story, some sort of story, words, just any words, down onto the page. When my novel looms too large and intimidating, banging out a tiny story in 500 words or less feels cathartic. It’s cleansing, somehow, to tell a story in the fewest words possible—to elicit a feeling from the reader without filling in all the gaps. Even that, at the moment, has been robbed of me. I have this short story I’m working on, a moody little tale of small-town secrets and layers of the truth behind a death that wasn’t quite an accident. There is so much story that I want to leave in the white spaces for the reader’s thoughts to linger over that when I sit down to work on it, I’ll literally move a half-dozen words around, add half a sentence, delete another three, and walk away dissatisfied after hours of nothing. It’s haunting me, and it’s the only thing currently on my plate that has a deadline.
At the outset of 2022, I wrote down my writing goals. Consistently posting every week on my blog was near the top of the list. Editing my WIP was the prime objective, but writing flash and submitting to lit mags is also important to me. I scaled back my goal significantly from last year. This year: submit to one different publication each month. I’ve reached that goal so far and had one CNF piece published in print, which was an absolute triumph. All my other efforts thus far have fallen flat, but it’s not the rejections that have me discouraged; I had more than twice as many last year. No, it’s something else that I can’t quite put my finger on.
I’m going to call it the writing blahs, as I refuse to allow writers’ block to be a thing. It’s not that something is stopping me from writing; I’m just not completely satisfied with anything I write. But look—I sat down this evening to write my weekly article for this blog. The topic I had planned to write held no appeal whatsoever. I crumpled it up in a metaphorical ball and chucked it over my shoulder. 680 words later, this—shall we call it an essay?—appeared. Maybe there is some truth to this quote that I’ve come across more than once:
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”Louis L’Amour
I’ll leave you with this thought, in the form of a pep talk and reminder to myself: I write because I love it. I write because it gives me no end of satisfaction to line up carefully selected words into sentences that say just exactly what I want them to say. I write because it’s fun to tell stories and see how people react differently to them. Mostly, I write for myself because I enjoy it, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment when I can say something is done. And even though I go through occasional lulls, one day—it might be a long way away yet, let’s be realistic—I will finish my novel. That will be a very good day.
Until then, I’ll just keep writing.