Surviving the Dry Season

Seriously, it's the end of the world.Writing can be a mirror reflection of life. You write every day, the prose is flowing nicely, when suddenly you don’t feel like writing any more. You feel as though you’ve fallen into a pit. Since you’re trying to earn a living with your keyboard, a buzz of anxiety adds to the problem. No matter what you try, nothing comes except uneditable junk.

You think maybe you’re tired so you take a break. You get caught up on chores, you tend to your life, and you feel better for having done so. Yet, when you sit down with your laptop again, the “don’t wanna do this!” voice pipes up as though you’d never taken a break. You ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” which doesn’t help, since it adds anger and guilt to your nagging anxiety. It’s a dangerous, self-perpetuating cycle.

So how to break out? One way is to temporarily drop your earnestness: look for a way to play with writing. It may be your meal ticket, but it’s also an excellent means of gaining distance from yourself. Often, we write to create a sense of control: over our thoughts, our feelings, our very notion of reality. And what better means of achieving distance, than a good laugh?

Most of us have an inner drama queen of one kind or another, and a good way to get along with her is to laugh good naturedly at her utter self absorption. She’s always out of synch with any imaginable sense of proportion, and distortion is the life blood of humor. So why not give her the comedy she deserves? You can start by giving her a voice.

“I’ll never write again! I was a fraud in the first place, and now the cat’s out of the bag. What every made me think I was a writer?”

Or, “My stuff has never been good, and now I can’t write at all. I need money, and my earning power has evaporated. I’m destined to be a burger flipper.”

Drama queens are blind to the hilarity of such nonsense, so you have to make sure you read this stuff from another perspective. If all else fails, that of a stern disciplinarian will do: “Oh, come on. Get over yourself.” But mostly, giving the inner drama queen a voice is a good way to start the process of achieving distance. And it’s fun. She’s unremittingly illogical, immune to facts, inimical to anything like balance, and generally out of her mind. And from the depths of the pit you’ve fallen into, irresponsible nattering looks like an altogether attractive option.

The trick is to give voice to your inner drama without getting caught up in it, or the next step will be a trip to the therapist (which might not be a bad idea, come to think of it.) But isn’t that what writing is about? To do it well, you have to have a certain command of your material, so portraying your petulant child isn’t going to work unless you’ve got a handle on her. It’s a little like laughing with friends about how your kids are driving you nuts. Not funny at home alone with them. You can’t see the forest for the trees. But things improve over lunch and a good laugh with sympathetic adults. Perspective returns.

So be your own sympathetic adult. Step back and gaze at your drama queen with amused interest. What’s DG trying to tell you? If she could be rational, that is. Start writing about her concerns as if she were a balanced human being. Then ask yourself, “Does she have a point?” If she does, write about that until you’re out of things to say. If she doesn’t, tell her to go to her room. Then take a short break, get back to work, and remember: as in life, this too shall pass.


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