I’ll let you in on a secret: I haven’t written a word in two months.
This is a highly unusual state of affairs for me. Even when the words aren’t flowing easily, and there have been lots of times when they haven’t, there are words most days, or at least most weeks. Only deliberate vacations, when I’ve needed to refill the well and spend time with family, have kept me from writing for any length of time, and never two months. Even when I do take an intentional break, I jot down some notes about the holiday as a way of keeping the writing muscles limber while I step back from fiction. As a writer, I’ve bemoaned the frustrating times when what shows up on the page is wrong, wrong wrong; when nothing I type is worth keeping; when things just aren’t going well. But I’ve never gone two months without crafting even one fictional sentence.
Valid stuff knocked me off my game, and I knew I’d have to be patient with myself in finding my way back. But I did not know it would go on long enough that starting again would be so very difficult. I spent hours yesterday doing Anything But Writing, when I’d promised myself I was going to dip my toes back in the pool, even if only for fifteen minutes. The avoidance infuriated me, even though I was the one guilty of it, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. I can only think it must be rooted in the fear of the words never coming back, of trying and failing for good. But the truth is it’s not easier not to try. It’s excruciating.
I’m a big fan of the idea that writers write. If you’re a writer, you sit down and do the work, day after day, week after week, year after year, like anyone in any other job. But I also know that life happens. To writers. To everyone. And there are times when life gets in the way of work, no matter how hard you try to keep doing a decent job. I managed to keep the day job on track when life got in the way, but I lost the writing for awhile.
This week, I’m getting it back. Even if it means a few days of doing all the laundry, cleaning all the fountain pens, dusting all the bookshelves, running all the errands, and participating in whatever other avoidance strategies my subconscious can come up with, there will be words this week. The time has come. And those words will breed more words. And so on, and so on, like a shampoo commercial. I only have to get started.
If you’ve been struggling to get words on paper, know you’re not alone. It happens, even to those of us who would prefer not to have to believe in writer’s block. The important part is not letting the inertia win. It’s hard to get the ball rolling when it stops, but once you get it going, keeping it moving is so much easier than starting over. That’s my plan: lean against the ball until it shifts just a smidgen, then push it a little more and a little more until it’s rolling smoothly again.