Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Fricassee

My self-imposed writing hiatus has produced an unexpected--and unwelcomed--side effect.


In the beginning, there was a grieving--a process of letting go of something I wasn't sure I could live day-to-day without.  This morphed into excitement for a new story idea, with which I began to dabble without allowing myself to get all serious and intense about it (such fun!).

But.  Over the last week or so, an insidious sense of NOTHING has crept over me.  I've stopped planning the story and have lost my desire to write anything at all.  And in the place of the writing, there is blankness.

Like the rest of my life is nothing more than an autopilot.

Like I am somehow less ME because there is nothing creative happening in my life.

Mind you--I'm busy!  It's not like my life has nothing in it.  But it's not the kind of busy that fills me up.  It's not the sorry-I'm-not-available-between-one-and-three that kept my writing time sacred--and the passion in my heart expanding.

It all feels somehow less.

And here's the thing.  I have never wanted writing to define me.  As in, I have always known that my value does not come from what I do.  From what I accomplish.

My head knows this.  My heart, however, seems to need therapy.

"Why aren't you working on your new story?" Mr. A asks.

I shrug.  "Dunno.  Just don't have it in me."

Wow.  That's so not me.

So all I know to do right now is to implore each of you to examine your hearts.  Does writing define you?  Does the high of having reached that 2000-word goal sustain you like nothing else?  Do the characters living in your head (and heart) lend more to your existence than you'd like to admit?

In the best of times and worst of times, our writing should never define us.  It's easier, somehow, to look in judgment at an 80-hour-work-week corporate professional who never sees his kids, and say, "Wow.  That guy has totally let his job define him."

Well, sure.  It's easy to point a finger at someone who's obviously out of whack.  But how do we define the parameters of "out of whack", anyway?  Isn't it just as out of whack that I'm feeling like an empty ice cream cone right now?  Isn't that as imbalanced as the 80-hour corporate drone?

"Balance" certainly doesn't feel like my middle name right now.

So, no judgement.  Just an honest desire for you to know in your deepest belly that you are not the sum of your stories.  You are Megan and Bill and Karen and Adam and Sarah and Jonathan, who also happen to be writers.

I don't know where this is leading me.  I only know that I'm having to reassess myself.  But then, that's a good thing.  Regular self-reassessment keeps us healthy!

Now go jump into that story and work it to the bone.  Love your characters.  Hate your words.  Pour your soul into your work, and enjoy the fruits.  Then get up and BE.

Simply be.

And have a joyful weekend!


  1. I loved this. This is exactly how I feel. Although, I define the emptiness a bit differently. It's not that I haven't "accomplished" anything. It's that I haven't escaped. Apparently I need a daily escape, which is strange because I live a full life like that one you seem to, with kids, a hubby, a house, soccer practices, church responsibilities, etc. I notice that I'm unmotivated to do chores like the dishes when there's no reward in sight, other than clean dishes. Before, there was open time if I did my chores efficiently. Time I used to escape.

  2. It's funny that you should post this today. Right now I am in between books-- the waiting!-- and I feel very similar to you. When I am not crafting a story, or editing one, or fine tuning one, etc., I feel like something is missing. I don't feel "less than" just different. Maybe, not as happy. Or, not as productive. I wouldn't say my writing defines who I am, but it definitely enriches my life... even when it's hard and drives me crazy!

  3. I so feel you. I haven't been motivated to write for almost a year now. Not selling my first novel really gobsmacked me, and even though I got excited about the totally new book I was/am/sort of writing, that excitement waned and now it feels false and blicky. So much so that I've signed myself up to get my teaching licensure so I can take some of the bloody pressure off of myself and still do something that I love. Be surrounded by words and amazing books. I know in my heart I will always write, but like you said, I don't want to be DEFINED by that. I was putting way to much pressure on myself, and now, hopefully, that commitment phobic muse of mine might return.

  4. I totally understand this. When I'm not writing, I don't know what to do with my time. I feel very strange. I take breaks and make time for people because I know I need to. If writing completely consumes me all the time, I get crazy. Been there. :) But yes it is still way important to me. If I don't write one day, or at least planned or taken notes or outlined, I feel like my entire day was a failure, regardless of all the things I got done (like finally unclogging that bathtub! Or getting rid if all my emails.) I really don't know who I am without my writing. But I am taking tonight off because I'm stressing myself out about it. It's a promise I made to myself. When I start getting crazy and thinking I have to write everyday or I won't sleep right, I force myself to take the day off so I can recoup. Remind myself that writing is not air. I don't have to do it everyday. :) I definitely have days I just don't want to write. Lol!

  5. Oh boy. That actually does sound like a bit too much of 'writing defines me' instead of what it is 'without daydreams, my soul withers.'

    In an interview about The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt (who famously takes a decade per book) said that she feels lucky to be able to daydream all day. THAT's what writing is. It's not a job or a profession (no matter how much you have to treat it like one in order to succeed). At it's core, creativity is being able to let your demons and angels out of your head and watch them play.

    Of course not producing anything (or, not letting your dreams out) will cause the world to be bleaker. The world IS bleak without daydreams.

    And as for the corporate 80/hr/week drone - let's not judge them either. Most of them are in professions where that kind of output is required, and they have, as you say, kids and family that depend on them.

    In the end, what's the difference between spending ten hours/day on a novel and ignoring your kids vs. ten hours/day in a cubicle and ignoring your kids, as far as the kids are concerned? I know, off topic. But when you say with such determination that writing is your profession (as you've said in other posts), you do forget that it's much, much, much more than that.

    You ARE a creative person. You DO need the output.

    I relate. I have the exact same reaction whenever I decide to stop writing because of discouragement. But then I realize that this is me. Without creative output I'm just whatever other people need me for - I am a wife/mother/daughter/consultant. Those things are not me. They are what I do. Writing (and other creative output) is, on the other hand, what I am.

    Just the fact that this is your reaction to not writing means that you ARE a writer. I realize this is going against what you are saying in your post, but if you were not a writer, the lack of output would not bother you. The world would not feel so empty. You'd be fine.

  6. Don't think blank. Think, blank-slate.

  7. Oh, that's a hard one. While I don't think my writing defines me, it is my most favorite creative outlet. Sure, I have others, but writing gives me something the others don't. I'm not sure I can define exactly what that is, but I know it's there.

    I do spend quite a bit of time on other things in my life (hubby, kids, family, reading, crafting, occasionally cleaning house *grin*), but writing is a part of who I am. It's a release for me--an escape even. A way for me to express myself that my other creative outlets don't quite tap into.

    That being said, I've spent MANY long months and even years not writing. Either because of family obligations or other life events. But even during those times I had moments where I wanted to be writing, but couldn't bring myself to do it. Discouragement, depression, laziness--whatever it was, I just didn't want to face it.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Just let yourself work through whatever you need to work through.

    I think it was Dr. Phil who said, "If you can't have what you want, learn to want what you have." I kind of look at that as a philosophy for pretty much everything. So I say, if you can't do what you want, learn to want what you do.

    Just live in the now and see what tomorrow brings your way--and then live that. As Scarlett O'Hara would say, "After all, tomorrow is another day."

    So be the you that you are today and don't worry about who you'll be tomorrow. :D

    But big hugs for you. When the time is right, you'll have the enthusiasm and excitement you need to tackle that new idea.

  8. It's so hard when you want your writing to find the right readers and you can't get it out there. Yes, I still create when the ideas flow, but have to accept that it will be considered a hobby unless and until something gets published. Winning a contest helped--I felt some validation, and it was certainly encouraging, but how long can it sustain that "up" feeling?
    In any case, I still would have written the stories I have since then, and the ones I have planned, because of the joy.
    Go dabble in watercolor, dance your heart out, cry in the rain. When you have something to say, you'll write again.

  9. Watch out, I'm about to get all religious on you.

    God is the most creative being and we are His, so we must be creative too. Whether it's in the form of writing, art, computer programs, social events, inventions, culinary dishes, or gardens - we all have that need to make something out of nothing. And it's different for each of us.

    No, writing doesn't define who I am any more than this beautiful earth defines God. But I for one, am glad He knew what He was doing when He made it.

    When I find myself in the bleak writer's doldrums, I give myself a pity party then seek to appreciate the creative genius in others. The farther from my own creative streak the better. Invariably, a well-cooked steak or amazing landscape will ignite that passion in me to create something new.

    All that said, I'm glad you wrote this post, because I was feeling kind of discouraged myself and now I need to go take my own advice.

  10. I'm afraid I don't have anything very encouraging to say on this topic, but I can certainly sympathize. The truth is that in many ways I do feel that being a writer is what defines me, and I don't think anything could ever change that.

    Right now it seems that many of the things that are really important to me have either not worked out or are things that I hope to get back to but am not currently doing. So at times it's hard not to feel as if writing is the only element of my life that really has significance -- and that the only things I'm passionate about that I'm also truly good at are writing and editing. (Although I've yet to charge anyone for editing services as you do, I know I have the skills of any professional editor.)

    Sure, I'm pretty good at a couple of the mundane skills I use in my other career (the practical one that supports me), but they're hardly exciting. And jigsaw puzzles -- I have a real knack for jigsaw puzzles -- but that's not exactly a skill anyone values! Other than those things, I sometimes feel that I'm just not all that good at anything else, which leads to feeling like I'm not good for anything else. And like the sensation of blankness you've experienced, that is not a good feeling to have.

    To be honest, I don't mind the idea of being defined primarily as a writer at all. In fact, I rather like it. But of course, the risk is that if no one buys your books and no one reads them, that means it's not just the failure of a business venture: it's as if your greatest gift -- and the most important thing about you -- has little or no value to anyone else, and you could be left wondering if you really have no purpose. :(

    But although I doubt I'll ever be able to stop defining myself as a writer, and I don't think I want to, in spite of the risks, I certainly hope that you -- and all the other writers here -- are able to find that balance between accomplishment and the simple joy of creative expression, and that you also feel truly valued for all the different things you do.

  11. I definitely sympathize with this and you express your feelings about it beautifully. I was talking to a friend recently about how writing is supposed to be fun and when it's not, it feels like something is wrong. Awfully wrong. Here's hoping the feeling of blankness is soon replaced by that feeling you get when the words are flying out so quickly your hands can barely keep up. And in the meantime, I hope you know how much we appreciate you sharing with us.

  12. This was just what I needed to read today. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  13. Dear Authoress, Perhaps your mind is just sorting out the details and getting your character into your psyche before you write.
    That's what happens with me. You haven't really lost the urge, it's just mulling things over. It'll come back. It always does for me.
    Remember what Stephen King and other authors have said, "Just start writing." Edit later.
    After all, it isn't as if you haven't been writing. Look at all your blog entries. I have every faith in you. Sarah

  14. My writing has never defined me, but I find I have to have some sort of creative outlet, or I grow disinterested in that 'blank' sort of way. A fallow field.
    Fortunately, I have art and music to fall back on--or just daydreaming (really!).
    I have the need to create. Every day. As long as I meet that need, I know I'll return to that spoke on the wheel--writing.
    So, yeah. It's not the most 'productive' way to be when it comes to writing, but I've learned that if I force my writing, what I produce sounds and feels 'forced.'
    But that is my own creative journey....