I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing lately.
That is, I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing creatively.
No, that’s not quite right either.
I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing fiction.
I’ve been writing up a storm of non-fiction. From reviews at Electric Literature to articles in Broadly to book-lists and essays on Read It Forward and BookBub to my single article on DAME Magazine.
It isn’t writer’s block. It’s writer’s busyness. It’s writer’s intense fear of churning out crap. It’s writer’s knowledge that no matter what she does, she already feels behind (yes, despite publications above, despite fiction publications, despite the fact that today, in an hour and a half, I’ll be lucky enough to have Skillshare folks come to my apartment to film me – me – teaching a class about writing flash fiction). It’s writer’s panic that she doesn’t now how to weave novels together anymore. Or words. Words that are fiction and not truth.
This moment of truth is terrifying because it is natural. It feels right. But this is not the writer I am. I am not a writer who writes truth. I am a writer who lies through her teeth in the form of fiction. I am the writer who’s convinced other people that some of her stories are autobiographical until she corrects them and tells them No, they’re not. They’re fiction. I wasn’t this girl, I wasn’t that man, I wasn’t this woman crying softly on her desk at work, I wasn’t this young woman in the hospital, I wasn’t these women hugging each other, crying, scared for their lives and rightly so because of a horrible thing they did.
Fiction, come back to me. Stop feeling like crap, please. I miss you. I miss your twists and turns, your marvelous language, the feeling of fabric straining through my fingers and wishing to be written into a story, fabric ripped apart and sewn back together again in the editing process.
I miss you, Fiction. I need you, Fiction.
Not quite an attack, but almost.
It’s scary – feeling like I can’t write. I think it may be the kind of fear that wakes me up from nightmares. It’s a taunting fear, too – it’s like the music buildup in horror films, the kind that goes into a crescendo just to calm again around the next corner, then climb again suddenly when the monster jumps out of the shadows.
It’s a vacant feeling, too. Like something disappeared. My rational, logical mind knows that nothing disappeared, that it’s still there somewhere and that today, for some reason, I just couldn’t reach it.
Instead of writing, I tried researching. And I got very upset about that too, since I couldn’t find the price of paper in the seventeenth century. I’m not sure it matters, not really, especially as I found some cool stuff that might be very useful and that gave me ideas, but still – the thought that there will be something glaringly anachronistic in what I’m writing bothered me so much that I had to take a walk, reading The City & The City by China Mieville, just to take my mind off it.
So here’s the question – I don’t know how many of you write fantasy of any sort, but if you do… How much license do you give yourself? How much creative freedoms do you think you can take with a story that’s clearly based in a different world?
It shouldn’t be called “writer’s block.” The word “block” gives the image of a beginning, of something being built, one piece at a time until it’s complete. But writer’s block merely means a lack of building blocks. But perhaps not? Maybe writer’s block is an overabundance of images and ideas that refuse to be put into any form or shape that seems coherent. Or maybe writer’s block is when all the visions that fill the imagination fuse together into a big shape from which nothing can be isolated and looked at on its own.
My mother writes for a living. She does all sorts of writing, but her main employers are a workbook company. The past few days, we’ve both been spending our days writing in our separate rooms – she, her workbooks, and I, my college application essays. It seems that while I might have inherited at least some of her incredible writing skills, I have also inherited a number of other qualities.
For one, when I’m stuck while working or studying, I’m well and truly stuck. No amount of effort or thought will help and I will only get more and more frustrated as I cannot think what to write or how to study. My mother tells me she gets this way as well.
Second, and rather recently, I have become an extreme coffee junkie. My mother cannot start the morning without two cups of coffee in her system. While I haven’t reached such an extreme quite yet, I can feel this trait growing in me, slowly and steadily. I already drink at least three cups of coffee a day, and sometimes more.
Third, and this is one I consider as a true bug, I seem to be more inspired late at night. This doesn’t mean that the products of writing at one and two in the morning are particularly good, but those are the times when I manage to write most easily, letting the thoughts flow out of me. This means most of my days are spent in a haze of tiredness due to lack of sleep.
Genes – a blessing and a curse!