It must have been before Christmas, maybe even before Thanksgiving that I became unbelievably cynical about my abilities as a writer. I suppose many writers go through this at least once during their serious endeavors in the craft, but it’s a poignant thing to experience nevertheless.
The words had been sticking in the most unfortunate places. Most of mine peeked out just before I wanted to use them, and then snap–the word literally vanished from my mind all together as I’d take my pen to paper or my fingers to the keyboard. I looked through dictionaries and thesauruses trying to recover these words. On rare occasions, I did spot them. Still, many times they continued to elude me until the wee hours of the morning. I’d be sleeping soundly when all of a sudden, I’m either looking at the wall or over my spouse into the darkness of the room with the word forefront in my brain. I insisted on getting up and writing it down every time this happened or I’d forget once again.
The summaries I wrote before burrowing into a project, sounded interesting, intriguing, even compelling. Yet, by the time I got three or four pages into the draft, my doubts had multiplied and diversified. What in the hell do I think I’m doing. This story is preposterous! The plot is senseless! The characters are wooden and fake! I’d read what I had over and over again seeing if there was something worth saving. Usually I’d save settings. I’d still be enthralled with where the story was to take place even though the storyline and the characters was worthless.
Even with all I’ve tried to salvage in the project, last November–maybe December–I felt my competence to produce anything worth reading had jilted me like a self-centered lover sneering with glee. All I could think to do that would keep me from the unfulfilling writing process was big bowls of popcorn and reruns of Sex and the City, with breaks of the repeats of Law and Order. Of course, watching Sarah Jessica Parker get drench by a puddle from the street numerous times and Chris North saving the day on a New York street for the umpteenth time had to stop sometime. Those were the times I wrote the less-than-satisfactory blog posts.
Those of you who have been unduly faithful to my blog must have noticed the steep and severe decline in the quality of my posts. I felt no gusto coming from my efforts, no matter how hard I worked at it. I felt as if I was writing to a void beyond one of the black holes in outer space. To say the least, the Christmas season was grim for me. Because I’m a firm non-believer in New Year resolutions, my slump continued on into this year, but I did start trying new tactics–starting in February–to alleviate the disgust of my passion.
Some writers say they do their best work when experiencing sleep deprivation or hunger. Maybe it’s true for them, but I need at least six hours of sleep to feel alert enough to write anything. Being hungry is not an option for me either. If I don’t eat, my brain goes in circles getting nothing done. Yet—get this—I’m not a big fan of eating, wishing I had a little door on my stomach so I could open it and shove the food in.
This last month it finally dawned on me that in addition to sleep and food, maybe I needed more liquid in my system. Way long ago before the issue of age crept into my life, the only medicine I took was over-the-counter for the occasional run-of-the-mill illnesses and a prescription once in a great while for those nagging more serious illnesses. Now I’m taking four medications daily so I don’t die of a heart attack or anxiety. Three of them can and will dehydrate me. I used to think two huge mugs of coffee and two huge mugs of tea per day was enough liquid unless I actually felt thirsty. No, I was wrong. Recently I’ve started drinking two or three liter bottles of water each day in addition to the coffee and tea. It’s amazing how the hydrated body can improved a person’s mood and productivity.
I’ve always been one to do moderate exercise, but because of that age issue and having a broken kneecap a few years ago, in addition to the mobility problems I’ve had for so long, my limited abilities to exercise have increased. There was a time when I could go for somewhat exhilarating walks or do a half-hour on an exercycle. Now, because the gate of my walk is so odd, these activities can’t be done effectively. I used to do mat exercises but it’s getting more difficult for me to get down on or up from a mat. This isn’t stopping me though. Not long ago I was introduced to “half squats”. This is a marvelous exercise. I sit in a straight chair, stand up, and then sit down again. It gets my heart pumping after doing a mere 30 of them. This takes less than five minutes to do. Pressed for time but still want the exercise? Do “half squats”.
Early last week I noticed a slight improvement in my writing. Is the writing slump over? I don’t know yet. The words are coming to me like a trickle of water flows in a creek after a long summer. I’ve gotten past the first two scenes in a story. My writing sessions are back up to two hours or longer. It’s a “wait and see” game right now.
Being disappointed in oneself is dreadful beyond what words could ever say. I’m sure it isn’t just writers who go through this. Not by a long shot, right?
What are your slumps like? What do you do to get out of them?
There isn’t a person anywhere who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can. – Henry Ford