Warning: this isn’t a short post.
I’m currently in a writing low as of now.
As far as my WIPs are concerned, it’s in something of a doldrum from idea overload. Edits are edits, they are what they are. However, it is a bit worrisome that my blog is rather dead since I’ve been spending far too much time pinteresting, or making crude remarks elsewhere, as far as online presence is concerned. And I’ll cut right to the chase here: I’ve been really frustrated lately due to external factors, and that ultimately is the deciding factor of my mood.
I won’t converse about the causes of my distress here other than using it as a springboard to lead into how the emotional state of mind affects the creative process.
You hear countless times that writing is work. Why treat writing like it’s some hobby, if it’s something you’re really serious about? Do you have the option to skip work or school if you’re “not feeling the muse?” Of course not.
If you’re feeling depressed, do you skip work? And if you do, I doubt you can carry on like without repercussions until you get a doctor’s note – if your employer accepts such a reason.
So, like your day job, playing hooky with your writing will be a bad idea unless you treat it with responsibility, commitment, and basically, showing up.
But what do you do when depression, or a low time in this journey of life, attacks you when you least expect it? Or, in my case, while you’re riding high on a writing spree? Or, if your finances aren’t depending on your writing, what do you do when real life puts a major damper on your creativity?
Everyone has a different way of dealing with this, but the basic options would include: a) stop writing and be miserable; b) stop writing in your projects and journal your pain/sorrow; c) keep writing and suffer in silence; d) keep writing and ignore the external source of pain. You can tell me if there are more options out there; but these are the options I see in front of me whenever my mental life comes to a crashing halt. Because as emotionally stable as I’d like to project myself to be, it’s the farthest thing from the truth. If I’m happy, my writing muse is raring to go. If I’m miserable, my writing muse is hiding in a corner refusing to come out.
And I wish it weren’t so.
So what do you do when your life just isn’t cooperating with your writing? When the only thing on your mind is what’s hurting you emotionally?
There’s nothing wrong with taking a break. It could be a few days, or it could be a couple of weeks. I’ve done this before, and I know I’ll do this countless times again because my problems typically don’t go away very quickly – or at least in the foreseeable years to come. They come and they’ll go, but it’s a neverending cycle. As a writer, the doldrums of writing due to external circumstances never last forever. I’ve underwent years where I didn’t write – hell, I didn’t even think about a single story – for over two years. It upset me, but as it were, the circumstance at hand took much higher precedence than plotting a story.
Now the ability to take a hiatus from writing may differ for someone who gets paid for their writing. Because I’ll remind you that my fiction isn’t by contract. I write for fun, for personal satisfaction, to see my writing in book form one day – because that’s why I write: because I love to read. And there’s nothing more fulfilling than to see my story in tangible format. A part of my library. To be able say, “Yeah; it may suck, but I did write all that. And I’m proud of it.”
But when to take a hiatus, and when not to? It’s really up to you. Only you know your situation well enough to know what’s more important: your mental health, or your desire to write. And everyone’s desire to write is to some degree more or less than the other writer. And that’s okay. There’s no reason to compare yourself to someone you admire (or loathe). No reason at all. Because if you’re comparing yourself to another writer, then you have to ask yourself this: Are you writing for them? Or for your own pleasure?
More often than not, your “competition” is oblivious to your private struggle. They don’t even care.
When you begin to write for yourself, that’s where the fun begins. Because if you’re writing to score points, or be popular, or to impress… well, that’s where the trouble begins. That’s where stress comes into the picture. Because writing stories isn’t about making that A+, or one-upping your (perceived) rival, or being the next Stephen King. It’s about our own creative journeys. It’s about our self-fulfillment, and doing what makes us happy. So what if an agent rejects our story. So what if a publisher says our story doesn’t fit the times.
We write to fill our creative well. We write because we can’t help it. We write because it’s in our souls. And it’s a part of us. We can’t help it.
So when a bad time in life comes upon us, don’t despair. Our muse will never leave us. It may lay dormant for a while, awaiting our hearts to sync with its juices, but it will return. Never give up.
The artist inside never fades.