So, last night,I kind of had to admit something. I was looking at my various writing friends discussing achievements or their work, or just #iamwriting…and I realized something. I’ve had an inspiration problem lately. I’m not sure for how long, but it’s been there. It’s not that I don’t have stories to tell, I have several that I want to
tell. In fact, that’s part of the issue—I really want to tell these stories, but it can be easy to feel like they never will be. I’ve been editing Sin’s Requiem, the thematic sister-story to Trading Saints for Sinners. And I’ll get maybe 5 or 6 pages in before feeling exhausted. Writing new fiction just seems overwhelming right now.
It’s not just my writing, either. I’m grading more slowly, forcing myself through essay after essay and getting increasingly frustrated as I do. Even just reading. I actually enjoy taking my time and savoring a book, but I’ve been working on the same book for over a month. And graphic novels, where I was reading one a day or every other day, I haven’t read one in 3 weeks. And most unlike me, I haven’t even been going to the movies as much, even though I can go again after my surgery. I used to plan my week out with movies, but I have nothing for this weekend yet.
Mainly, I want to scroll Facebook and eat crackers and not think about anything. So I am writing this. Because writing is how I am going to figure out why I haven’t felt inspired. Discovery through writing, as I tell my students.
It would be easy to blame having surgery and not being able to leave the house much for two weeks. Or that I was fighting an infection before that and didn’t even know it. But even if there is some truth to that, I know it isn’t the main reason.
I think there are two things happening. One, is Impostor Syndrome. A few nights ago, I had a few friends over, 3 of them also writers, and we joked about Impostor Syndrome being a side effect of being a writer. If you don’t know what that is, basically, it’s that you feel like a fraud and that your accomplishments are just lies and eventually someone is going to figure out that you are fooling everyone. You know, the old trick of studying hard, getting an advanced degree, publishing several works, taking on crippling student debt in order to be an underpaid adjunct. Bwahahaha, the fools will never expect me! Yeah, I know, I’m good at my job, I’m a good writer, but I still feel like I’m getting away with something half the time, or I undersell my achievements. But that seems to have had a different effect lately: Why try? I’m not as good as I trick people into believing, so why keep trying. And, side note—a writer feeling like a fraud for tricking people into believing something about them doesn’t even make sense, really. A fiction writer’s sole purpose is to trick people into believing something that isn’t real, so this internalization of the process is both a paradox of what we use our skills for, and a detriment to our own self-image. In essence, we are making ourselves into stories and characters to fool an audience, so we have no actual identities. That’s the feeling, anyway. And eventually, someone will realize we’ve just been writing and acting ourselves. So, why deal with it? Sin’s Requiem isn’t probably that good anyway, and if people think it is, I fooled them (again, that’s actually my job).
So, that’s a part of it. I don’t want to deal with keeping up the truth [that my brain keeps telling me is a lie], but it’s also motivation. I’m tired. Not just physically, but we’re ending March, it’s been a hectic academic year, and it’s not over yet. Enrollment is down horribly, so I have no summer courses and I am going to have to work a different job to pay rent and whatnot, and I don’t want to think about more work. And when you’re a writer, the thing you love—writing—is work. A chef may love cooking, but that doesn’t mean that every night at their restaurant, they’re motivated to cook. When your passion is also your job, it’s sometimes hard to remember the passion part of it.
Hopefully, when the term is over, I can break from everything for a few days. No teaching, no writing, just read lazily and watch movies. Or maybe I’ll find a burst of inspiration before that and I can get The Catholic Noir Double Feature finished and discuss things with my publisher for the Winter. Team up with a friend for some book fairs.
But being a creative person and not feeling motivated to produce creative work is frustrating. It’s like wanting to drive forward, but the car is stuck in neutral. I want to do more, just can’t find the energy to do more.
The worst thing a writer can do is force themselves to write. That bragging/condescending thing about “You should be writing EVERY DAY” is a lie. It doesn’t mean the writer is lazy, it just means
the 900 narratives going on in their head have some gridlock. It’s mentally exhausting, and it’s not that the writer is taking a day off, it’s that they’re working things out in their head, and it kind of sucks. It’s easy to feel like you’re not doing anything when you just don’t feel ready to commit the idea to paper. “Just write” is bullshit. But it still hurts not to write, it just also hurts to write. That’s the other thing I’m feeling. I’m just not happy with whatever small bits of new writing I’ve attempted, and it’s bringing me down.
All right, I’ve written almost 1000 words on not writing. Actually, it will be 1000 words NOW! I have no answers. I hate the bullshit responses I listed above that people, even other writers, think is helpful when they really aren’t. If an architect said “I don’t know what the building will look like” would you tell them “Well, just build it anyway!” No. Because it’s not that simple. It never is. So, I want to write, I have little inspiration and no energy, but a dozen stories to be told.
I’m going to blame my students. Can I do that? Blame them and move on? Yes. It’s all their faults. Okay. Still doesn’t solve anything, but students are the worst, am I right?
Damn it. I said I would find an answer. None yet.
I’m just going to keep revising Sin’s Requiem 6 pages at a time and hope for a Winter publication.