Monday, January 16, 2017

I Need Advice On A Creative Block

I still can't write what I want. 

I mean, I do want to write these posts, and I'd even say I enjoy doing so, but nothing much has changed since I blogged about feeling unable to create after the crushing results of the 2016 election. 

I've focused a lot on nonfiction and other projects, but whenever I want to write creatively...meh. I can't bring myself to open a Word doc. Nonfiction writing can be creative, but I feel more personally invested in fiction writing.

I'm trying to think of how to describe the feeling. It's like when I think about continuing something fiction -- or even re-reading an old draft to ease myself back into it -- I want to glue myself to the floor (and not get up). Or, maybe it's more like a weight pressing down. Or when you know you ought to take the trash out, but it's freezing outside, and all your winter weather gear seems to have disappeared. So you leave the trash in the can. 

Image result for dumpster fire
Since we're talking about trash cans...

I've always been able to at least open the document, look at what I wrote before, and say, "Wow, this is shit," before closing it. Now I don't even want to open the doc. The closest I've gotten is plugging in my thumb drive. 

Everyone is urging creators and artists to create when they feel down about the direction our country is taking. Perhaps it's the overwhelming pressure of responsibility for one's creative output to be meaningful or "worth it," or perhaps it's simply my physical limitations, but this strategy hasn't worked for me. I don't have a ton of energy at the best of times. I have a job, fortunately, but I spend almost all of the rest of my time saving and scrounging and conserving my energy to do that job. 

And my off days I generally spend recovering and preparing for the next day I work. My friends see active and smiley me, but in order to socialize at that level, I need to be a potato before the visit. Sometimes energy output exceeds the rate at which I can replace it, and I just...fall asleep. Or end up sitting quietly off to one side, burned out or in too much pain to be meaningfully present, and knowing that I should have conserved more. Or I'm the buzzkill who has to insist on ending an outing early, because my body imposes limits on how much of certain activities I can do at one time. Depending on the condition of my health that week, I need to spend more or less time conserving and recharging, but I always do need to put significant physical and mental energy towards it. 

Perhaps with the stress that comes with being keenly aware of current events, I don't get any leftover energy for creation. Maintenance is hard enough without trying to do anything new. Or perhaps it's a sense of, what is the point of making a new thing at the moment? 

This is all coming to a head because I have an important appointment on the same day as Inauguration Day. I'm not sure I'll be able to focus on ANYTHING beyond basic, day to day stuff until my unease surrounding the inauguration and my fears over the fate of the ACA are resolved. I don't even know if I'll get an answer at this appointment, but I'll at least have closed off a line of inquiry.

Everyone is writing hopeful think pieces and urging writers to write like nothing fucking happened, like it's business as usual. They're sitting in a burning house pretending everything is fine, and I'm like, that's nice and all, but writing your book is not going to help me if I lose my health coverage. And somehow all these think-piece writers and writing activists and the pressure to be positive and productive have managed to make me feel guilty, as if by having a totally justifiable shock reaction, or feeling too down and blah to write, I'm letting The Bad Guys win. 

Tl;dr: I don't know how to work back up to writing again. Keep plugging in that thumb drive until I open the Word doc one day? Write something total trash that I'm not invested in? Do longhand? Do a different form, like poetry? Just wait it out? Advice would be nice.


  1. Try something other than writing. Draw a stick man, knit, go to a movie and tweet about. Try something creative outside your comfort zone and see if it helps. When I'm in the writing doldrums going on social media or watching a favorite show on Netflix helps. Takes me away from my usual. Sorry you are going through this Laura. You are not the bad guy. Depression is dragging at your skirt and what you need is support and rest. Not criticism. Time will help and hopefully some goods news. Take your time. Rushing with your low energy is more likely to hurt than help. Talk to someone if you can. Sending love and prayers.

    1. Thank you! :) Your advice is excellent. I probably should talk to someone, if only to vent, but I tend to feel like I'm taking away from *their* problems. Of course, this is nonsense. Now that you mention it, though, I realize that I haven't watched Netflix in a really long time. At least a month. I do like to go find fluffy shows that I can enjoy without getting too invested in. It stimulates my own creativity to see what others have made. Thanks for the well-wishes. :)

  2. Sheena-kay gives several good suggestions. In the end, none of this can be forced. If you consider yourself a writer, and obviously you do, it will return. Pardon the gross metaphor, but all the cockroaches in the dark scatter as soon as you flick the lights on; you can't catch them with timing and speed.

    But keeping that in mind, if you want to ease your way back to where you want to be, I find sometimes watching movie trailers helps me feel creative again. Doesn't matter if you've heard of the movie, or even want to see it...just watch a bunch of them. Dramatic conflict in a can.

    I also recommend two books if you have not read them already. 1) The Artist's Way by Julie Cameron. 2) Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Both touch on feeling lost creatively, and explore it without beating one upside the head with it. Guilt free guidance back to the writing place you want to be.

    And we can start our weekly accountability exercise anytime you're ready if they would help.

    1. Thanks for your advice. :) I might check out those books if I get really desperate. Watching movie trailers seems like a good exercise. I sometimes do something similar with music videos or dance videos. I'll try it out.

      And your cockroach metaphor seems pretty accurate, tbh. Also, I've been waiting for February to start that again, like we mentioned before, if that's OK. In the meantime, perhaps reading more of your WIP will stir my own creative brain. I'm a decent chunk through it, but that's petered out as well. It's way easier to do things for others than it is for oneself, I've found.

  3. I think Sheena-kay has the good suggestions. Writing works in cycles for me, where sometimes I'm sketching, sometimes I'm sewing, sometimes I'm chasing down whatever shiny project I've discovered lately.

    Sorry to hear you're feeling guilt over the pressure. I want to introduce you to another blogger I follow: Mason Matchak. He's gone through cycles of feeling like his work is crap, and managed to bring himself back despite his depression and anxiety. Perhaps there might be a kernel in his blog that might help?

    1. Thank you. I will start following that blog you recommended, since hearing from people in similar boats is often helpful. I've noticed that I often work in cycles as well. Whatever works for each person, huh?


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