It’s 3:35 pm, and the light is already fading on Hardy Pond, leaving the sky a muted stone gray with a hint of pale peach off near the tree line. I’ve been fighting with myself all day to get some writing done. One minute I’m writing. The next minute the procrastination devil is tap dancing on my shoulder arguing that Scrabble is actually a form of word research. If I just look up any unfamiliar words that the computer uses against me, the game can actually qualify as what Pricilla Long calls lexicon work--though I know perfectly well, she’d never buy that con.
And so it goes. I write for 15 minutes, and then all of a sudden, I get excited about pulling the laundry out of the dryer, unloading the dishwasher, and folding all the tea towels. I write for another five minutes--part of a writing exercise, and then I decide I’m hungry, and I can’t really be expected to write while famished, now can I? While in the kitchen, I make salads for tonight’s dinner and for the week, and finally urge myself back up the stairs. A quick check of my Google reader shows me that no one else has posted a blog in the last 20 minutes, so perhaps I’m not alone in my procrastination.
I write again, doing more exercises, but it’s like a bad day of running where my feet are always heavy, my breathing never slows, and have to talk myself into every last step. On days like these, I actually question why it is I say I want to write. All of us writers and wannabe writers, we have these images in our heads about writing. We picture ourselves at our desks with steaming cups of coffee and tea, diligently putting in hours in the morning and hours in the evening. We picture ourselves having written and basking in the glow of what we have created, which, of course, in daydreams is always top notch and popular.
But I have to remind myself that there are good days of writing--even for out-of-practice dilettantes like me. There are days when I feel energetic and focused on a project, when I can’t wait to get started--even days when I end up pleased with my progress. But today is sadly not one of those days, and in my current situation, I lack the writing structure I tend to rely on and crave. Being newly back in New England, I don't yet have a writing or a critique group. I'm not taking any classes--online or otherwise. I'm really on my own to figure it all out and have recently been gifted with a new abundance of time coupled with a dearth of funds, all of which actually seems to be scaring me, raising expectations. So I try to think back to when I’ve been in this sort of spot before--trying to draw analogies to help get myself unstuck. I think back to my first ski season at college. I had been skiing my whole life and ski racing for most of it. But that first season at college, we didn’t have a ski team coach yet. Instead of returning to the structure I was accustomed to, I was on my own to train--and early that season, I didn’t feel I was skiing well at all. Something just wasn’t working, and I wasn’t initiating or finishing my turns properly. The harder I fought, the worse it got. I cursed and fumed and my frustration built. I got angrier and angrier with myself, wondering how could I be struggling with something I had been doing my whole life. What was wrong with me? There were expectations, and I wasn’t meeting them.
Eventually, I decided to quit trying. I quit pushing and pressuring myself to instantly ski well--as if it were the last day of the previous season. I quit beating myself up for not doing as well as I thought I should be doing, and I quit getting more irate with every run. I quit all my nonsense--but I didn’t quit skiing. I decided to stop my own madness and tried having some fun. I went off by myself to ski some easy, groomed, intermediate runs on the west side of the mountain. I started not caring that I was skiing badly, not caring who might be watching me, not caring how my season was going to turn out, and I just decided to goof off. I sang songs in my head, and I popped off small bumps on the hill. I played. I relaxed. I sang. I jumped. I did stupid stuff, and I made myself laugh. I didn’t do anything that would have really resembled training as I envisioned it. I stopped taking it all so seriously--and of course, you know what happened. The more I relaxed, the more my skis started to feel like they were positioned correctly underneath me. I got my balance back, I started coaching myself gently through making the kind of arcing turns I knew I was capable of making, letting my skis roll up on edge naturally, and it all fell into place. Best of all, it started being fun again.
So maybe I just need to do the same thing with writing. Maybe I should stop pushing myself on a day when I’m just not feeling it, and maybe instead I should try to write some limericks, or some cheesy “three-people-walk-into-a-bar” jokes. Maybe I should write some really bad country song lyrics or some angry, angst-filled letters or some smut--just for fun. And even if it all stinks and I end I parroting all the classic cliches like “There once was I writer from Nantucket . . .”--perhaps I’ll eventually find my lighter side and in time my groove.
Do any of you have recommendations for getting yourselves out of a writing slump?
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