The Ebb and Flow of Words: Interruptions, Muses and Emotional Well-Being

This post was inspired by @JEdwardPaul, who wrote a brilliant piece recently that touched me about writing frustrations.

I’m not feeling my usual self at the moment. That’s probably why I’ve been a little quieter on social media than usual. My sense of equilibrium is off kilter, and the standard quick fixes to make myself feel better haven’t been working. I’ve turned to the page, hoping that spilling my thoughts out will purge me of this emotional low. You might ask why I have decided to blog about this rather than confide in the pages of my journal. Right now I have a small following. I feel safe sharing my words with you and less alone.

You see, life has been taking over recently and as a result I’ve had less writing time than I have become used to, and that has an impact on my emotional well-being. I feel ten feet tall when I am writing. I am more resilient to life’s downs if I am writing. I am happier.  With young kids, it has been important for me to learn to take advantage of every small window of writing time. I’ve learnt to focus quickly and knuckle down when writing non-fiction. But to be able to write good fiction I need to take myself out of the fray. I need the time for my breathing to slow, for reality to fade and my make-believe world to begin unfolding around me.

CloudsI’ve seen this cycle before. If I let the pen slip out of my hand for a few weeks, it becomes hard to pick it up again. It’s as if that internal writer’s voice that we coax out of ourselves begins to evaporate. My characters turn their back on me. In my mind’s eye, I see them curt and growling at me because I have abandoned them. There are no short-cuts in this business. The solution is simply to start writing again even if I feel rusty. The ink won’t flow as readily as I would perhaps like but eventually I’ll get back to the place where the writing feels true. So, step 1 of my road to recovery is fighting off those creeping commitments and picking up my regular writing schedule again.

This time though the disruption to my writing schedule has been compounded by National Novel Writing Month. I’ve blogged before about how I love NaNo. I started the month with a spring in my step; the first week of NaNo went wonderfully. Then life took over, and I resented it. All those NaNo pep talks which landed in my inbox served as a reminder that my word count was slipping behind, and it made me feel like a loser. Incidentally, @ChuckWendig wrote this week about how NaNoWriMo’s language of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ is unhelpful. I’m feeling a little deflated that I didn’t see the month through, so step 2 on the road to recovery is to commit to finishing my NaNo novel at my own pace.  I will also, in the wonderfully crazy manner of @kseniaanske, post a video of me doing a victory dance when my first draft is done. Are you with me?

I’ve been wondering for a few days about why I’m in a particularly difficult downwards slump this time, and I think the fog has cleared. To be at our best as writers, we need to quiet our fears, dig deep and let intuition lead the way. Taking my foot of the gas allows my writing demons to return. And you know what really helps with those demons? It’s knowing that even if my self-belief is running a little low, there is someone who believes that I can do this. For me, that someone is my husband. I blogged last week about J not being a big reader, but what I didn’t mention is the impact he has on my writing. On good days, I can soar across fictional worlds without him; on bad days, without him, I lose my fragile faith in my writing ability. He’s back from a business trip this Saturday and I can’t wait.

13 thoughts on “The Ebb and Flow of Words: Interruptions, Muses and Emotional Well-Being

  1. From the heart. We’ve probably all been there. Thanks for sharing and I hope you get your mojo back very soon :-)

  2. Another great post, Nillu … We’ve all been in this silent, wordless territory, and probably will be again, and we all find our own maps to lead us out of it. I wish you luck, both because your writing enriches my days, and also because the world NEEDS to see that victory dance of yours ;)

  3. You have already received some very good advice and comforting words. I do believe you should follow your own pace, step with your own rhythm. While the NaNo challenge sounds like one worth taking up, if the timing is not yours, then you can not make it be so.
    I, too, look forward to the dance!

    1. Thanks Norah :). What a beautiful name (I wanted to call our daughter Norah but she ended up a Hana!)

      Yes, NaNo can swing both ways. Starting to think the dance was not such a good idea – will stay true to my word though. First draft euphoria lends itself to crazy dancing! Thanks for reading, n

  4. I know exactly what you mean, Nillu. As a mother of 2 young children myself, I am coming to terms with the fact that I am only human – gone are the days where I can carve out blocks of time for writing, I have to take what I can get.
    I’ve also realised that setting unrealistic/unachievable goals (such as NaNo) will ultimately set me up to fail and compound my feelings of inadequacy. At the end of the day, each individual knows what they are capable of and whether or not they did the best they could that day/week/month.
    For me it’s important to write everyday (because I love it and it’s good for me), but word count is less important because it makes me feel as if I’m writing under a dictatorship of sorts.
    Go easy on yourself and use the down time to brainstorm.:)

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