That’s the only explanation–it’s been months now and every semblance of creativity, of craft, of intimate emotional engagement with my characters, has up and abandoned me.
Little-Timmy-is-trapped-down-a-well level of abandoned.
It’s not like it’s a mystery, it might have something to do with the overwhelming external stimuli that’s making the ability to focus on writing all but impossible. Obviously, we are all Going Through It at the moment. And normally, I eventually make it out of these dry spells–but what if this time is different?
I’ve had multiple false starts on the countless projects that are on hiatus and to no avail–the characters, so present and vibrant in my head and heart, have all simultaneously lost their voices.
Realistic dialogue that humans would say? Gone with the wind.
Ability to imagine literally any scene that’s not a blank white room? A distant memory.
The mere concept of constructing a sentence–have I ever even seen a sentence before?!
I’m hit with the horrible realization that maybe writing isn’t like riding a bike. Maybe it’s like speaking a different language–if you don’t use it, you lose it.
IF YOU DON’T GET IT BACK SOON, IT’LL BE GONE FOREVER! HetPat, the evil Keebler Elf himself, crawls, steaming and stinking in his three-piece suit, out of the toxic hellhole of my mind, voice harsh and grating. YOU SHOULD’VE ENJOYED LAST SUMMER’S PRODUCTIVITY WHILE YOU HAD IT BECAUSE THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN! REMEMBER BEING A FUNCTIONAL HUMAN AND A PRODUCTIVE MEMBER OF SOCIETY?!
I’m a published author, I try and tell him, my voice small and wavering. I have short stories in literary magazines. I signed a book deal. People I trust have told me that I’m a good writer.
IF YOU WERE A REAL WRITER, YOU COULD GET BACK INTO IT! HetPat slithers atop my computer keyboard like a disgruntled, demonic cat craving attention. YOU WOULDN’T JUST FORGET HOW TO WRITE AFTER SOME TIME AWAY! MAYBE YOU’RE NOT AS GOOD AS YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE–THEY’RE PROBABLY LYING TO YOU ANYWAY TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT BEING A LAZY, UNQUALIFIED, UNTALENTED WASTE OF SPACE! HOW CAN YOU CALL YOURSELF A WRITER WHEN YOU CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER HOW TO WRITE CHARACTERS THAT CAME FROM YOUR OWN HEAD?! SAD!
But the act of writing has become like pulling teeth, a chore. The words are staring menacingly at me from where I last left off. The detailed outline I made tells me specifically what needs to be done in this scene but sits in passive-aggressive judgment in one of my dozen open tabs, long neglected. The passion I, objectively, know I have for these stories feels like a far off dream, a hot cup of tea that’s been so long forgotten it’s become an iced chai.
Surely I should remember how to write characters that originated in my own head–surely I’m the only one who can.
The desire to write is there, but if the motivation doesn’t return, or the ability to even half-ass a rough draft just to have something on the page, if the creative well in my brain has been shut off never to return–what do I do? I don’t have a backup plan, no other career opportunities, no marketable skills outside of the writing that I used to be able to do (I have the receipts from old stories–supposedly, apparently, at some point, I was able to do this.)
To HetPat’s chagrin, I’ve done the only thing I can think of in these trying times.
I’ve gone back to my roots, following the only lingering bit of enthusiasm and motivation left in my husk of a body and written a short little fanfiction about an uptight Chief of Security and a snarky bartender (Star Trek: DS9, thank you for your service.)
That’s where my emotional engagement lies at the moment, and maybe–just maybe–it could be the cathartic, stepping stone towards the realm of remembering how to tell stories.
I wrote 4,500 words over the course of two days, which for me is practically an entire novel at this point.
I guess there’s something to be said for self-indulgent, homoerotic fanservice written as a desperate, last-ditch effort to prove to myself that I can still write.
There’s no telling if I’ve toggled the switch back on or not–I haven’t braved a look back on any of my abandoned projects yet, because I’m terrified of the wall still standing as impenetrable as it was before.
And no, HetPat, I know what you’re going to say, and maybe this was a waste of time as I write something that ISN’T one of the six million actual projects that I’m trying to finish.
He won’t let me stay here forever, in this tiny oasis in the middle of a god-forsaken barren wasteland where creativity comes to die. At some point, when I regain my strength and will to live, I will need to push forward and make it out of the desert.
If there IS a way out.
But if this is the end for me, if the writing gene has really faffed off for the foreseeable future, then so help me I’m taking this entire Quark/Odo fanfic with me, cackling all the way down.