Sparked by Words

Posts tagged ‘writing doldrums’

Doldrums and Drumbeats

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Perhaps it’s the summer doldrums that have me down, as I wilt in high temperatures and barely move for fear of producing nothing but sweat. All over the blog world, I’m reading about people struggling to write the next word, craft a good sentence, complete a work in progress. Extreme heat and minimal writing output have left me frustrated. I feel myself floating on a sea without wind in my sails, drifting but going nowhere. This isn’t usual for me. I’m the writer who never suffers from writer’s block. Talkative as I am, I also have something to write about all the time. But this last month has seen me produce nearly nothing. I have story to tell, books to write, tales in my head. Still, almost no headway on any project.

It’s been a tough week, and before that a challenging month, and before that a miserable year. I have no energy.

The deep wound: I’ve been betrayed by people whom I’d loved all my life, a story I will not share. And I will not forgive.

The tragedy: My mother continues to decline, her mental and physical health a hostage to a disease for which there is no cure and only moderate pharmaceutical options and routines to intercept its lockstep progress toward her complete destruction.

The job: The last place I worked doing a job I loved closed its doors, a victim of a crashing economy, and left me too old to be hired anywhere else. Yes, it’s illegal to refuse to hire me because of my age, but a hundred other excuses/reasons surface in lieu of the one I know really prevents me from being employed in my field.

The shakedown: For many years I was locked into a business arrangement not of my making but one I couldn’t end. Until I finally did end it legally. About a year later, the other party sent me a threatening letter, demanding money for work he never did. I panicked, for while I have plenty of documentation proving what a lying leech he is, he scares me. I didn’t respond to the email. He sent a certified letter which I refused to accept, and I haven’t heard from him since. I’ll never really know if this shakedown is over because it’s fueled by his alcoholism, and that’s a never-ending problem.

The final blow: I got a rejection letter regarding an opportunity for which I knew I was unlikely to be selected. Still, the you-didn’t-make-it letter punched me harder than I’d thought. I reacted with tears and nightmares. The tears have stopped, the nightmares still torment me.

Other bloggers are writing about their summer blues and their attempts to regain their mojo. They’re adapting new strategies, like detailed outlining, or elaborate character sketches, or trying a writing program like yWriter5. Some are getting in an early morning swim, a late night walk, a slash in carbs, caffeine, gluten, and lactose, or an increase in probiotics, kale, and quinoa.  Many of my writer friends and acquaintances have found a way to proceed, and I wish all of them continued progress. May my losing streak not be theirs.

None of this accounts for my lack of progress. I haven’t written a new article on my blog in a while. I haven’t worked on any of my stories, not creating or editing or querying on their behalf. I feel like my life force has been pumped out and replaced with cat litter. My problems are way worse than everyone else’s. Than yours. That’s the way it is, right? My problems are more deeply entrenched, at least to me; I have so much to overcome. Your novel will launch long before I haul myself out of this slump.

Don’t pity me. I don’t deserve it, don’t need it. It won’t motivate me to get moving. Despite the year of bad tidings, I’ve also been blessed with a loving family, friends, and so many opportunities that the excuses for not writing resemble a teenager’s resistance to drive any car but a brand new one. What do you mean, I’m not getting a new car all my own? Sixteen years on this earth, eating your food, dropping my dirty clothes all over your floor, and you want to give me a used car? I deserve brand new. Lazy and entitled teenager.

I’m behaving like I deserve to find writing easy. Lazy and entitled old lady, me.

It’s already “the next day.” Today, I will write. No excuses. Time to make progress, time to achieve. Not a new car but a story that drums on the inside of my brain, begging to be written.

Badum-a-dump, ching.

 

 

Sea image courtesy: publicdomainpictures.net

My Story Means So Much to Me

man-jumpingIt’s the only way to write – your story must mean so much to you that a belly grumbling for food can’t distract your attention from your writing muse. It must grab inside your heart and not let go till you get it down in a computer or journal. It has to keep you up way past bedtime, demanding research, character sketches, and plot plans before allowing pillow face plants. Passion for story should be your motivator, and it must power a writing impulse careening at breakneck speed down the narrative track, not giving up a single phrase or story twist.

Sadly, I read many articles from people who say they get bored with their own work and can’t complete the tale. They start with an idea that chases them around the block for a few months, then are sidelined by the drudgery of writing every day. Polishing dress shoes becomes essential, another frappe calls from the local café, and the story wanes in the journal, ink smeared by drops of sweat left behind as they fled. The computer monitor goes to sleep. They claim to be bored because they know the outcome of the tale. The characters, based on friends and acquaintances, are too familiar. The plot, another murder mystery or fantasy or romance, bodes predictable. They have lots of story ideas, so they say, yet not one completed manuscript.

I think they’re choosing the wrong stuff to write – the wrong plot, genre, characters, situation, or crisis. Maybe they’ve chosen stories similar to the published books they enjoy reading. Maybe their writing is too derivative of what’s popular and they have little freshness to add to the catalogue. Perhaps they really aren’t writers so much as glory hounds, seeking literary fame the way teenagers imagine themselves as Olympic heroes.

I’ve never encountered such doldrums. My worst problems are not a drop in my incentive to write and rewrite, but a lack of time to do so because of other obligations. In fact, my determination to get my stories written and eventually published remains as high as when I first began to type (yes, type) out a story. Story isn’t one fabulous idea about a weird or compelling thing that happens to someone, or an iconic character who discovers one important crusade in his life, or a citizen who intercepts a singular brazen act of sabotage. It can’t be one thing because life isn’t composed of just one thing. It’s a complex and multidimensional constellation of people, eras, and moments.  Telling such a story takes the skill to be comprehensive with plot and subplot, nuanced regarding character development, and obsessed about craftsmanship.  A writer must be relentless about writing the story, beginning to end and all the parts in between.

I like to write but I write about what interests me, “like” being on both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes it isn’t like as much as it is loathe, but my feelings are intense. It’s key, I think, to staying with a story. I develop my characters fully, not only the protagonist and the antagonist, but secondary and even marginal characters. Everyone is important. Each has a history and contribution, not just a convenient link to propel the plot forward, but a significant portion of the development of the story borne on their shoulders. The location of my story is a place I love or hate, and I’ll spend hours investigating or creating it, even building a fictional home at the top of a real hill. I’ll research a moment in history to find out how a true historical incident developed, who was responsible for the events that identify it, what were the consequences of its treaties or partitioning or the destruction of its culture. I’ll find figures who represent the moment and the place and write portions of smaller story elements that fit the larger tale. Each aspect I consider expands the story and gives me something else to write about.

I can’t write if I’m not enthralled by my own stories, but because I am, I do write. I complete a story, and I move on the next story that grabs inside my heart. If you are lackadaisical about your story and stumbling as you try to write, you’re on the wrong track. Find another tale to tell. My stories mean so much to me. Yours must mean as much to you. Good writing, fellow writer.

 

Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net