Monday, March 30, 2015

But what about when writing becomes a burden?

On Wednesday, I managed to write about 1,500 words towards my story. It wasn’t torture, it didn’t hurt; I was shocked at how much I’d built it up in my head to be this extremely “difficult” thing.

But after Wednesday, the tide ebbed and I was once more stranded on the high ground of inspirationlessness. I know as well as anyone that “waiting for inspiration” isn’t a valid strategy to writing, but I’ve been feeling almost abandoned by my muses. Thinking about writing has been frustrating, and frustration has made me feel veritably glued to my couch. Not only do I not write, I also don’t do anything else I need to do. Everything seems unapproachable, unattainable, and frankly, pointless. I really wanted to give up, but I stubbornly couldn’t accept that I could walk away from my novel, which had so much promise and so much time sunk into it, and a bunch of people whose opinions I respect waiting for it.

But not being able to walk away from it felt like a chain. I was feeling worthless, which made it worse... I’m sure most of you know how this goes. Getting stuck creatively can feel a lot like depression. (Not being a mental health professional, I’m not sure when something crosses the border into depression—does sadness have to be a part of it? I wasn’t feeling sad, at least not for lengths of time. Weekends were great. I still enjoyed things. Etc.)

Last night, as I was falling asleep, my mind wandered to where I had left Cassidy... and then it wandered farther. I “wrote,” in my head, the subsequent scene. I have greased the axles of my writing wheels and today, I’m excited to write. Nonetheless, I’m going to post here what I think regarding When Writing Becomes A Burden.

Writing can feel like a burden for a variety of reasons. I think a major one is: Life Is Happening. Something major is going on in your life that’s sucking a lot of your energy and the idea of spending any of that precious resource on “frivolous” creative endeavors simply seems overwhelming. You lost a job or got a new one. You ended a relationship, or began one, or your relationship changed. You had a baby or got pregnant. You got sick or someone you care for got sick. Whatever. You are out of emotional bandwidth. In my opinion, this is the best, most legit, reason to suspend a creative endeavor. You need to take care of you. Sometimes, when whatever it is that is sucking your bandwidth resolves, you can’t pick up your project where you left off. That’s sad, but it’s a fact of life. Unless you can recapture your headspace of the time, I would say, don’t stress it. Move on to something new.

One that I’ve struggled with a lot before Cassidy came along and introduced herself, was I’d have a tiny idea fragment—a character, a setting, a one-sentence summary—that simply didn’t have enough substance to grow into a full story idea. I would have a lot of creative energy and no targeted creative outlet. It’s easy to say “when you get like that, write something, draw something, do something,” but it’s just as frustrating when you sit down and open a text document and type “I hate this why can’t I write” a hundred times. Or scribble the same noses, eyes, lips you’ve been scribbling for years. Writing or drawing with no direction doesn’t usually feel good, at least not to me. It feels futile. And it’s a little sad because, before Cassidy, I hadn’t had a fully formed creative idea in years.

Getting to the point where writing feels like a burden while you’re still in the middle of your project is the worst, though. That’s where projects die. And it’s mostly because, working on a project is like climbing a mountain. It gets really hard. It is really easy to turn back, because behind you, the mountain has flattened out. You’ve gotten bored with it, you’ve had some other ideas, you want to do something else for a while. But I firmly believe that that voice—the bored voice, the lazy voice, the frustrated, tired, distracted voice—is a defense mechanism that is no longer useful to you as a modern human, and listening to it is nothing but destructive. If you hear that voice, that’s okay. It’s impossible not to. Hear it, listen to it, and like a teenager to her parents, reject it. Say “Okay, I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I’m bored. I hear you. But I’m working on it anyway.”

That voice will fade, the more you tune it out. And if you’re working towards an end, you might have days where you delete everything you wrote. But the next day, you’ll do it better. As long as you gave it your best try, you’ll feel accomplished—much more so than if you did nothing.

So stick with it. Fill your personal library with finished projects instead of fragments. Give yourself room to take care of you, but hold yourself accountable when your fear/frustration/boredom is trying to exert power over you. You can do it. You are powerful. And remember, you make your own inspiration.

Word count: 32,710 (翆)

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