Saturday, January 15, 2011

DRUG WITHDRAWAL -- When The Writing Stops

I've been away tending to sick eyes -- infections and cuts and all kinds of "gah!" conditions that forced me to wear a weak, old prescription pair of glasses.
Reading and writing scooted away -- indeed, light hitting my eyes was for a time, unbearable.

I am about to try my new contacts this weekend and see how it goes. In the meantime, I have been well aware of the sensation that leaves me drained, itchy, skittish, irritable and depressed -- writing withdrawal.

I have no idea how other people react to weeks without creating words, but I can tell you in my case, it's all tied to the condition of the psyche. For me, the three demons -- fear, dread, and anxiety --  find a good nesting place in the void, slowly and determinedly eating away at any resolve, direction, self-confidence I have. They bore holes into my creative thought processes.

Writing is a drug -- my drug of choice. And while writing may seem similar to bike riding, with the old adage about how you never really forget how to do it, I find it painful on the re-entry.

Things pop into my head like:

What was I thinking when I said I could write?
Will I ever find my way back to the land of Oz?
If I look at some of my manuscript lying fallow, will I read with horror and discover I never had any talent at all? 
I better not look at my work...

The more I think about these self-destructive thought processes, the worse it gets. I other writers feel this way? And, my hunch is yes...yes, they do.

The thing is this -- the entire act of writing is a very solitary affair involving a mind and a blank screen or sheet of paper. And the very act of putting words on that blank universe is a task undertaken by the writer willfully.
Now, what kind of crazy person would even put him or herself in such a position to begin with?

Well, that's just it -- you do have to be some kind of particularly crazy sort of person, if you want to write.
And, you have to understand at the get-go that other normals in the corporate, 9-5 world, may look squinty-eyed at you and pity you, and decide you are wholly delusional.

Writers really need to hang out in one way or another with other writers or artists because theirs is a world which lies at the polar opposite of the mainstream.

All art is based on acts of blind faith. And the funny thing is, without this kind of art invading the solidity of the workaday world, there would be nothing to entertain us, or stimulate us. There'd be no jokes, no drama, no splashes of colour and whimsy; certainly, there would be no fantasy worlds in which to escape. And no civilization has ever endured without all manner of flights of the fantastical -- be it architecture or the realms of the spiritual.

Knowing this, I, once again, wobbly as a a newborn, giddy as a schoolgirl with an age-old crush, take my seat in front of my personal dream spinner, hit my acceleration pedal and push off from the dingy curb.

When it comes to writing and to the sound of words, I am an addict and shall remain so to my last breath.


  1. It's my drug of choice, too, Carol. Write on!

  2. This writer is addicted the exact same way, and has all- and I mean ALL- the same struggles getting back into it. I have a couple more weeks that I know I'll be out of the saddle- glad to hear you're getting in it again.

  3. Oh yes, I'm the same - this is why I get so worried whenever I hear that suggestion to finish writing your novel and to let it sit for a while. What if I come back and find it's utter crap?
    Those three or so years when I was utterly dry and couldn't write at all were very very trying. I felt like I was missing a part of who I was...

  4. Hi Zan Marie,

    Heh -- thanks, and same to you! Cross your fingers I'll be able to wear my contacts again...

  5. Dear Claire,

    Nothing beats fellowship and commiseration like fellowship and commiseration. (g)
    I hope I can get back to my breadcrumb path...and will look for news of same from you. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  6. Dear Deniz,

    Speaking from personal experience, I can only reassure you of the following:

    If you have an inner editor who tells you something has landed in site of the honest, realistic, objective crap-o-meter, then you should feel proud of yourself because you're able to spot it, stomp on it, and FIX it.
    I hate to wax cliché, but truth is, writing really is a journey and sometimes, for some books, it's a long one -- longer than we expect. So, don't be hard on yourself.
    1) You might see, after weeks away, that the story is well written and you had little to worry about.
    2) Or, you might find some major overhauling to do. So--DO IT!
    That's gotta be better than self-delusions and sending unfinished business off to agents/editors, yes?

  7. Since I can't read, my Mistress uses growls, gestures, and a flick of the whip to relay orders instead of writing them.

    Igor ;-)

  8. Carol, I've given you an award. Check out my blog to find out more. ; )

  9. Dear Zan Marie,

    Why, thank you so much! Totally cool and I haven't written or contributed enough in the blogosphere to deserve it!

    Your new blog design is lovely and I was thinking of you today in the miserable cold, cold, cold!
    I received a small bag of beautiful ripe cherries all the way from Chile or Peru. They taste wonderful.
    I am a big fan of cherries.
    Wanted to leave a comment at your blog site but couldn't figure it out. I was asked for a friend's email? Can you walk me through?
    That alone should strip me of any stylish assumptions. (g)