Dry. Blocked. Stuck. Staring at the screen.
One of a writer’s many nightmares is sitting down, putting her fingers on the keyboard and…nothing. No words, no idea, no clue comes on how to finish this wretched story. She has to write the scene — she wants to write the scene — and her mind says ‘beeeeeeeeeeeep’, like those old ‘end of the programing day’ screens before television was on 24/7.
I think every writer deals with this syndrome at some point. Most of us call it ‘writer’s block’ though my mentor, S. J. Walker, calls it ‘writer’s procrastination’ with some justification. When the words don’t come it is too easy to turn off the computer or set aside the notebook and say “It’s just not working today. I’ll do something else.” Don’t get me wrong, everybody needs mental breaks, even from work they love. But the biggest secret to accomplishing any creative endeavor? It ain’t talent or unlimited time or an independent income. It’s showing up, plain and simple.
If you don’t make it a habit to pick up the needle or the paintbrush or sit down at the computer, then the quilt, the drawing, the story will never get done. You gotta set a schedule to give yourself creative time, whether it’s your full-time job or weekend projects, and you gotta show up on the schedule you set for yourself, be it daily or weekly.
My goal is to write for a set number of hours, six days a week. Even though I’ve been spinning my creative wheels for the last month, I am still here. I haven’t felt so unproductive in years, but I am following my friend Sally’s dicate: “Write anyway.” My frustration shows in stilted dialogue and entire scenes that have nothing to do with my story. (Another important part of writing is accepting that the first thing I come up with is usually crap.) I groan, hit ‘delete’ and try to remember that one point the chance to write these characters and their story thrilled me.
I’ve lived long enough to learn that creativity, like the rest of life, goes in cycles. I’m in a dry spell where the right words are as scarce as water in the desert. But if I show up and keep stringing one word after another, I will find my way back to the story I hope to write. And then the words, like rain, will come again.
Then I’ll probably whine about drowning.