Why Haven’t I Been Writing?

Summer Interior, Edward Hopper
Summer Interior, Edward Hopper

If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d be truly dead.”  ― Joss Whedon

“You must keep writing,” my mother declared during a phone conversation the other day.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard that demand.  After all, my own inner muse is like a tiny, imaginary drill sergeant – constantly ordering me to drop down and give her 20…. 20 lines, 20 metaphors, 20 paragraphs.

I am wholly aware when I’m dodging the page.  The absence grows longer, and the guilt digs in deeper.  Every day I skip writing, I carve another notch in an unsavory, shame-inducing belt.  I am no maestro of the pen, no wordy lady-killer with impeccable charm and a heart of gold.  I am not seducing language.  I am not showering mountains of prose with flattery and barely hidden innuendo.

What is it the Eagles say?

The flame rises but it soon descends

Empty pages and a frozen pen

You’re not quite lovers, and you’re not quite friends

After the thrill is gone…

It’s an apt analogy – an estrangement from your creative works feels, in many ways, like a love affair gone cold.  Where’s the spark?  Where’s the heady desire?  Where’s the need to be together whenever and wherever possible?  I used to carry around notebooks in my purse, scribbling thoughts while waiting for my latte.  I used to keep a notepad by the bed so that sleepy inspiration could be quickly jotted down before bedtime.  I used to plot out my next novel while taking long walks on the beach at sunset.

And I used to wine and dine that muse with artist dates and the easy, comforting click-clack of my blog entries and morning pages.

But now, my writing and I, we sit quietly at the breakfast table, listening to each other chew rapidly cooling toast.  We mumble goodbye at the door, with a peck on the cheek and a rote “I love you, I love you too” melody.  A fight would be a welcome reprieve from this unenthusiastic stalemate.  Some passion.  Some fire.  A build up of recriminations and accusations that could, ultimately, bring us back together, closer than ever.

Instead, we tip toe around each other, constantly disheartened by the icy hearth we share.  The matches just can’t stay lit, and the little inside jokes and small tokens of affection just don’t do it anymore.  There’s no juice left.  We’re just both empty husks of what we once were.

There’s always going to be a debate about what makes a writer a “Writer.”  Just this week, I’ve complained about the astronomical wealth of the dilettantes in the field ($95 million dollars earned off Fifty Shades of Gray?? You have got to be kidding), but that’s akin to the grumpy husband or wife throwing bitter remarks at the newlyweds down the street who have the nerve to flaunt their love among respectable adults.  It’s not quite envy, it’s more like dispirited exasperation – how can it be so easy for some people?

“..think of the money you could make. Your words and stories trump that shit any day!” wrote my friend the other day after I lamented the success of the Fifty Shades phenomenon.  A nice little “buck up soldier” moment akin to a friend telling a disappointed housewife, “but you’re husband’s such a great provider, and you keep a lovely home.”

So am I merely trapped in a Betty Draper phase? Is it that I feel like a put-upon homemaker who really just wants some handsome man to sweep her off on a romantic Roman adventure?

(If Jon Hamm’s asking, I’m going – Rome…London…Bakersfield…sign me up!)

Eventually, those disgruntled 60s consorts found a way to declare their independence in the shadow of the Feminine Mystique and The Bell Jar.  Bras were burned and frozen dinners made their debut, and for many Betty Drapers life was in infused with new inspiration…new meaning.

Perhaps I’ve been catering to my muse too long.  Or perhaps I’ve been taking her for granted.  But apparently there’s a recalibration that needs to take place – a long sit down at the kitchen table could help, or a lovers’ respite along a rocky Italian coast just might do the trick.

The thrill may be gone, but for writers it’s never over.  We are not truly happy, truly satisfied, truly complete unless we are writing.  I’ve been keeping my morning pages going through this Daily Creative Writer hiatus.  And, truth be told, I do have notebooks brimming with plot points and hastily jotted poetic verse.  My muse and I haven’t really been on the rocks; we’ve just been on a “break.”

Now’s the time to commence the wooing and romance my creative instincts; I must ramp up my “prose-y” desire, and invest in some chocolate and flowers.

Don’t worry about me and my muse – like all great romances, we’ll work it out in the end

And isn’t making up half the fun?

8 thoughts on “Why Haven’t I Been Writing?

  1. I think many writers have to go through these famine periods to flourish in the next period of their lives.

  2. That you have a favorite artist and a favorite quote together as I enter this blog made me very happy. I enjoyed reading this very much, and I can find commonality with your thoughts and feelings from various places in my life. I think all writers go through such. My fiction writing fell by the wayside some years ago. I somehow lost connection to my ability to dive into my characters, and it was an ache that I could not satisfy for some time. I eventually found my way. I still occasionally pen a short story, but I learned not to force it just because I wanted something, sometimes I could not even name what I was feeling, other than need. I have dabbled in creative non fiction, and now as certain parts of my life demand a great deal of my time and I focus my attention on critical analysis and research topics, I find that I am still able to meet that need to put pen to paper that lurks in my heart, I am able to satisfy it, no matter the product. The need is a quiet thing now, it no longer burns like a hunger pang, but sits patiently, understanding that I WILL write, even if I just ponder some banality that strikes me at the moment. I think it is the process and the action of harnessing one’s thoughts that both drives me and satisfies me. This famine will pass for you, and with the passing, you may find something new about yourself, or your writing. 🙂

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