No, it’s not writer’s block. It’s worker’s block. I’ve been focused for the last few months on rebuilding my freelance business, and/or finding work since recovering from the “Great Recession” and a medical issue that started a couple of years ago and took a year to resolve. Then, as one discovers, it often takes even longer to feel yourself once again after the ordeal.
So today, I made a decision. Regardless of what else is going on in my life, it’s time to get back to writing fiction. Storytelling is not just a vocation, it’s a writer’s raison d’etre. A writer is never as happy as when sitting in front of the keyboard (or for purists, a pad of paper and a cup of coffee at the local java shop), immersed in what John Gardner called “the Dream.”
It is a Dream. It is the place where the world recedes — where even in the midst of utter chaos, the writer feels at peace. Probably, that’s a bit because when you are in the Dream, writing, you are in control. If you can’t control anything else in your life, you can at least control your story.
Of course, that’s debatable as well. Some traditionalists say that the story only comes alive when it or the characters take control, and the writer is helpless to do anything except act as scribe. Who was it—wait a sec, I’ll grab the quote book—yes, Ray Bradbury who said,“’My stories run up and bite me on the leg—I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off”
But others insist that they have total control over the story and the characters, and use them to tell their message. So who knows? Which one are you? I tend to hang with the first set. I know things are going right when that magical moment occurs, when you suddenly realize (and find yourself in the middle of writing something amazing about it) WHY that thing just had to be in the background in Chapter 2 although you did’t know at the time what the heck it was there for, or even if it mattered. It just had to be, according to your Muse. Or when a character says something you never expected to come out of his/her mouth, even as your fingers are typing the darn thing.
It’s been some time since I was in that place. I’ve been writing other things, of course, but none of them as satisfying or meaningful as stories. But it wasn’t just the outside influences that made me stop for a while. It was also the internal worries — the sense that the publishing world is simply spinning out of control and that there wasn’t any point to what I was doing. After all, it appears that fewer books are being published (fiction), and that everybody and his brother and sister are publishing e-books (both good and bad), and when the fan fiction I read online for a favorite TV show is sometimes so good that I can’t believe it’s from people who aren’t intending to write professionally . . . well, it just makes you throw your hands up in the air and say what’s the point?
Well, the point always was, and always will be, because you want to. Because you must. Because the darn story has run up and bit you on the leg. But then there is the lingering suspicion that bargains I made with God when loved ones were dying, about how I’d give up ANYTHING if He would help them . . . . It kinda makes you wonder sometimes, if He took you up on that offer.
But, I was never a very obedient Christian. I can’t remember if I made that bargain, or if it was ever intended to be accepted. It seems an odd trade-off, and hard to imagine a God who takes away the one reason for existence (even if you did make the deal at some desperate point in your life) like some Mafia enforcer collecting on an overdue debt.
So I decided that if I could not justify the time to sit down and write as I used to, I could at least justify two hours a week. I know, sounds paltry. Should be doing the “write every day”or “write five pages every day” or something else. But you start where you start. Or, perhaps the word is restart.
If any of you have gone through a similar period of self-enforced (or otherwise) hiatus from your creative writing, let me know. Let’s slug a mug of beer and sing the blues together . . . and set out to reclaim our existence.
© Chanda K. Zimmerman, 2013