Why don’t you do writing posts anymore?
I think most of us go through stages in our professional life. It’s a little cycle that goes likes this: I learn things -> I know things -> I need to explain things I learned, because they’re awesome ->Wait a minute, I don’t actually know anything ->I learn things.
I’m at the point where I’m back to the learning stage and I don’t feel pressure to share what I know, because my knowledge is subjective and my tricks of the trade work for me, but they may not necessarily work for anyone else. If you ask me a specific question, I will answer to the best of my ability, but again my answer may not work for you.
What do you do when you’re feeling creatively empty? Not necessarily writer’s block, but just lacking inspiration completely?
And here comes a specific question.
Warning: read at your own risk. You may not like the answer.
The question to ask yourself is why do you feel the pressure to write?
For some people, it’s something they must do. Writing, like most creative pursuits, is addictive. When a writer is telling a story, he or she are almost like a locomotive on the rails. Sometimes it’s fast and furious, sometimes it’s slow and plodding, and sometimes the locomotive stops for a while. But the goal is always there, just beyond the horizon. It draws you in; it beckons. That’s why stopping is so annoying. When the train stops due to a writing block, the inability to produce eats at you. You become listless and irritable. You sit and stare at the page, and you’re annoyed because nothing is happening.
Occasionally the creative train derails. The locomotive flies off the tracks into the bushes. Sometimes it explodes and sometimes it just lays there in a crumpled heap. That’s when inability to write turns into hate for writing and books in general. It’s a painful thing to experience and to watch. Creative crashes aren’t fun for anyone, whether they happen to you, your spouse, or your friend.
But for some people, writing is just a hobby. They don’t feel the compulsion. They think it’s cool and the like the idea of being a writer. Or they simply have less of a pull and are able to walk away from it easily. I like to knit. I don’t feel the need to knit all the time. It strikes me once in a while and I can leave it alone for weeks.
Not that long after we started trying to get published, I was hanging out on one of writer boards and this woman posted a question. It went something like this, “What do you think a good genre would be for me to write in? Also what kind of story should I write? Like what kind of characters and what they should do? I want to be a writer.”
I, being a smartass, replied, “Why do you want to write, if you don’t have anything to say?”
Mean, but true.
So the problem here is, are you a locomotive or are you a casual knitter? Does the inability to write interfere with your quality of life? If it doesn’t, then no need to stress. It will return on its own. If it does, and you need a fix right now, I have one, but apply it at your own risk because it may make you miserable in the immediate future. It doesn’t work one hundred percent of the time either, so your mileage might vary.
We, the human beings, are emotion junkies. We read for that emotion: we wants to experience a wide range of it, from suffering to triumph. Writing is a response to life and the writing locomotive runs on emotion of the writer. That’s our fuel. In a sense, we vent our emotion on the page, and the readers live it through our writing. When a writer becomes emotionally flat, the inspiration vanishes and the locomotive derails.
Yes, I’ve beaten the metaphor into the ground, leave me alone.
The key to getting unstuck is finding something you feel strongly about. You need two things: brain food and a trigger. Do not do this if you are severely depressed or have suicidal tendencies. This is a last resort fix and by clicking the Unstuck button below, you agree to absolve me of any responsibility for the consequences of your emotional distress.
[spoiler title="I need to be unstuck" open="0" style="1"]
A writer must nourish his mind, because if nothing goes in, nothing will come out. That nourishment can come in form of books, but it doesn’t have to. One can also draw nourishment from movies and especially art. Here is a link to Wallpaper Abyss, one of the largest collection of SF/F wallpapers on the web.
So here is the trick. Go to this website, and think about the time in your life when you were wronged. Not just unhappy – unhappy doesn’t work for us, because humans love to wallow in our misery. No, I mean a time when someone did something to you that was nasty and unfair. Something that made you want to respond. It might have been a year ago, when your boss screamed at you over something that wasn’t you fault. It might have been in the seventh grade when Megan told the guy you like that you said he was stupid and then dated him when you broke up. Find that moment of righteous anger. Remember it in detail. Let yourself re-experience those emotions. Acute embarrassment. That terrible helpless feeling. Anger.
Now hold on to that feeling and start flipping through the papers on Abyss. If one of them pulls at you, look at it for as long as you need to. Keep holding on to that pissed off feeling. You want to get revenge, don’t you? You want justice, because what was done to you is wrong.
Keep looking at the wallpaper. Even if you’re not actually thinking of anything specific that is in that image, as long as it evokes some sort of response, you’re on the right track. Keep looking and keep seething in your emotion.
We don’t like to be under stress. If you trap your mind in the state of emotional distress, it will do its best to get out of it. It will either present you with a scenario for revenge or it will try to escape into the fantasy la-la land by presenting a fun storyline to distract you from your misery. Either way, you will become unstuck.
When you recognize that first inkling of the story, it is very important that you do not write it. Keep thinking about it for a week or two. Roll it around in your mind. Do not write. Writing too soon will relieve the pressure. You need enough emotional involvement to finish the story. Start writing when the story has eaten your brain. If you start defaulting to thinking about it every moment you don’t have to think of something else, you’re at the right spot. Good luck.