I’m a writer who can’t write. I’ve been calling myself a writer for years now, but I can’t unlock my creativity. I don’t know if it’s lack of inspiration, or my depression, or a lack of ideas. Or one of a million other things. Whatever it is, I can’t seem to get my words out.
I want to write stories about Kepli, my beloved Halfling character from my D&D days.
I want to write about me, and my struggles, and my triumphs, and my gratitude.
I want to invent new characters, put them in situations, and see what happens.
I want to show the world how proudly I use the Oxford comma.
I want to stop editing myself as I go. I need to recognize the process.
I want to embrace the idea of writing 100,000 words in order to find 50,000 which become a book.
I want to help people.
So what’s the deal? Am I scared to turn over the rocks? Am I waiting for my “Catcher in the Rye” moment? I hope not, because that scenario is unrealistic. The real work is putting my ass in the chair every day, slogging through the muck and defeating the dreaded blinking cursor. One word at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time. A couple dozen words a day at first, and then a few hundred. Eventually, 1000-2000 words per day, until I feel like I have a book. Then, off to an editor it goes, and so goes the process.
Or, it begins with a tweet. Then another. Then another. And a blog post. Or a brain fart. Or a brain-dump soliloquy about how I’m a writer who can’t write.
I suppose it’s time to trust the process. Put the words on paper, a little at a time, until a shape reveals itself. That is, after all, where the hard work really happens. A little a a time. Short bursts, followed by periods of rest and reflection and celebration. The key is to not rest for too long, to not celebrate too lavishly, and to not let the rust settle in.
That’s what has happened over the past 20 years. I buried my desire to write under a mountain of bullshit, a desire for acceptance, and a yearn for distraction. Now, layers and layers of feelings, distractions, derivative thoughts, and bullshit are calcified on top of my creativity. Years and years of letting my writer muscles atrophy, and now it feels like putting words out is useless.
But it’s not. Creating, in whatever endeavor it might be, is never useless. For me, all of the circling and circling I’ve been doing over the past three years has been endlessly frustrating. But, the truth is that it serves a purpose.
I’m shaking off the rust. I’m stretching the muscles again. I’m chipping the barnacles off my ass, little by little. I’m finding my creativity, and with every word that comes out of my fingertips, I’m believing in myself and my abilities more and more.
I know what it feels like when the writing works; I’ve had a few experiences where a piece that came out plucked all the right strings. Or, later when I re-read it and reworked it, some things felt like the right kind of music for the mood I was in or the goal I was after. As the aspiring writer that I am, there’s no better feeling in the world. It does frustrate me when I go through a long stretch of time without writing, but more and more often lately, those “right kind of music” feelings happen whenever I write something. I find that it doesn’t take as long to flex the muscles anymore. Now, the pressure is in choosing a direction. There are a lot of things I can write, but every time I choose a project, I’m automatically NOT choosing every other project. There can be a lot of self-doubt and immense pressure associated with making these decisions.
But, as I said before: little by little, a little more each time. Trust myself and trust the process. I know I want to be a writer and to create good and helpful things for the world. Right now, knowing that is enough.
I need to remember all this next time I sit down to begin work on a new piece.