Blindsides Happen

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I was going to talk today about how to choose your point of view–first, second, third, limited, omniscient–but as it happens, the Blindside attacked and it therefore seems like an appropriate time to talk about it. I’ll work on the point of view post for next time.

Everybody knows what a Blindside is. It’s when you aren’t looking and suddenly a Mac truck comes out of nowhere and plows you into the ground. You can’t prepare for it because you never see it coming (that last bit isn’t entirely true, but I’ll get to that).  Blindsides happen. More often than we’d like. They throw us for a loop, off our game, out of our heads, and off our rockers (to milk a host of cliches). They tend to show up at the worst possible moment, though to be honest, all the moments seem to be the worst possible, so really, it’s not all that hard for Blindsides to choose a good crap moment to hit you.

The problem is, no matter the Blindside, the writing must still happen. The deadlines still loom. Editors are frequently sympathetic and can definitely be generous and kind and they will work with you. But they are limited to how much they can do, depending on the time crunch. On top of that, you can’t always plan for how much time it takes to deal with a Blindside. Maybe it’s just a few weeks. Other times it could be months or a year or more. Here are some for instances that I had to deal with: back surgery, back surgery, (yeah two) neck surgery, pregnancy with complications–oh, and then the whole raising the baby business, dog surgeries, parental near death experiences, and so on and so forth. Somehow these seem to take time out of my life. Imagine that.

And if it was only the time, it would be more easily survivable (or so I claim, without basis in real knowledge, since it never comes with just the time). But what happens is that the Blindside is also a psychic attack. It’s mentally exhausting and that is the hardest to recover from. Your creativity frequently evaporates. You aren’t sleeping and you aren’t focusing on the writing. Worse, if you need the money from your writing, you start panicking, making the entire experience even worse.

I’d like to give you a solution to the Blindside. Some way of properly dealing with it. But the truth is, I don’t have the answer. Each time I’ve gotten through, with the help of friends, family, chocolate, alcohol, and various other tools of the trade, but the fact is, to borrow and twist Tolstoy’s words into a pretzel, unhappy writers are unhappy in their own peculiar ways. Which is to say, every writer’s life is different and every Blindside is different. Worse, even if you dealt with it one way the first time, the next time you have to deal with it a new way. Circumstances change.

I think the point of this, aside from a general misery loves company sort of ending, is simply that one of the only real ways to deal with it is to reach out to other writers. Because even though our Blindsides vary, as do our lives and circumstances, we completely and totally comprehend the struggle. It is the one significant thing you can do to help yourself. You can talk. You can get empathy. You can share the burden of the struggle that frankly, only writers can truly understand. It isn’t that friends and family aren’t sympathetic and empathetic, but they don’t know what it means when the words dry up, when you hit the wall, when you lose inspiration, when . . . Oh, as many whens as there are Blindsides. So from me to you, I’ve been Blindsided. It sucks. I wrote nothing today. I can’t even wrap my head around the words. I’ll be better tomorrow. I think. And by the time this posts, I’ll have a plan (I’m writing this January 23rd). All the same, all I can say is Marco! and hope the writers out there answer with a Polo!

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19 comments to Blindsides Happen

  • […] I’ve got a post up on Magical Words today on getting blindsided while writing. Come have a look. […]

  • I hear you, Diana. And you’re so right that the worst part isn’t the actual lost time so much as the emotional exhaustion that strips you of your capacity to think, let alone be creative, and which can last for months. It sucks.

  • Ken

    POLO!!!

    🙂

    Thanks for posting Diana. I know the feeling and, you’re right. Friends and family are essential to getting through the hard times, but, unless they are writers as well, they don’t completely know how empty and frustrating (and a bit panic inducing) it can be. Especially when you’ve got to work and, emotionally and creatively, you’re feeling like 10 miles of bad road…in an ice storm…uphill, etc.

    It’s reassuring to know that there are folks out there (like everyone here) that can understand from a writers perspective. So, actually, your post was (in a way) about point of view after all 🙂

    Here’s hoping that the dark times pass, and quickly.

    Ken

  • Diana> such a good post! I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’ve not had many blindesides, though the few I’ve had have been pretty rough. When I was in college, my mom suddenly died. It was overwhelming, and there was no one I knew who had been through the same thing (that was my age). But I found that doing my work helped. (I didn’t write creatively at the time, but was a senior English major with a thesis to write). I would use my schoolwork as an escape. “I’ll read this book for an hour, and then I’ll grieve some more…” It helped because it distracted me. Now, I have no idea whether it would work–I don’t know that writing would help as a distraction. I think you’re right that the best support comes from other writers. People who get what I’ve gone through in terms of writing struggles.

    Like Ken said, may the dark times pass!

  • Polo.

    …and I hope you’re able to pry yourself from the cement soon. It’s tough, but we all understand. I totally agree with AJ’s analysis that the emotional stress is more draining than anything. I wish you health and strength and the energy to regain your ground as quickly as possible.

  • PoloPoloPolo!
    Hear you and am here for you. And if you ned a shoulder to scream on (metaphysically, since we are not close enough to do it physically) I am here for that too. Email me!

    I do understand.

    I’ve had so many blindsiders in the last year. Bursitis, falling and taking 3 months to get over that, tendonitis, Mom fell and has been trying to recover from a broken back, elderly Dad issies, May’s storms (trees *still* down), porch being built… And even the happy good moments can be energy draining. See? Blindsiders!

    Hugs. This too shall pass.

  • Polo. So, so Polo. When my Mom died, when my Dad was diagnosed with Leukemia, when he died, when Nancy was in the car wreck and went into labor and we almost had our second daughter 8 weeks premature, when I got bad professional news and it seemed like my career was in the crapper, when that happened again, and again . . . . It can come from any direction, at any time, in any of a thousand shapes and sizes. And it always, always sucks. So sorry to hear that you’re on the receiving end right now. You do have support here whenever you need it. Thinking of you.

  • Polo. Sorry to hear that things have been as difficult as they’ve been and hope 2012 has fewer blindsides and life is better in general.

    *Throws yellow penalty flag* Major foul, unnecessary roughness for piling on, against life.

    Seriously, I’m glad you can post stuff like this on MW and know we’ve got your back. MW is more than just a great place for writing advice. It’s a place where friends can hang out and be there for each other. A place to meet. Almosta virtual pub. Speaking of which, next round is on me.

    *Passes the first virtual drink to Di, then the rest of the gang*
    Cheers,
    NGD

  • As Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

  • Megan B.

    Sorry to hear that! I hope whatever it is works out for the best, and quickly.

    Emotional and psychological energy certainly are important for writing. If your life, your day job, whatever, is draining you, it can make a huge difference in your ability to sit down and focus on a story.

  • The Mathelete

    Polo! Fantastic post as I’m sitting home with the stomach flu today — not as big a blindside as some of you mentioned, but it’s enough to disrupt the whole week. Back to my ginger ale and toast 😐

  • AJ: Sucks with a great big black hole of suckitude.

    Ken: thanks. me too. And yes, just getting to come here and talk about it is helpful.

    pea_faerie: sometimes writing is a way of escape, but sometimes creativity just dies. But every time is different.

    LScribeHarris: Thank you!

    Faith: Thanks. Screaming is one thing I’ve been wanting to do. All of the words expletives. I really hope this pass soon.

  • Thanks David.

    NGD: gulps the drink. Half the bottle. That’s it. MW is a lovely place to be able to talk about stuff. Thank goodness.

    Wolf_Lahti: amen

    Megan B: I think the word is soul-destroying 🙁

    The Mathlete: Oh no! Feel better! Very soon.

  • I’m glad I found this post. I’m going through a blindside at the moment – major toothache! But I’ve drugged up so maybe my writing will be better than usual.

  • Polo! and I’ll refill the virtual drink NGD passed. Drink up, me hearties, drink up.

    I got blind sided the last 6 months of my dissertation. One of the things that got me through in a major way was PeaFaerie – she made me dinner and said things like “did you pay your electrical bill?” and “put the damn computer down and don’t check your email again tonight.” She also let me shatter a china teacup on one memorable occasion. So I know how vital friends are to surviving the Mac trucks of life.

    In Little Women it says that “Jo’s way of dealing with unhappiness was to leave no time for it.” With all due respect to my dear Jo, that is a bad idea. Sometimes the grief or the sickness or the sheer suckitude demands time. You’d better give the time sooner rather than later, or it will swallow you whole. And then you’ll spend even more time on it later. My migraines are like that. If I take my pills and lie down immediately, I’ll lose an hour or two. If I soldier on, gut it out, or other metaphors for not stopping I’ll pay for my stubbornness with up to 48 hours of pain.

    To all of you who are being blindsided at the moment – you have my deep affection and prayers for recovery! Be well! Like Garrison says, “keep in touch and do good work.”

  • Polo! And many hugs. I’ve had those before. That’s where a lot of my September went. I hope you recover soon and that it doesn’t take too much time from your life.

  • Polo!!

    My most recent blindside was my only son going off to college. Normally I’m pretty tough, but this was beyond my ability to handle. I tried to keep it together, but the creativity suffered. I would sit in front of my computer staring at an empty screen, unable to immerse myself in my story all for wanting to call him or check to see if he was online.

    Things are better now. I still miss him awfully, but I’m getting more used to him being away. And the words are starting to flow again.

    So pass me that bottle, Di. And by the way….Marco!

  • Unicorn

    Polo!
    I’ll skip the drink (I’m underage) but I hope life is better for you soon, Diana. My own blindsides have been pretty minor as they go (well, they ended okay), I guess, not that they felt minor when I was in the middle of them, but the temporary drying up of that creative well is one of the most horrifying feelings in the world. Good luck to you.
    Unicorn

  • Rick Gold

    Sometimes it seems like there are more conflicts in our lives than in our fiction. The feeling of support in this little community though, is fantastic! Diana, we’re with you…