Sandra Scoppettone writes one of the most honest and heartfelt blogs on the web.Â On January 24, she wrote:
“I have the awful feeling that I canâ€™t write anymore. Some part of me is fed up with the whole process. Itâ€™s not that I have to feel pleasure all the time Iâ€™m writing. That would be unrealistic. But I feel no pleasure at all. It feels like Iâ€™m simply hitting keys. Writing for the sake of writing because Iâ€™m supposed to be a writer. “
Oh man, do I understand what she’s saying.Â From time to time I’ve shared her feelings of hopelessness and ennui.Â I’ve wondered when writing storiesÂ stopped being fun.Â Â I’ve felt fed up with the process and the constantly churning anxiety of fast-approaching deadlines.Â But who are we to complain?Â We’re published authors!Â We’re living the dream, and we shouldÂ shut up and be grateful!
Yet Sandra’sÂ blog (which strikes me as incredibly brave and just a touch foolhardy in its honesty) points out the downside of writing as a job, and it’s this:Â your whole career,Â the whole rickety house of cards, restsÂ entirely on yourÂ continuing ability to spin something out of absolutely nothing.Â It’s not like, say, building doghouses.Â Building a doghouse takes materials which are readily available at the hardware store, a set of tools, and maybe a blueprint.Â Follow the instructions, and you have your doghouse.Â Every single time.Â You can pretty much count on having those tools and those materials handy, and as long as you have the time, you can build endless numbers of doghouses.Â
But a writer’s primary tool, beyondÂ the pen or the keyboard,Â is his imagination.Â And that’s a damn unreliable tool.Â It fractures with just the slightest stress.Â A serious illness or a divorce or a few sleepless nights can make that tool completely unusable.Â Suddenly you can’t figure out the next plot twist.Â You can’t hear the dialogue.Â As the days go by, and no writing gets done, you start to panic and that warps yourÂ tool even more.Â You just want to be writing again, but because you’re now so anxious about the whole process, the short walk to your desk starts to feel like a trip to the salt mines.Â All because your most valuable tool as a writer, your imagination, has gone missing.
How do we get it back?Â In Sandra’s case, it sounds like she plans to take a break.Â She doesn’t know how long it will be, but she knows that in her bones she’s a writer, and she expects she’llÂ be back.Â
I’m sure she will.