For a variety of reasons I’ve been having a funny old time, writing-wise, just lately. The old mojo seems to have packed its trunk and run away to the circus. I didn’t invite me along, though I think I’d be pretty good on the trapeze, so rather than sit around feeling sorry for myself, gazing gormlessly into space, I’ve been doing something worthwhile.
I’ve been writing in my head.
My brain is at its creative best in the morning but nowadays these are spent attending to the needs of my mum in law who lives with us and suffers from dementia. But I’m retired now and my time is my own. I can write anytime, so this shouldn’t present too much of a problem. Except, it does.
You know what it’s like, when you’re deep into a piece of writing and someone asks for help with their homework, or moans that they can’t find their slippers, or wonders what’s happened to the TV remote. You lose your train of thought and bam, it’s gone. That beautifully crafted little nugget of inspiration has vanished.
Given my current situation, I have developed a butterfly mind, flitting from project to project, unable to commit to any one of them. I can’t seriously hope to write 1,000 coherent words every day, or even every week. I needed to change my perspective, approach things differently.
Sound familiar? I’m sure it happens to lots of writers occasionally. My solution has been to temporarily give up on the writing. It’s not as drastic as it first appears; it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped thinking about writing. On the contrary; I think about it all the time, which can be very exasperating, so these days I channel my frustration into planning.
I make notes about plotlines and character development; I do meticulous research; I write quick drafts. The scenes might not make it into the finished novel, but it keeps the writing muscles supple and, after all, you can’t edit a blank page. I write short, pithy pieces for writing group homework and I’m editing some of my old short stories to publish in an anthology. I also mentor friends with their writing. I still wake up in the middle of the night with ideas and I still write them down. I can’t ignore that little voice and I’ve not found an effective way of turning it off.
But mostly, I read. George RR Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.” Thanks God for books. They are my escape and my inspiration. Only yesterday I was reading about something completely unrelated that gave me a tremendous idea for a new beginning to my work in progress that had come to a grinding halt.
So this is my advice to anyone suffering similar constraints: don’t give up. The little voice will make its presence felt, and you might have to adjust your expectations. In the meantime, plan, edit, make notes, read.
Nothing lasts forever and my situation will change. So will yours.