Take that writer’s block!

I have not updated my blog in five months. What’s worse, I have not written in five months, not for myself. I have thought about writing. I have set aside time for writing. I have made promises to get back to writing. Yet nothing got written.

During the last five months I did help a novice writer revise and publish her first book. The process was exhausting, exhilarating, and many other ex- words. I am thrilled that the writer is basking in the glory of being a well-received published author. I have also been pushing her (ahem, she might use the phrase “lovingly harassing”) to get novel two written.

The last few months have also been filled with editing a business textbook and providing comprehensive critical feedback on book one of an epic science fiction novel, so even though I haven’t been writing for myself, I feel like I have been writing. Each night I would collapse into bed, exhausted from the day’s work, only to find myself awake two hours later, unable to sleep. I got a lot of reading done during that time. I also played a lot of video games.

My insomnia eventually became so debilitating that I was forgetting to do simple everyday chores, like feed the dog and brush my teeth. I developed a sinus infection that expanded into my eye and gums. My stress levels surged, and I lived on a diet of caffeine and salt. (Yes, I see you cringing. Trust me, I’m cringing as I type this.) I got so frazzled that I came within one keystroke of severing the ties with my largest client, the one who basically pays my mortgage and all my bills and enables me to live the way I want.

One keystroke.

I got scared. I was about to throw away the life I have spent years building because I was living on caffeine and sleeplessness. What the hell was I doing?

I know what I wasn’t doing: writing. So I started looking back at the stories I wrote last year—some published in books, some on my website, and some still in the depths of my computer—and I got excited. I found a lot of really horrible stuff in my computer, writing that will never see the light of day, but I found a phrase here, a character there that inspired me and made me want to stay up all night digging deeper to explore and question and write.

I also realized that many of my blog posts came from responding to other writers’ and communities’ prompts, so I started checking in with them and would you believe that Charli Mills over at the Carrot Ranch issued a challenge to write about being lost? Karma? Fate? My mother looking down from above, tapping her foot at me, telling me to get back to writing? Another writer reaching out to her tribe to share an emotion that we all experience at some point in our lives?

Undoubtedly, all of the above.

Determined to get my 99 words in, I pulled out my notebook, ready to scratch out some ideas. Let me tell you something: A blank notebook page is infinitely more intimidating than a blank screen. So I went to the local soda fountain, ordered a root beer float (my mom’s favorite), opened the notebook, and wrote.

No, I did not have an epiphany. I did not write the next great novel. I wrote shopping lists and reminders to myself. I wrote ideas for characters and structures for workshops. I wrote about the songs playing on the radio in the soda fountain and book projects that have been “in the works” for far too long. I did not write a 99-word story, but I wrote, and for me, it felt triumphant. And last night, when I collapsed into bed, although I had not accomplished everything I set out to do, I slept all night for the first time in weeks.

So today I am getting my 99-word story in under the wire and I hope it is time for Charli’s challenge, but if not, that’s okay, because I am writing again. Yes, present progressive tense (and if you understand that, welcome to my tribe, grammar geek).

On day 158, I rolled out of bed as usual, took a shower as usual, and wrapped a towel around my wet hair, turban-style, as usual. I poured a glass of the same iced caffeine I’d been drinking every day, put on the same sweats and t-shirt, and sat down at the computer to start my daily routine again.

Like the previous 157 days, nothing happened. I stared at a blank screen.

I finished my caffeine, walked to the kitchen, pulled my not-so-dripping-wet hair into a ponytail, and sawed off six inches of dead ends.

And then I wrote.

 

 

Comments

  • Yikes!! I haven’t written anything except a blog post since June first, but at least you’ve been productive. I completed a project and thought I’d rest a while. Took the new book to Frontier Days–then it was July and I spent three weeks visiting my two older sons and their families (my first grandchild). Then it was August and we had a big storm, complete with wind that blew out the power grid. My sump pump didn’t work and my basement flooded before i could get a generator over here to run the pump to save my furnace. (the water was about two inches from the furnace and I was bucketing water to the street until the generator arrived.) Then I managed to get to the State Fair and, when I got home, I found my basement wall had collapsed–to the tune of $20,000 to repair. My insomnia hasn’t been as severe as yours, but i did get a lot of reading done during the past month or so.

    But today I’m writing–I call it writing anyway. Character profiles for the next novel. Last week I managed a whole new scene to finish off the previous novel. AND, I wrote a blog post yesterday, complete with photos.

    I love your background. Is it hard to do a static background that allows text to scroll over it?

    Faith A. ColburnSeptember 15, 2015
    • Oh, ouch, Faith, on so many levels! But yay for writing 🙂 The background is set up in WP in Appearance > Background. I just have a simple graphic uploaded and set to tile. Thanks for stopping by~

      C. JaiSeptember 15, 2015
  • “When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.”
    Harriet Beecher Stowe

    Or in your case: When everything else fails, cut your hair.

    Loved the honesty and raw reality of this post and glad to see you have CJ MoJo back.
    Jules

    Jules DixonSeptember 15, 2015
    • I did exercise a bit of restraint, cutting off just several inches instead of shaving my head. 🙂

      C. JaiSeptember 15, 2015
  • There’s the CJ the world has been missing. Like Jules said, the raw nature of this post is something to admire.

    Can’t wait to see what happens next. Oh, and for that novice author, your sacrifice is probably giving her something she’ll never forget. A passion and drive for something she never knew she had. Trust me when I say, you may have saved her 🙂

    Mira DaySeptember 15, 2015
    • As long as she gets novel number two done… Yes, I’m relentless <3

      C. JaiSeptember 16, 2015
  • Glad you’re back! Looking forward to seeing your new do and catching up over a chai latte soon

    RachelSeptember 16, 2015
    • Autumn afternoons and chai lattes. Yum!

      C. JaiSeptember 16, 2015
  • Yes! I feel like I’ve come over to your campfire to cheer. I know oh so well that feeling of doing work, but not the writing work of my own projects. It’s amazing how lost one can get. It feels so good to jump back into it. Glad to have you at the ranch, again. Keep it in progressive present tense. Love the flash! That describes how I weeded all summer. And now I’m writing!

    Charli MillsSeptember 16, 2015
    • Charli, when I read your prompt for this week (and the struggles you have been facing), I seriously laughed so loud I woke the dog—partly from my exhaustion, and partly because it was like you were in my head, reading my thoughts. And then I had to wipe away the tears because your challenge felt like the lifesaver I needed but I was terrified to try and respond (what if I couldn’t write anymore?). The last few days of writing have made me feel human again, so thank you!!!

      C. JaiSeptember 16, 2015

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