Why Is It So Hard To Write? Because When The Dry Spell Is Over You Have To Sit In The Chair

I’m watching the clouds roll by. Literally.

This is what the clouds looked like a few minutes ago.

clouds one minute
clouds one minute

This is what they look like now.

clouds the next
clouds the next

Rolling by like a wispy white summer parade in front of my desk turned parade route lawn chair. I’ve been watching the leaves blowing in the tree for a good five minutes. When the traffic noise from the street quiets momentarily, I can hear the leaves and I’m mesmerized by the sound.

And I’m not complaining…exactly. Listening to trees and staring at clouds are part of what Sunday afternoons are for in my opinion.

But you see…I’M SUPPOSED TO BE WRITING!

This year will go down in the annals of Shannon History as “The Year of The Dry Spell”. The first few months of 2016 I had no desire to produce anything creative. No writing, no drawing, no videos, no projects, no ideas, no nothing. And I was not upset about it. I couldn’t have cared less. I was all about self-awareness, self-improvement, redefining my home, reflecting on the past, and consuming the creativity of others.

January 2016 rolled around and all my creative energy seemed to roll out the door, replaced with some undefined feeling I couldn’t put into words. What my subconscious knew that my conscious mind hadn’t realized yet was that I was about to turn 40 in April.

I’ve never been bothered by age. I feel like getting older and gathering wisdom is a great privilege. So, I’d never given a second thought to turning 40. I figured it would be the same as any other birthday. But it wasn’t.

My habits and lifestyle and things I’d been doing that had quite literally gotten me through the three years since my mom died were becoming precarious. Some habits I enjoyed were falling away simply because as life evolves circumstances change and you can’t always get together with people like you used to. Some habits I enjoyed were falling away simply because as life was evolving I was changing.

When my mom died a switch got flipped. My world was suddenly so different, I needed my lifestyle to be different too. I tried new things, I found new interests, and developed new habits.

But three years later, my subconscious was sitting around in the back room of my brain flipping through a calendar having the epiphany that eventually hits us all at some point in our lives.

Time is real.

Time is a real, tangible, finite thing. And nobody knows how much they get.

It hit me to some degree when my mom passed away, but I was processing so many other life-changing emotions at the time. Now I was turning 40 and my subconscious, having had its epiphany, was running around the back room of my brain like a chicken with its head cut off.

What is truly important to me? What were my real interests? How did I want to be spending my free time? Are there projects I’ve thought about that I will regret not doing? Why am I subscribed to so many information outlets that are overwhelming me with content?Β Life is too hectic! I need to slow down and spend time on things that are important to me!

I mean, looking back, I realize these were the questions I was asking myself. However, at the time it sounded a little more like, “AAAAHHHHHH!!!!”

I felt a need to turn inward and find answers to questions I couldn’t even articulate. As I said earlier, I started focusing on self-awareness, self-improvement, my health and my home, reflecting on the past, and consuming the creativity of others to answer these questions. I was cocooning.

As I got closer to my birthday, my conscious mind caught up with my subconscious and latched on to one thought about turning 40 that I could not get out of my head. When my mom turned 40 she had no idea she only had 19 years left on this planet – 6,935 days. How’s that for finite time? “AAAHHHHHH!!!”

Finally my big day arrived. There were well wishes from family and friends, I had the opportunity to spend it exactly as I wanted, it should have been a fantastic day, as my birthdays usually are. But, you know what, dear reader? I’m not gonna lie…it was pretty awful. I was missing my mom terribly, nothing I was doing was going right, and my best friend who took time out of her busy day to stop by and surprise me for a quick visit happened to stop by during the only half hour I was out of the house. I spent most of the day crying.

But, you know what, dear reader? That awful birthday turned out to be the best birthday present I could have gotten. That gush of emotion was the cocoon opening, It was the spigot being turned on. It was my creativity coming back. The dry spell would soon be over.

I started having ideas again. I started wanting to be creative. I’ve started concrete plans for a long-form project. One that will eventually be public, but will take a long time for me to create. I’m also working on a personal project for my family of organizing our photos – I true joy to take on. But in the midst of all that, I hope to come back to writing and creating in this space again.

Which brings me back to my original question. Why is it so hard to write?

I love the idea of writing. I love “having written”. I am invigorated when I am in the flow of writing. But sitting down to actually do the writing I’m like a squirming kid being put in a time-out.

What follows is an actual, non-embellished account of what went down in the last ten minutes in place of me writing another paragraph here.

Noticed my laptop battery was getting low. Went to get the power cord. Realized I don’t have a surge protector/power strip for the outlet in this room. Went to other room to double check I didn’t have an extra one. Heard a fly buzzing. Followed him through the room, getting tangled in the clothes drying on the line from laundry day. Went to get the fly swatter – uttered the words, “You’re going down.” Commented on what a pretty shade of pink my fly swatter is. Completely lost track of fly’s whereabouts. Commandeered extension cord from another room and plugged in my laptop – ooo screen is much easier to read when brightness is higher out of power save mode. Remembered I should go write power strip on my grocery list in the kitchen. Commented for the third time today that something smells weird in the kitchen and I can’t track it down. Proceeded to sniff my way around the room again and declare it’s either outside or coming from the sink. Found out I had already written power strip on my grocery list. Sat down in front of laptop. Realized my phone was getting low on power (68 percent is low for me – get yourself trapped in the Emergency Room one night without a phone charger and you will forever be paranoid about your lifeline staying charged). Went and got my phone charger and plugged it in. Fly buzzes my ear and lands on the screen of the window. Thirty second battle ensues as I try to open the screen to let him escape and he, I assume confused as to why the screen he landed on is moving, retreats between the two sides of the sliding window. Repeat this scenario three times as he ignores my instructions on how to exit and shoots off back into the house. I realize my iced tea glass is empty and head to the kitchen…

You get the picture.

a pretty pink procrastination tool
a pretty pink procrastination tool

Now that my creativity is back, everything should be easy, right?

Five things I have done recently instead of writing…

1. Set up a desk under the window. (This should be a great place to write. I’ll be super inspired here.)

2. Bought an outdoor table and chair for the deck. (I would love to sit outside enjoying the weather while I write. I’ll be super inspired here.)

3. Spent six hours cleaning out half the basement to make room to store outdoor table and chair. (It has poured down rain and been over 100 degrees since the one hour I used the table and chair. If I leave them outside they will get bird droppings on them. I know myself well enough to know that I will never clean them and thus never want to write on them. I better store them in the basement.)

I will never sit on this if a bird has left its mark
I will never sit on this if a bird has left its mark

4. Enlarged and framed this photo of my great grandpa. (This project had nothing to do with inspiring me to write. I just love this photo of my Paw Paw and have wanted to frame it for a long time. Sounded like more fun that writing.)

one of my favorite photos from 1942
one of my favorite photos from 1942

5. Set up old laptop as “writing laptop”. (I loaned my old laptop to a friend. She no longer needs it so recently gave it back to me. I forgot how nice and compact and “write-y” it is. I like the keyboard. I should upgrade it and set it up as a distraction-free writing laptop. I can take it to the cafe with me and work there. That should really get me started writing again.)

All this hovering around the idea of writing and yet not a single word written.

Today I was listening to a professional writer talk about writing. He gave some advice I’ve heard over and over again, but was only ready to finally listen to today.

You need to sit in the chair and write.

There are no shortcuts. There is no magic formula to writing other than just sitting down and doing it.

Isn’t that the story with most things? There are no shortcuts. There is no magic formula. If you truly want to do something, you need to take a step forward and just start.

So, I took my “writing laptop”, sat down at my “desk in front of the window”, and started writing. This is what came out. I think I better publish it now. I’m starting to watch the trees again.

PS. I let in another fly while I was taking this last picture. He’s probably looking for his friend. Good luck, buddy. I can’t find him either.

watching the trees

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9 thoughts on “Why Is It So Hard To Write? Because When The Dry Spell Is Over You Have To Sit In The Chair

  1. I lit up when I saw this in my email. I wasn’t disappointed. Life does shift, evolve, and put us places when our creativity gets thwarted, sidetracked, or otherwise diminished as a priority due to — other stuff.

    Though I am relentlessly seeking a creative outlet, my writing too has fallen away, in large part due to my mother. You see, she’s losing her mind. It’s not too bad yet, but the trajectory is clear. Being my mother’s advocate, I am now spending more time tending to her needs. She doesn’t clean as well, so my cleaning time has increased. I don’t want her driving any longer, so my schlepping time has increased. Of course, my creative flow is the same, but my time is less. That’s okay. My blog will be there down the road. Or, I can just set my clock for 3:30am instead of 4:30.

    Anyway, nice to see you writing again. Living again. Surviving 40 — for the first time. Actually, that really is when life begins. I’m now 15 years into being 40, and I have never loved and appreciated my life more.

    Peace…
    And I will toast you and Melinda by the fire pit in just a few. Cheers, Girls!

    1. Thanks, Roy. You know I feel for you having to go through seeing your mom begin to decline, but I am so pleased for her and for you that you are by her side helping her through it. I promise you that is a decision you will never regret. But promise me (lie to my face if you must) that whatever need you feel to find a creative outlet in your shrinking schedule of free time, that you do not set your alarm for 3:30am instead of 4:30! Sleep is so fundamentally essential to your well-being, especially as your life is getting more stressful. I’d rather see you vent your creativity by scribbling your thoughts on a piece of paper every day for five minutes than sacrifice an hour of sleep. Okay, I’ve spoken my piece, now do as you please. πŸ˜‰ Thanks as always for your thoughts and well wishes! Oh, and PS. I love and appreciate my life more and more as I get older as well. πŸ™‚

  2. Oh yeah, I can relate. To all of it, every single thing. At the same time I am understanding in all new ways how precious and fleeting time is, I feel frozen in it, unable to do much with it. Loss can do that to us, I think. I made a lovely creative space, and I have had no urge to create for months now. I know it simply means I am attending to other things right now. I have been a creative being for enough years now to know that this is simply part of it. What’s happening right now will feed the work that will come later. I know that–but it still kinda sucks to be here, all the same.

    As to your question about why it is so hard to start writing, this essay by Kim Stafford has always been one of my favorite answers: http://www.lclark.edu/live/files/5666 It just makes sense to me. When I am in regular practice, the work is so much different. Knowing this makes it easier for me to play long enough to warm the instrument back up.

    I’m glad to see you back in this space.

    1. Thanks, Rita. I know you get it too. “At the same time I am understanding in all new ways how precious and fleeting time is, I feel frozen in it” That is a brilliant turn of phrase, my friend! πŸ™‚ I loved the essay you referenced. Very true. It was much easier to write yesterday once I got going. It’s like I’d forgotten how to do it, it had been so long. I know writing every day would make it easier. That is perfectly logical. I feel like my curiosity is a blessing and a curse. If writing was the only thing I loved, I would have no trouble doing it every day. But, here’s the deal…I have literally dozens of interests. And we’re not talking just passing fancies (although I have some of those too), but I mean dozens of things that I am truly, deeply interested in – and only x amount of time to indulge in them! So, I tend to cycle through them in phases. Or try to fit little bits of them into every week – neither of which works very well because I always feel like I’m missing something I love. I can spend three weeks using all my free time researching and watching classic films of a particular actor from the 1940s that I’m currently obsessed with, having a grand old time until suddenly I realize I haven’t written anything in three weeks. Therefore, writing becomes hard again. But I overcome it and then I get all fired up about writing, until I realize I haven’t watched a classic movie in ages and I miss it. Mix in books and history and family photos and podcasts and tv and design and home improvement and researching ideas and about a dozen other things and you get the picture. I know it’s a pretty good problem to have, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating that there never seems to be enough free time to do all the things I enjoy. πŸ™‚ Thanks, as always, for reading. May each of us our creative feet soon become unfrozen. πŸ˜‰

  3. Nice to see you back at your creative side. Your dad loves them so much. I had to read it to him as the computer is difficult now and reading is as well. He wanted me to write and let you know he heard your story. Thanks.

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