I put out a call on Facebook a few days ago, asking writers who aren’t writing, why they aren’t writing. (I know some of my own reasons.) Of course, not writing because you know your creative process and the value of fallow fields is good. I’m interested in reaching out to those who’d rather be writing and aren’t or, for some reason or another, can’t. Here are some unrefined thoughts on the subject. (If I were capable of refined thoughts, I’d be writing a new novel right now.)
Most of the people wrote in saying that time was the issue. I’ve given a lot of advice in the past on creating time, on reserving your freshest brain cells for your own work (and committing to that), on reclaiming your muse time (down time while showering, gazing, waiting for kids to get out of practice, commuting) — I have a very specific speech for this alone.
But the fact is that when juggling the demands of a very, very busy life, sometimes there simply isn’t enough time. And the novel, in particular, is so architectural burdensome and, early-on, so ungainly that it’s very hard to work on it in small increments. This is why artist colonies exist and why some writing professors simply don’t write until summer hits. (I can’t work this way. I have to write or my gears would whir too hard, and I’d resent those around me. I believe in living life with a metaphorical metal detector, always listening for the beeps of possible resentment and digging them out so they can’t root — especially important in relationships.)
But what happens here is that the desire to write when you know you won’t really have the time and head space to do it is painful. It’s an ache. And sometimes the only way to make it not ache is to shut down your desire to write. Stop the wanting. If you practice this, however, this tamping out of the creative impulse, you’ll perfect it. And once shut off tight, it’s hard to open again. There’s been a breach of trust inside of yourself.
I’m not sure that I have a fix. (Can you accept the ache if you know that a stretch is coming? Can you build stretches for yourself? Can you work with your partner to find ways to allow yourself time and head space?) I do know that shutting down the want is not healthy. It’s a shutting down on a life force.
In lieu of not having a great answer to the above, I’ll offer three things I’ve thought of recently about why I get stuck.