I have never written this way before. Following a crooked unfamiliar path feels exciting. I’m infused with fresh energy. This experience of writing two books at once is unlike anything that came in my ten published works before this. Yes, two books at the same time. Not unheard of in the writing world, but certainly new for linear me.
Despite each having their own cast of characters and totally different settings, I at first wondered if they were the same book. I wanted them to be the same book because then it would make sense to me, it would be more the way I usually work. But no, as it turns out, I’m writing two books. I should have seen it coming when I finished Love and Death in Blue Lake.
Without spoiling the end of that book, I can say that two of the characters went their separate way, immediately demanding their own stories. Before I started either book, I was torn about which to write. I finally began one, then I put it down when I hit a wall that felt a lot like writer’s block but was really just running out of plot ideas. For a scary minute, I thought I wouldn’t write again.
Then I decided I could work on something light and frothy. Maybe a Christmas novel! So I wrote every day for a month and got the book I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. It wasn’t quite as light and fluffy as I had envisioned, but no matter. I finished a draft.
Mistletoe plays a pivotal role in my Christmas story
In all previous books, this is the point at where I would revise. But for some reason the other half finished book started knocking loudly on the writing door. Which is when I wondered if the two books were supposed to be one. But after getting underway again, all plot dilemmas neatly and mysteriously solved while I was writing something else, I finally had to admit it. I’m writing two books at once.
It’s not as confusing as I imagined.
At some point I will have to revise them, and with any luck it will be one at a time.
Life is like a novel: full of unexpected twists and irony. For example, several years ago, I wrote a series of posts on writer’s block. Through 45 years of writing, I’d never had writer’s block, so Ten Fixes For Writer’s Block could have been arrogant nonsense. But as a creative writing teacher, I had come across so many kinds of writer’s block in my students that I felt compelled to write about ways to fix it. After all, it was my job to help young writers.
Little did I know when I was writing those fixes that one day I would need my own advice. A surprise: my younger self knew things my older self forgot. Because, yes, I have been struggling with writer’s block for a few months now. I’m not completely blocked. Obviously, writing this post proves that. Which is a relief because I really don’t know what I’d do with myself if I didn’t write, having no other hobbies except binge watching Longmire on Netflix.
For so long, I was absolutely sure that I would write until I died. I couldn’t imagine a time when I would not wake up in the morning with my current novel perking in my neocortex. That is just the way it has been for so long, I thought it would always be true. Especially when I retired from teaching. I couldn’t wait to write full time. How productive I would be! How prolific! Instead, I struggled to write and I struggled to understand why I was having to struggle. Finally I remembered a series of posts I compiled way back when I thought I’d never have a serious problem with writer’s block. Maybe I should look that up, I thought. I might learn something from myself.
Today, I checked over the list. It seems I have ALL of the ten reasons I listed. Maybe what I missed when I was busy being prolific is that writer’s block is complex and involves many moving parts, not just one thing you can tick off and be done with. I also read my advice on how to “fix” these problems and it’s solid. I should take my own advice, but first I am trying an additional experiment given to me by my awesome therapist, Dr. B.
Last session, I brought up my growing worry that I was done writing novels. In the past couple of months I had started and stopped two novels. I lacked the passion, the intrinsic motivation, the drive. It just dried up on me and I wasn’t sure why. Dr B suggested an experiment: go two weeks without working on a novel. She said something so wise “If you find yourself missing it, that will tell you something. If you find you don’t miss it, that will tell you something, too. Either way, you have more information.”
Isn’t she a genius? Because I have come to believe that there may be a time when I stop writing novels. I’m not sure when, but I can see now that day might come. That’s what the next two weeks will tell me. In the three days since Dr. B gave me this advice, I have learned one thing: I am not ready to stop writing books yet. I want to finish those two novels I started. I want to write more novels after those, too. The question remains: do I want it enough?
Here’s the irony: I found my younger self’s answer to that question embedded in the original post. I called it a “Reality Check” and went on to say “People can become blocked because they dread the time and effort involved to really make their writing shine. In that case, your writer’s block is telling you something important. You might have a bit of talent for writing, but you don’t have the passion it takes to bring that talent to the next level. And that’s okay. It’s good to know exactly why you’re blocked, what your options are, and whether you might be happier doing something else with your creative energy.”
I felt this bit of advice like a slap in the face. One thing age teaches you is that vital chemicals (hormones) deplete as you grow older. This is why older folks suffer from insomnia: their melatonin levels are low. Women in menopause lack powerful hormones that impact many areas of joyful living. Men lose testosterone. And bones become brittle because the calcium is not there anymore. What if passion is also finite? What if mine is gone forever?
I don’t really believe this. Passion is a feeling, not a hormone or a vitamin. There are ways to restore passion for writing, and I’ve found a few. There’s Dr. B’s advice, which I think could work for anyone. Julia Cameron suggests Artist Dates. Writing prompts can be can be useful. Deadlines too. NaNoWriMo is coming up in November. That’s always inspiring. Lists help. For example, I got the idea for writing this post from Molly Greene’s terrific list of 101 Fabulous Blog Topic Ideas.
I have not given up hope. I plan to rekindle my passion, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Meanwhile, if you are now going through a dry spell, or if you’ve had writer’s block in the past and broke through it, I’d love to hear your story.