The Drainage Ditch of Writing


David had a tough week, last week. Hugs, David. It’s been a difficult time for me too, though not as bad as David’s, and for totally different reasons. No one died, no one came through a deadly event and miraculously lived. Unlike David, I’ve never lost a close loved one, except grandparents, and some of those were a guilty, knife-edged relief. I’ve lost and grieved for dogs, but that isn’t the same, no matter much I loved them, no matter how much I grieved and still grieve. No matter how often I look out back at the river stones that mark Delta’s grave. She wasn’t a mother or a child or a lover and I do know the difference. But my week has been difficult anyway, actually the last eight months have been physically hard – thorny and complicated, and it’s changed the way I write, the way I feel about my writing, my craft.
I’ve been ill. Not one specific thing ill, like cancer or a chronic disease, but one thing after another ill, from back problems to digestive problems, to eye problems, to a systemic staph infection, that is hanging on like a dog to a favorite play toy, teeth sunk in deep and a growl on his lips. When I wasn’t sick, someone in my family was sick and I was caretaker. (Yes, this is going to be about writing. Hang in there.)
Being sick makes me mean, and I’ve been fighting that, but I don’t think I’ve been too successful. (grins) Being sick makes my characters tougher and more snarly and gruff than usual, and I tend to write snarky character anyway. Being sick has made me want to rest and play and take naps and recreate on rivers on days when I feel better, a boat snugged around me – my own form of getting away from it all.
And being sick has made me *not* want to write as much, which is an odd reaction to my body’s less-than-healthy time. The words come slowly, pulled from me almost painfully, without the fluid grace that usually is mine. My writing has gone from a three step, two day process where I plot it out and write it one day, then revise it once the next day before going on to the next scene where I repeat the process, to a four or five step process. Now, I plot it, get a *very* rough draft down, then sleep on it. The next day I rewrite it, putting in all the emotional overtones and transition, before I plot out the next scene and start a rough draft. The third day I go back to the first days’ writing and rewrite, again, before inputting the emotional aspects in the scenes I plotted out the day before. Sometimes I rewrite the scene from day one again on the fifth day. Ick. Now, my writing is taking three days or more to do what I previously did in two. It is not fun, maybe even painful, and mentally I compare it to ripping the words out though my flesh with a hook.
I miss the assured, uncompromising determination, the verve and vitality with words that I had before. I miss the words flowing from me like water from an artesian well, under their own pressure, with a timing and life of their own. I hate the feeling of being a drainage ditch, my creativity backed up and squeezing through an underground clog of dead branches and debris, under pressure but not flowing, released in dribs and drabs.
I am not complaining. (Okay, maybe a teensy bit.) I know the joy of writing will come back. I know that with a deep-down certainty, without worry or being frightened that maybe it won’t. And I view this time of being…um…plugged up…? as important creatively, to forcing me to think and act and construct a novel in a different way. Build it more slowly, with more logic and care and less emotion. But it isn’t fun. Not at all. I do not believe in writer’s block. But I do believe it becomes harder sometimes to free the words and let the story have life.
Unpublished writers often tell me that they *know* they can handle deadlines and difficult rewrite letters and the aspects of writing that are hard, and still combine it with family and living a life. It’s the published, been through the war-zone-of-creativity writers who know how tough it can be. And how not-fun it can be. Even the shiny-new-toy of a book is just another work project at times like this.
And yet, the sun will come out tomorrow… (Sorry. Now I’m singing that song in my head.) And the words will again flow with joy and intensity and that well of creativity will gush up and I will write. But today? It just sucks.
Faith Hunter


11 comments to The Drainage Ditch of Writing

  • I feel for ya. When I feel that way it makes me think of the belief of Chi and how when you’re sick the energy kinda gets dammed up and doesn’t flow well. It feels that way with the writing when you feel crummy. I find it much harder to focus when I’m sick. I get Crohn’s flare ups from time to time and they pretty much make me want to ball myself up somewhere and stay away from trying to do anything because of the pain. I can’t focus on what I’m trying to accomplish, which ends up just making me angry.

    And I saw a hilarious quote about deadlines the other day:

    “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” -Douglas Adams-

    I’m not bad with deadlines when someone else gives me one, but I can’t impose one on myself. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.

  • Daniel, I love the quote. They do whoosh.
    And Crohn’s is a miserable condition. Hugs to you.

    That is a good comparison to Chi. My massage therapist will open some energy pathways when I see her again. (waves to Diane) She’s a whiz! Maybe when she does, I’ll write easier.

  • Where does the emotional end and the physical begin? I know that emotional pain leaves me feeling like crap. I also know that chronic illness or pain takes a devastating emotional toll. And both make creativity far more difficult. On the other side of this, you’ll be a better writer (not that you suck now 😉 ) a more productive writer, a more evocative writer. But I can barely begin to imagine how hard this has to be for you in the middle of the storm. Hugs right back atchya, Faith!

  • Thanks you David. On a different note, and something you would enjoy, I’ve been watching the hawk wars for the last two hours. A pair of Coopers (I think) hawks and a redtailed hawk (RT) have been battling it out in the trees behind my house, fighting for territory. It was the most violent thing I’ve ever seen in the wild, with the Coopers diveboming and hitting the RT. Feathers falling, being knocked from branches. Kocked right out of the sky!
    RT is injured now, his right foot not closing, and his left wing damaged. Finally the RT mate has shown up. Two crows and two bluejays have been in on it from time to time too, bombing any hawk they could. It is loud and amazing and right outside my writing room window. If the RT hits the ground, I’ll call the raptor center. But for now, it’s war! Who can even think about writing!

  • Wow! That sounds amazing! I remember many years ago, when I still lived in Providence, there was a family of Great Horned Owls nesting in a place I’d go birding, and the Red-tailed Hawks in the area were not happy about it at all. They harassed the owls, hoping to drive them off. Very cool to watch. Then one morning I got to the place, and there was one of the hawks lying dead on the ground with a small red puncture wound in the middle of its chest. Nobody messes with a Great Horned Owl….

  • /hugs Faith. Hope your general health gets better. I can certainly relate. I’ve been unemployed the past six months, and one would think that it would be a time to get oodles of writing done. Exactly the opposite has happened however. The creative urge went out the window along with the job. The main problem was that most of my writing was done at work (my job was such that I could get 2 to 3 hours of writing in a day). I lost my routine, and family life is very different than work life, and I have had an incredibly difficult time getting any kind of routine back. I have played alot of online games though. lol. Anyway, it’s gradually coming back, but it is much like pulling teeth. Painfully slow.

  • Faith said, “Two crows and two bluejays have been in on it from time to time too, bombing any hawk they could.”

    and David said, “…there was one of the hawks lying dead on the ground with a small red puncture wound in the middle of its chest.”

    And people wonder why I’m terrified of birds. *shudder*

  • David, that sounds scary! This certainly was. It was like watching cold blooded murder in flight. The screaming was amazing, expecially after the female redtailed came back and there were four birds. It has to go into a Rogue Mage book, should I get to write another. I can see a pitched battle between winged seraphs… Hmmm.

    Jim, my heart goes out to you. This economy is doing awful things to so many people. Prayers for a new job. But I am glad you are starting to get your creative spark back. (I won’t say muse, I promise.) The tooth-pulling-style of writing is miserable indeed. Hugs to you.

  • I forgot you were scared of birds! I remember now.
    (Moment of deja vu.)
    They are viscous predators. And Scary! But OMG they are beautiful. I have a small dog, and I have to go outside with him all the time to check the trees before I let him lose to do his … um … doggie business.

  • Ahem…
    Vicious. Not viscous. Which would be a totally different kind of bird. Sigh…

  • I didn’t even notice. But I guess a viscous bird would be kinda gooey. 😀