I’m a writer. I call myself that most of the time, but it’s not always true. I’ve written a couple of novels, online bits and pieces. I even wrote a poem. Once. I love writing, and I love reading but, now and again, I can’t do either.
This is not another post about writer’s block. Well, I suppose it is, in a way. But not the kind of block which makes you sit staring at a blinking cursor, having backspaced the last twenty sentences you just tried, without keeping any of them. Instead I’m talking about other stuff taking over. Real life stuff that just won’t leave you alone. No, not time or opportunity – a true writer will always find the time or place to write. I’m talking about things taking over your soul so you don’t have the urge or energy to write. About anything.
A good example is falling in love. Some people find a new romance the perfect excuse to express what they feel through writing. Others are consumed by it so completely they can’t bear to sit down and put their fingers to a keyboard. I’m one of those. I’m not in love right now, but I have been. I’m even willing to confess that I’ve occasionally avoided relationships simply because I know they’ll stop me writing. That wonderful, all-encompassing feeling is no friend to my books when I can’t even see the screen because the new guy in my life is constantly in my thoughts.
Another one is a new hobby. You can’t be tapping away while you’re making paper flowers or model airplanes, or in the garden tending your baby carrots can you? When your laptop is open on ebay more often than it is on Word, you’re not writing, are you?
Then there are new jobs, or promotions. Like it or not, as budding writers we usually have to supplement our (ahem) royalties with jobs that can actually pay the rent. This requires a balancing act between doing the job (and all the chores that still need doing while we’re out there working), and writing. When the balance goes awry because of pressure, stress or worry, it’s often our writing that takes one for the team.
The number and types of things that can affect our ability to write (and by ability I mean desire and inspiration, not talent) are manifold. Almost anything from a sick or deceased family member, to an addiction to bingo can all impinge.
If this has, is or might be happening to you, take heart. I’ve been writing long enough to have learned that these things pass. The passion of a new relationship settles down to fondness (or ends). The new job becomes just your job – the deadlines and milestones you were working towards are met and passed. The family member is cured, the grief subsides. I’ve done it all, (well, not the bingo) and got through it all. And then I’ve gone back to writing.
I’m in that state right now. My energy and inspiration is all used up on a project that won’t let me think of anything else. I have to finish it, or at least take it to a plateau stage, before I can turn my thoughts back to writing.
It’s a worrying and desperate feeling not wanting to write when being a writer is how I identify myself. I know from experience, though, that I will eventually come through this phase – this distraction, this obsession – and emerge ready to write. I also know the break will do me good. Those stale works in progress I’ve been struggling with can be met with new insight, eyes and inspiration. I’ll be revived by it and refreshed mentally, so what I write will be better than before.
So don’t look at the distractions of life as a negative. Provided they’re not used as an excuse, they can be a positive interlude. The smoke in your eyes makes them water and burn, but those tears wash them clean, and when the smoke’s gone you’ll have the vision, clarity and insight to take your work to a whole new level.