Sunday, July 02, 2017

Why I Stopped Writing

I used to get writer's block all the time.  It's normal to go through periods where you can't write, right?

It's been three consistent years of chronic writer's block now and I'm getting antsy.  I can't even bring myself to write in my journals... even if I desperately WANT to... I can't do it for some bizarre reason.

This isn't like me.  I joined an online Creative Writing Course offered through the University of Ohio thinking that might help "force" the pen to paper.  Nope.  I failed.  I didn't submit a thing.

So what is going on?  It's not like I don't have things to write about.  I get inspired to write all the time.  There's just something blocking me from doing it.  I tell myself that I don't have the time.  The inspiration hits me in the most inconvenient moments when I won't be in front of my computer until many hours later and I'll be too tired to write.

Elizabeth Gilbert explained writing in a way that made so much sense to me.  I am pretty sure she heard it from someone else... so this will be extremely paraphrased... but it goes like this:

"Being inspired to write hits you often at the most unexpected moment.  It's like a train coming in the distance.  You hear it approaching but you might be standing in a field, miles from home without a pen and paper.  So you run as fast as you can before that train passes so you do not miss this moment of inspiration.  If you're lucky, you get there before it's gone because once it's gone, you miss it.  And in some cases, if you get there just in the nick of time, you might be able to catch the back of the train and pull the words onto paper backward."

Something like that.  You get the gist of it.

I've missed so many trains it's not even funny.  I've stopped bothering to run for them. 

So why am I not writing?  I have been reflecting on that question a lot.  It comes down to a lot of things.  Burnout.  Depression.  Anxiety.  Low self-worth.  Mid-life crisis.  Loneliness.  Fear (of failure, of success).  Laziness.  Overwhelm.

I asked another writer friend of mine if this happens to him.  His response was:

"Yes, absolutely, so often.  But I never fight those moments, I just ride them through and try to get myself excited again about whatever it is I need to be creative about... in as organic a way as possible.  Usually by relaxing, breathing, going back to the original source (music, places, thoughts) and letting whatever comes, come... and not fighting it.  Anxiety over those times doesn't work.  Breathing does, for me."

It happened when I returned from Africa in 2014.  I was supposed to finish my book.  I have an editor and everything. We'd have regular meetings to discuss the project and he advised me to stop blogging and just write for the book.  It made sense.  I write on here and it goes out to you instantly, there's no sales in that.  So I was supposed to stop blogging altogether and even DELETE MY BLOG!  Omg.

The purpose of writing the book was so that hopefully when it's a best seller and I'm on Oprah's book list, it will be made into a screenplay and then movie.  Yay!  Then I never have to worry about fundraising again and I can just go and live my purpose, helping my friends in Africa, rescuing children and animals and build my sustainable retreat so people can come and reconnect with themselves through nature.  Wouldn't that be wonderful?

The longer I waited to write the story, things began to unravel and the plot changed and twisted.  The story was becoming something very different from the one I was preparing to write.  Some of the information was too hard for me to comprehend.  Lies, scandal, exploitation.  This wasn't what I signed up for.  My own story had enough of that.  This book is too heavy, even for me... the strongest girl in the world.

It's fear that holds me back.  Am I REALLY strong enough to tell this story?  Is my writing good enough?  Can I handle the critics and the backlash when I tell the truth?  Do I really want to relive the pain and the hurt?  Do I write this story as an autobiography which seems so egotistical or do I make it into fiction so I can change the characters so no one is 100% sure who I'm talking about (apart from the person I'm referencing - IF they even read it which they probably won't)?

And voila.  Too many questions causes too much hesitation.  As time goes by, I watch that train disappear through the mountains.

There's no question that the moment I sit down as I am right now, to blog about something as random as writer's block, the words flow.  I don't have to overthink, the words come from somewhere outside of me.

At times I've considered just getting a ghost writer to help me.  I think my emotions are too involved in my story.  My feelings might be preventing me from writing objectively.  Then there's the self-doubt, "Who do you think you are?  Why on earth would anyone care about what you have to say?"  

Self-doubt is the biggest bitch I know.  This is how we communicate:

"I'm not disciplined enough."  Shut the fuck up.  I'm the most disciplined person I know.

"My family will disown me."  Who the fuck cares?  They never call you and they'll probably never even read it.

"The story is too hard to tell."  You lived through it so it can't be that bad.  And there will be people who will be comforted knowing that someone else went through the same shit they are currently dealing with.

"I never know where to start."  This one stumps me too.  You have been writing for over 30 years... there's a lot of material.  Where the fuck do you start?  STUMPED.  For once we agree on something.

And that's the answer.  I don't know where to start.  I've tried and tried.  The story is so big.  My editor said I have about 5 or 6 books that need to come out.  WHERE DO I START!

I seem to start in one story and then I move to another story.  I have all of these folders with stories but nothing flows and it's only half told.

Perfectionism is the killer of creativity and I am a FUCKING Virgo!

Sorry, I don't usually swear this much.

I love(d) blogging.   I love the instant thrill of publishing immediately.  I'm an "in the moment" kinda girl.  If I don't do something with my inspiration immediately, it goes in a folder on my computer and it sits there forever.

I can't seem to write when I feel lonely.  I feel most inspired when I am traveling, surrounded by people while I retreat into my own world as the buzz surrounds me.  Perhaps that is the answer.  My quiet house, which is perfect for writing, doesn't inspire me.  It simply makes me want to eat chocolate all day and take a nap.

On days when I have time to write, I organize my garage or I made videos like this one that I made of my dog Blue.  I'll blog about him one day soon... maybe.  ;)  Kidding.  Of course I will.  He's amazing.

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