My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Writing When You Can't Write

My family is waiting on news today. Possibly bad news.

I'm twisted into a knot and probably going to huck even the loose schedule I wrote yesterday out the door. Maybe I'll get that Star Wars post up.

I just can't write right now. My mind is goulash and I'm barely keeping thoughts coherent enough to string sentences together.

And yet...that's never completely 100% true. I'm writing right now. And I'll probably put in a couple of hours before the end of the day. And it will be personal shit in a personal file that is mostly unreadable and maybe might have an emotional nugget or two that will show up in other writing. It's nothing that will be published, or mined for a character. It will not be "useful" writing.

But there's still something to it.

Writing is almost unique among arts in that writers believe everything they write or have ever written will one day, in some form, show up in publication. Artists dump reams of their old doodles. Musicians practice in soundproof rooms for small eternities heard by no ear but their own. Actors do exercises to hone their craft that never seen an audience. But writers--writers seem to think that everything is just a polish away from greatness.

Don't be afraid to just write. It's the reason so many "Getting Started" advice lists include keeping a journal. (That and the habit of daily writing.) Don't be afraid to practice on something no one will ever see. Don't be afraid to write a story that will never in a billion years be published. Don't be afraid to just write a letter to ONE person. Not all your words have to be brilliant, and in fact expecting them to might be why you sit in front of a blank page all the time.

All that writing isn't lost. You're better for it. And you're not just a better writer for it either. But when your relationship to writing is more analogous to most people's relationship to food or water, you're going to find that writing helps you through these moments. Even it it's just an incoherent splat. Even if you have to struggle for just one sentence. Then one more. Then one more. Even if you might find out in just a few minutes that you're going to end up burying the love of your life and your whole world is coiled into one singularity of anxiety...

Even if.

Just keep writing.


  1. I needed this. Sure, it's the holidays and life is crazy and hectic, but then one day not writing turns into two, and then a month or more passes without creating anything at all. You're so right. Words, even the imperfect ones thrown together, help to clear the cobwebs and loosen the reigns that we put on ourselves...those constraints that tell us it shouldn't be written unless it's polished. Progress is the process of doing what you love, stringing words together. One by one.


  2. Thinking of you and your family. Good news, bad news, uncertain news... there are Ether People who wish they could help.

    To the main point of the post, however, it's amazing what just writing ANYTHING everyday can do. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, before I was infected with the Burning Need To Write, I would occasionally write things. I found a pile of these things recently. There were some journal-like pages, some short stories, and some of the worst poetry ever written in the history of humankind. Even in that horrifying stack of paper (some of it was actually typed out on a TYPEWRITER!), there was hidden quite a bit of thought-provoking sentiment. I've been writing nearly every single day for going on five years now, and have managed to write SOMETHING consistently for just about three of those years. I can tell when my first vomitus of words is worth continued effort or whether it should just be filed in the This is Terrible Stuff folder. (And that's precisely where all that terrible poetry went after I scanned it.) Writing even when I don't want to write, writing when the only thing that fills the page is a diatribe about someone or something, writing when I feel mortally wounded mentally, emotionally or physically is something that has managed to keep me alive. LITERALLY. And metaphorically.

    Now that I've been infected with the Burning Need To Write, I'm going to need to move the This Is Terrible Stuff folder from my Documents external drive to the larger 1TB drive. The Music folder will sneer at it, but it's a much larger neighborhood with a smaller possibility for riots. And it will keep the Programming folder from frying the drive out of spite.