Faulty Bulbs

These days, the darkness is coming faster. The evenings are cold and quiet. To do anything after work, I have to turn on all the lamps and flip the light switches to flood my home with light. 

Last week, a strange thing happened to the lamp in my kitchen. Going to make dinner, I went to the lamp and turned the switch, and it did not turn on. I tried again. I replaced the bulb. I checked the plug. I frowned at the lamp. Nothing worked. My kitchen remained stubbornly in darkness. Broken, I thought to myself.  

And then, yesterday, I brushed against the lamp accidentally and it turned on, filling the kitchen with a burst of light. It was so sudden that I jumped halfway across the room, my heart pounding. The light flickered back off. I went to the lamp and tried the switch again, but it did nothing. My first thought was, What is wrong with this lamp now? My second thought was, This is an excellent metaphor.

The past few months, my writing life has been a bit like that lamp. I want to write, to have the bright burst of inspiration. Some days I even find it. But when I sit down in front of the computer, the switch in does not work, and the words do not flow. This can happen for days and weeks at a time. And then, suddenly, something in my writing hindbrain is jarred loose and the light flicks on, bright and wild, and the words flow all at once. I feel invigorated and excited. I write with wild abandon. 

Then, without warning, the inspiration stops again. My writing brain shuts down, and I fall into darkness. It is like the energy gets stuck somewhere along the way, and the inspiration drains away. This has been the year of getting stuck for me as a writer, for fuses to break down and light bulbs to blow. It is unfortunate, and difficult, and frustrating. 

I have had to recalibrate my expectations for myself completely. I have had to let go, and accept that I cannot control the way my mind works. I do not know why my writer’s brain sometimes works, and why it sometimes doesn’t. I am not an electrician. I cannot pull out the wiring of my brain and fix it. 

And I do not want to. The mind is a curious thing. It is wonderfully resilient, and also very delicate. This year has been filled with the sorts of stressors that make writing and quiet contemplation difficult–everything from health problems, to family difficulties, to work stress–and so just like everyone else in the world this year, my routines have had to shift and change. The layers of stress have piled on to all of us. It is hard for a mind to work properly when it is dealing with all this. If I was feeling cool and comfortable with the situation of this year, I think I might have more to worry about than the state of my writing.

So this year, I cannot write the way I am used to. I am not writing the same stories I used to. This is a natural response to everything going on in the world. The wiring of my brain is tired, and the connections will not spark.

But this will not be forever. I know this because every once in a while, the light turns on and my brain fires back to life. I write wildly and passionately. The rest of the time, I keep the switch in the off position. My brain needs rest and time for recovery. I let my creativity recharge.

I still do not know what is wrong with that lamp. Maybe I’ll have to get a new one. 

But I do know what is wrong with my brain: absolutely nothing. Feeling stuck is a normal reaction to an abnormal year. This too shall pass, eventually. And I cannot wait to see what I create then. 

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