It’s time to come clean: I think I have writer’s block, Internet.
It’s been coming and going. I do have a few stories I’ve been picking at, but often when I sit down to write—whether during my commute or my lunch break, or at my own computer at home or in a notebook—nothing comes. I can still feel the ideas floating around somewhere in there, but I can’t seem to grab one long enough to commit it to paper. I even had trouble writing this blog post.
Part of it is definitely my new-ish work and commuting schedule. I get less than 8 hours of sleep each weeknight, sometimes less than 7 if it takes me a while to fall asleep. And now I know that when I’m tired, the first thing that goes is my creative energy.
I don’t think this is true for everyone, don’t get me wrong. Plenty of people who work two jobs and barely have time to breathe manage to undertake all kinds of creative endeavors. I’m just still trying to figure out how to make this new schedule work for me. Sometimes the words come, but it’s much more inconsistent than it’s been in recent years. So of course I’m frustrated by that.
But I do have a few plans in mind to help this. First off, 3-4-1 is almost published (trust me, you’ll know when it’s ready for purchase 😉 ), which means we’ll be working on the second volume soon. I find that right now it helps to have a deadline that must be met. Not an arbitrary one that I set, because my brain knows I just made it up, but an actual one someone has assigned to me.
And I’m planning to do NaNoWriMo this year, for the first time since 2008.* That might end up being foolish, but I have a good idea that I think could be at least 50,000 words of a novel, if not longer, and I’ve been purposely holding off writing anything from it but the barest bits of sentences or scenes that I don’t want to forget. I’m trying to let it grow in the back of my mind so when November comes I’ll hopefully be able to hit 50,000 with minimal problems.
I’ve also managed to find some music to latch onto that is helping to inspire me. (For those who are curious, it’s the Hamilton OBCR, which you can stream for free right now on NPR.) As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I like to have music playing while I write, and I think in a situation like this, music also keeps me from falling down a negative spiral when I can’t get the words to come out. Instead of my brain filling with pessimistic thoughts about how I’ll never write again, etc., the lyrics and melodies overpower that. So if there are words that want to escape, they can find their way out. If not, I’m at least not denigrating myself.
Sometimes, though, I don’t think there’s much that can be done when the words dry up, and that can be annoying. Sometimes you can push through writer’s block—it’s a literal mental block that needs to somehow be overcome, either by powering through or climbing over. But sometimes it’s more like a void. Not a clog to be cleared but an emptiness that needs to be filled. If you lack the means to fill it, whatever those means may be (I think they’re different for everyone), you can’t do much about that. I’ve managed to get a trickle flowing, but it’s not yet consistent. Certainly not the river it was, filling a lake that once seemed endless.
It’s tough, but I also know it’s temporary. I had a similar problem for a few years when I was in college; I either had ideas that I couldn’t put to paper or had no ideas at all. And once I stopped trying to fight against it and stopped getting upset, it ran its course. Writing came back to me easily; the ideas and words came back as if they had never been gone.
Maybe this isn’t writer’s block; maybe it’s a “composting” period, to borrow an idea from Ursula K. Le Guin (who I believe borrowed it from someone else). Maybe the ideas I have just need time to ripen, to collect other bits and coalesce or separate. On the one hand that’s comforting, but on the other it’s not a process that can really be sped up or shortened.
I guess I have to learn to be patient and trust the process.
*I am ravenofoctober on the NaNoWriMo website; if you’re planning to do NaNo too please add me as a writing buddy on the website!