Ever had those days…or weeks…or months…when it’s as though every idea has been sucked out of your brain by a giant vacuum?
I’m having a season.
A lame season.
Even this post—my idea is to write about not having ideas. Lame. Could it be more boring?
I think lots of things. I notice lots of things. But when it comes to sitting down in front of the blank screen and its blinking cursor, everything seems so stupid and utterly boring to any prospective audience.
And so I’ve mostly been freewriting, and journaling, with the occasional snippet of poetry, and the essay I keep putting off finishing for reasons unknown.
I have written every day this year so far, a minimum of 500 words per day since January 1st. I actually started this quest last year, 2014, but my mind was wired to “try it” and “see if I could do it.” This year my mind is wired to “do it” because not writing today is not an option.
I’ve learned that there’s a difference when one is actually committed to doing, not just to trying.
While most of my January writing manifested as unpublishable stream-of-consciousness schmotz, I showed up, and words showed up, too. And now that the muse knows I’m serious (for real this time), she may begin to show up, as well.
To help her along, I’ve decided that for February, in addition to writing every day, I will make an effort to be a little more focused and less rambling in my writing. That is, I will attempt to have a topic or a question or…something for each 500-word jaunt.
And I may fail at it, but the intention is there, and I think the intention will eventually be rewarded, as it so often is when combined with consistent action.
I’m not making vows around blog posting frequency or anything like that. Not now. But I am working on the kinds of enrichment and activity that will lead to idea generation again.
Thus, I will:
- READ. THEN READ. AND ALSO READ.
Like, books. I am a voracious reader. Like, starving voracious. And I’m an English teacher. My classroom library is enormous. I believe in reading. I am a READER. And yet I haven’t read and finished but about one or two full novels in the past entire year.
What? I know! I don’t know what happened to me. If I interrogate it, I recall (a) feeling guilty for doing anything that wasn’t school or writing and (b) not allowing myself to start a good novel because, once I’m in, the rest of the world doesn’t exist until I’m finished, and my sleep suffers because “just one more chapter” and…you get the picture. But that guilt and self-curtailment are over. The reader’s back!
As Stephen King has famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
So I’m reading. I’ve been “reading” audio books. I finally took the plunge and gave myself an Audible.com membership. I love listening while I’m commuting (when I don’t need to be silent and think) and especially when I’m on a solo road trip. I’ve been listening to Essentialism (by Greg McKeown) and Susie Bright’s memoir, and I had to listen to 1984 (a reread) for a class I was teaching.
I’m also reading Bellman & Black, by Diane Setterfield (she of The Thirteenth Tale fame–also a great book), on tangible paper. And I am reminded of how glorious it is to lose oneself in a great character, in suspense, in tragedy, in a setting’s exquisite beauty. And almost I want to go back to my novel and try writing a scene…