Friday, October 18, 2019

Writing When You Don't Want to Write

Life can be brutal. Disappointment can come at any time, rejection awaits us around every corner, and tragedy can intrude with the simplicity of a text. Even when we step around those big pitfalls, plenty of little things await us: an unexpected expense, a headache or upset stomach, a friend letting you down. All of these can sap the energy from us, leaving our charge meter deep in the red. At times like this, how can we possibly sit down, get ourselves into that writer mindset, and create something?

Maybe we shouldn't. Sometimes we get hit by too much, and the best place is underneath a pile of blankets. Oddly, the first step of writing when we don't want to write is acknowledging this is an option. Sometimes it is easier to tell ourselves, "I don't have to write. I should, but I don't have to." When the world is hanging awkwardly from our shoulders, and our battery charge is in the single digits, it actually helps to think of something not as mandatory, but as optional. That way, when we choose to do that thing, we control the situation rather than let it control us. We still feel depleted, but the weight on our back is not compounded by another burden.

The next parts are actually planned long in advance. When we decide that despite our depleted feeling we will write something, looking at that blank page can be just as daunting as our decision to write in the first place. This is where our process practice comes into place. I have mentioned too many times that we need our writing place - that place where we always write, where everything is familiar and in place, where all our needs as a writer are met. When we are barely functioning, falling into this place and these habits has a magical effect. We no longer expend energy becoming a writer in our head - all of those rituals and habits relieve us of the effort. Our mind responds to those things like a dog hearing the dinner bell. It's not a magical cure, but it is a deep, cleansing breath that puts us into that place in our head where we can write. We don't have to write, but we should, and now it's becoming easier.

Another important part of this is the promise. This might sound a little hokey, but give it a try because there's nothing to lose. As we sit in our writing place, ready to create, make a promise to yourself that your only goal is to write. You are not obliged to create the outline for The Great American Novel, you don't have to create a brilliant character sketch or the perfect haiku. Your only agreement with that promise is to write. To create. To make something; anything. When it's done, you don't need to keep it. Delete the file, burn the paper, store it in a desk drawer with all the other things you promised to create when you weren't feeling like creating. Living up to your own process is a nice feeling, and it gives a certain sense of satisfaction if nothing else.

If possible, the one last thing to do is tap into what has drained you. It doesn't have to be a event-by-event recap of everything that brought you down. It can be a character feeling the same way; a poem about exhaustion, or a playful sketch about the life of a battery charger as it saves iPhone after iPhone, all while its wire casing frays at the connector, as they are so prone to do. This is the oldest bit of advice about writing what you know, and when you tap into it, the exhaustion can be a little more manageable.

As you all have likely guessed, I had a terrible day just before writing this. A painful letdown, an emotional betrayal, all the high drama one might expect that brings a person to a low point. Of course, it all occurred shortly before my allotted time for putting together my post. The blankets were warm, I was tired, my cats were already showing me the proper way to sleep - everything in place for me to hide from the world.

Instead, I wrote this. Now I have a little more energy, and I can face the day.

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