Keeping those dry spells short

I find that when I spend a day doing writing-related work, but not writing, I go into the wrong rabbit hole and get away from my story. This is a pattern I now recognize.

And as with all patterns, we can look at them as self-contained little programs: they have a trigger, they execute certain actions, and they have an (often elusive) off-switch.

So, now that I am finally recognizing this pattern, I can expect the off-switch, in fact, I can accelerate the program by eliminating many of the repetitive strings of behavior that take place before despair forces a new action (and a new program).

My writing program can be overwhelming at times, and I’ve come to understand that if I relax some of that binge-writing behavior, I can sustain a writing practice for longer – or, more realistically, I can keep the distraction program at bay. It will still appear and it will still run, but knowing that a thing has an ending makes it easier to endure.

Like all that advice when you have a bad break-up that boils down to “this too shall pass,” while feeling like nonsense in the moment, is 100% true (if you let it, that is).

So, I saw the end of the thing, I made some good use of the distracting functions within the larger program itself, and now I’m heading back to the writing program – literally and figuratively.

This post also appears on my Patreon where you can read my flash story, “Quiet,” at the paid tier. Starting in 2024, I’ll be posting new fiction for the paid tiers each month, so look forward to that announcement in December 2023. Thanks!

The lonely writer

One of the best and worst things about writing (for me, that’s the caveat) is the isolation. The bliss of the work, even in the midst of a crowded cafe, when your brain is in a steady state and the words just flow, is so wonderful that my first instinct if I’m interrupted is quick, hot, and violent. Thank goodness I am getting better at keeping that under control.

The worst part of the work, when it’s going well or not going at all, when there are new worlds to build but no characters to fill it, when the characters chatter but mostly just sit around looking smug, that’s the isolation within your own brain and if I’m interrupted in that mode, I’m grateful for the distraction and frolic off into the land of “not writing.”

Writing is a collaborative art form. We are influenced by the writers who came before us and those we sit next to on the bus. The world is filled with the prose of people just living their lives and we are finely tuned to pick up those narrative strings. We are immersed in and sometimes called to direct a symphony of stories, yet up on the podium, swinging the pen, directing each measure, we are totally, desperately alone.

I don’t have a list of options to help with the isolation. You don’t need me to state the obvious: get a writer-buddy, work in a library or coffee shop, join a local writing group, find coworking online.* For this and many other oft-touted solutions to the loneliness of writing, a certain amount of agency is needed. Time, money, time, seriously, time is needed to do all of these things and for some of us, time is the most precious and least available commodity.

I’ve been listening to Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones recently (and you should too, check your library) and I believe she has the most salient answer: embrace it. 

Embrace the loneliness. 

Embrace the stillness of the moment when the world shrinks to the page only. Embrace the contours of the inside of your mind when you freewrite or journal or brainstorm. Embrace the moments where it’s just you and your world and only you know the secrets of your characters. Embrace this time when all of this is yours alone, before you unleash it into the wild. 

Loneliness doesn’t have to be negative. It can represent the space in which we do some of the deep and good work of our mind.

Embrace the solitude and fall into your writing. 

*Apparently I gave you a list anyway.

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