When The Words Won’t Come.

Writer’s Block can be brutal, but agonising over it is only going to make things worse.

There are times in every writer’s life when the words just won’t come. Sometimes that lasts an hour. Sometimes it lasts weeks, or months. It’s certainly frustrating, but I refuse to stress over it. 2018-04-19 17.51.23

I’ve been in a “writing dry patch” over the past couple of months. For a while, there was nothing happening: the only thing I was writing was note after note full of ideas. I don’t know why I couldn’t write anything. I just couldn’t.

That came as something of a shock after last year which, although turbulent, painful and draining on both personal and emotional levels, was also incredibly productive. Three books of poetry, two of mild horror, and two fairy tale novellas in an anthology in a year is impressive for someone who teaches high school and needs to sleep occasionally. In one sense, it’s no wonder I ran out of steam. I’m only human, after all.

It was poetry that recently broke the drought for me. In fact, it usually is. Ironically, it was local tragedy in the form of wildfires around my home town on St Patrick’s Day that got the words flowing again. Since the middle of March, I’ve written some poems that I’m really happy with, and I have some others started.

I have so many stories I want to write, but now just doesn’t seem to be the time for that, so I’m saving the notes and plans and outlines until it happens naturally. I know it will. And when it does, I’ll be ready.

In all honesty, my mind is tired. Today at work, I struggled to remember the word for “chair”– and I was in a classroom, surrounded by at least 25 of them at the time! If I forced myself to write those stories now, they’d be rubbish.

So, I’m going to be kind to myself. I’m going to give my mind and my spirit time to rest, and not worry about all the things I want to write, or feel I should be writing. I’m certainly not going to churn out a bunch of garbage and try to persuade people that it’s “art”. I’m happy to wait, and I think my readers will prefer that, too.

Hopefully in the meantime I’ll be able to write a few more good poems.

The perils of creativity.

I’ve had a really productive and creative month, especially in my writing. This is a good thing in one way, but I’ve often observed that I am at my most creative when I feel oppressed or angry about something.  This has, in fact, caused me to wonder what sort of mood I’d have to be in, and for how long, if I were to actually try to write a whole book.

Perhaps luckily for my family and friends,, that’s not what I’ve been inspired to write. More than ever before, I’ve become really serious about writing poetry. There have been times when the ideas and words just poured out of me and landed on the page rather effectively. There have also been plenty of times when the writing and crafting of meaning was far more labour intensive because I wanted to make sure it was exactly right.

Last week, as I was driving home from somewhere – I can’t quite remember which day it was – the thought struck me that I should try my hand at a more conventional classical ballad style of poetry, like so many of the longer poems that I know and love. I’ve spent my life loving the work of poets such as Tennyson and Wordsworth, and while I am not pretending for a moment that I am anywhere near as good as them, the rich narrative style of their poems is something I thought I’d like to try to emulate.

Inspiration struck as I saw a picture in my mind’s eye and decided to develop it as an allegorical ballad with a fairy tale feeling and style about it.  Parts of the poem have flowed quite naturally, and others have been painstakingly written and rewritten.  At one point, I nearly threw the whole thing away and gave up on the whole thing as a ridiculously bad idea. I had hit the cold, hard barrier of writer’s block, and for several days this unfinished piece taunted me. Who was I kidding, anyway? I might be good with words, but I would never be that good.

In typical fashion, this famine of ideas turned out to be the ironic part of my life having a good old laugh at my own expense.  At the end of a week where I had three very long days at work, survived a stressful meeting, and was playing cordial host to a four-day-long tension headache, my brain woke me at 2am on Saturday with some lines that I had to either write down that instant or lose them forever.

I wrote those lines rather clumsily into my phone, hoping that autocorrect and my headachey,sleep deprived eye-finger coordination didn’t play merry hell with what I thought I was writing. You can imagine my surprise the following day when those lines actually turned out to be just what I had wanted. 

The poem isn’t finished yet. I am not sure how long it will take before I am happy enough to publish it. When I do, though, it won’t matter if nobody else likes it or understands it, or if it is not hailed as a work of literary genius. I’m pretty sure that won’t happen. What matters is what the poem means to me. 

For now, it’s a labour of love.  Hopefully I will be ready to share it with the world soon.