Monday, January 6, 2014

When we can write, and when we can't

Warning, I'm writing this at 3:30am, so some of it might not make much sense... but it was promoted by two things:

1) A long-time writing buddy posted recently about writing experiences we *haven't* experienced.

2) Over the holidays, my dad asked me, out of the blue, at someone else's house, with no lead-up whatsoever, if I've been writing. In his experience, creative people either get fiercely motivated while experiencing emotional turmoil, or they get backed-up and can't do a thing.

From the conversation with my dad, I'm definitely the latter. I haven't written since early November, and I think other than (perhaps) the occasional blog post, it'll be a few weeks at least before anything other than simply-relaying-facts-or-thoughts come spewing forth from my fingers. But until now, I couldn't even do that much.

From my friend's post, I have been thinking a lot on that subject over the past year... especially how no one deals with a situation in the exact way that someone else will. I've  learned a lot through self-examination, and actually surprised myself in many ways. Good, and bad.

As per my previous post about 'going dark' back in November, my head has been too full of thoughts to write. Oddly enough, I've had no problem with other creative activities like drawing or painting, disregarding the current physical limitations of my dominant arm not working properly, but that's something physio will eventually fix. What I mean is, doing that kind of activity has actually eased the noise in my head a little... but writing? Can't squeak out 50 words that could remotely be considered 'creative'.

Perhaps it's because drawing/painting is a different 'language' of output. There is no need for additional words/sentences/thoughts to interfere with the current storm.

Perhaps it's a limit of my dyslexic brain, because I can't fully commit 100% of my attention, the words are too scrambled up to put down in the correct order.

Perhaps I'm just emotional exhausted and don't have the energy to put myself in a character's head and experience their emotions as well.

Or perhaps I can't write someone else's story until I've figured out my own.

A further thought on my friend's post, how writing is "...a fumbling towards truths..." (great line by the way, eh?) no one can say that I write *myself* into my stories, but I do borrow from my own past, my own thoughts, my own feelings.

As writers, we can twist and mould our own experiences until they are nearly unrecognizable.

You don't have to have been raped to understand the emotion of betrayal, defilement, or terror. You don't have to lose a child to understand grief. You don't have to be an alcoholic to understand a pure desire that runs contrary to logical thought and self-preservation. You don't have to get physically beaten down to understand abuse or bullying.

And I think that, as a writer, eventually this past year will become fodder for new characters and new stories.

I hope it will, at least.

It is, perhaps, a stray thread of silver-lining.

What are your thoughts?


  1. When we can't write is always instructive -- there are always times when one simply cannot. The loss of a family member in many cases or after injury. I had that lovely experience of being shoved into a store window which shattered and spend two months with one useless arm thanks to tendons being sliced. It was very hard to write with one hand and getting anything written became a chore. On the plus side, I spent the hospital ride going mentally 'I can use this in stories.' Someone told me it was displacement but I don't think so, not in the way they mean. .

    I could still write stuff, but it was a lot harder and everything was clunky and forced. It's not the same as writer's block at all, more than there was no easy way to get to the stories to tell them.

    The part about understanding your own story is definitely a factor. Shit happens, and the brain goes 'how much of this is my fault/could have been changed' and that runs over and over. I was going: "I'm not blaming the guy for what he did. I lived, I will heal, he lost control. It happens." Most everyone else was: "But you SHOULD be angry/vengeful." And, mostly, I wasn't. So there was that disconnect between the story as I saw it and how others saw it, to the point that when someone agreed with my POV I just stared I shock for over 20 seconds at the guy :) And that, too, helped inform some characters later on. One knows these deep disconnects exist, but you know them a little better once you experience them, or at least get news way to spin them into stories.

  2. Glad you're back! Hope you had a good holiday season. For me, when i'm not writing I'm reading. Sometimes it takes weeks of reading one good or not so good book after another before I can get back to my own work, or less, depending on how much my brain is fried. Not matter how stressful real life is reading is my fall back. But then again, I've never been gifted artistically. I can draw stick figures, that's about it. I think as long as you're doing something that challenges you, or helps ease some of the burden of life, you should do it. Taking a break can be necessary, though, because there's only so much we can do before we run out of energy.

  3. Writing happens when it happens. Even if you sit down to the same piece of paper everyday and can't squeak out more than 50 words, that's something. But it's okay that times come when writing just doesn't happen. When that connection is back, I wish you all the best in riding the wave that comes from it :-)


Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)