Feeling a Little Empty?

See full issue for 2017 02-27

If you’re at all like me when it comes to writing, there are periods where you’re extremely productive, followed by desolate, dark times where the very idea of touching the keyboard is nauseating. I don’t call this writer’s block, because I think that’s a myth used by lazy people who don’t want to put in the work. I call it burning out. The words are there. They’ll be there until you’re ready to resume writing. The problem is too much of anything can stifle us sometimes.

I tend to write little bits on a regular basis (at least 5 days a week), and then every few weeks, I’ll spend several days binge-writing. Sometimes I’ve written 15,000 to 20,000 words in a day, which is EXHAUSTING. However, it’s not the worst part of my binges. After a week or so of writing non-stop, I have to edit the results. God, I hate that part. So then I spend a few days in a constant state of dread and I hate everything. I might edit a page or two, but I take frequent breaks, and the whole time, I feel like it’s all shit. The temptation to delete everything is so strong, I have to step away from the computer or I'll actually delete everything I've written. Thank God for the recycle bin. Then, one day, maybe a week into it, I go on an editing binge, decide what I wrote is kind of awesome, and all is right with the world again. This roller coaster is draining and it’s probably ridiculous, but it’s how I function in most situations. And it works for me, so I continue to do it.

We all have a different routine that works for us. Some of you might write a set number of words every single day. No binges. No pauses. Just this many words, no matter what. Or maybe you set a minimum and go with that. If you write more, it’s a good day. If you write less… let’s not talk about those days. Maybe you write only on the weekends or three or four days a week, depending on your work/life schedule. No matter how you work, even you have a scheduled routine, at some point you start to feel overwhelmed.

That’s normal.

When you put all of yourself into something for a prolonged period of time without getting a lot of reward (let’s face it, that’s what this industry requires), eventually, your brain and your body say “Enough.” You begin to wonder why you’re doing this. What’s the point? Maybe you even look at the screen and want to cry, because there’s nothing “there.” And yet, you can’t bring yourself to even touch the keyboard. When you can’t write a single word, or think of a moderately good idea, or writing becomes a torture that leaves you feeling miserable instead of fulfilled, that's your brain’s way of saying you need to slow down and catch your breath.

Listen to your body and your brain. They’re conking out on you for a reason. Don’t try to be tough or hard core about this, because in the long run, it’ll bite you in the ass. I’m not saying you should quit. I’m saying, slow down, or take a few days to recharge. It’s okay to pause and it’s okay to need that pause. To be able to write good shit, we need to experience something other than writing, right? Right.

Maybe you think you’ll fall behind if you do that. You’ll lose whatever progress you’ve made. You won’t. Taking a break and doing something, anything other than writing is necessary. Your creative batteries don’t last forever and they need fuel. Give them what they need and stop being so hard on yourself.

Read. Take a vacation. Go out with friends. Or just Netflix (and chill if you feel so inclined). Whatever makes your brain and body happy, do that. Maybe you just need a day or two. Some of us need more. Take as long as you need. Trust me, when the creative juice starts flowing again, you’ll know. That’s when you put your ass back in the chair and resume whatever insanity you call a writing routine.


Renee Miller

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