My Non-Writing Life – The ups, the downs and the sheer terror of a blank mind.

December, 2011. The month my story-telling brain left me.

Oh, you’re saying, don’t be so dramatic, Carrie. You’d be partially right. I’m a bit of a drama queen, but not about this.

At first, I thought it’s temporary. It’ll come back. How can it not, after all, it’s my BRAIN we’re talking about here! I didn’t really worry about it until the middle of January. After all, the holidays were keeping me zinging about, work was overflowing, I simply didn’t have the time to write. Didn’t matter I couldn’t actually THINK of a storyline, or even a character, because I was busy. BUSY BUSY BUSY. Yes, all with capitals.

Then came February. I had many things still on my plate, and a lovely class with the wondrous Laurie Schnebly, and for awhile I thought yay! I’m out of my funk! But no, I really wasn’t. The story idea I used for her class is one I’ve had for two years. She helped me refine it, helped me make it into an awesome story outline, and then when class was over? poof. gone.

Well, that’s awkward, I thought. I must be trying too hard. And since my 50th birthday was on the horizon, I put it behind me. Until my lovely friend and mentor Sandi reminded me – “Didn’t you say you wanted to be published by your 50th birthday?”

And I did. That’s been my goal for the past 3 years. But try as I might, every time I brought out my story, ANY of my stories, my mind rebelled. Didn’t you forget to brush your teeth? it said. Did you remember to update so-and-so’s website? it murmured. The brain is an insistent thing – it needles and cajoles and pecks away at you until you’ve forgotten why you opened that document in the first place and next thing you know, you’re making rice krispie bars and cutting out paper snowflakes.

I’d even quit making jewelry.

Next thing you know it’s June. How did that happen? I was suddenly 50 and 1/4. Even blogging had become a challenge. An editor requested a synopsis and I thought here we go! We’re off and running! I opened my manuscript and changed one word. One. I kept the document open for 3 days, then finally closed it again. My mind was a perfect blank. I tried to force a story in there. I had the perfect opening line. I opened a fresh new document, wrote three paragraphs and then…nothing. No story. No thought of a story.

This was a heart breaker for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a very vivid imagination. Wild dreams, even wilder day dreams. Brazilian toads bigger than a dinner plate, vampires, Vikings storming through my clothes closet. A simple drive to work could result in almost an entire story being plotted out in 20 minutes. But I’d literally gone dark. The Vikings had left with the toads, vampires had disappeared into the mists. My drive to work was 20 minutes of classic 70’s rock and me belting out the words to Smokin’ in the Boys Room.

Even my reading habits disappeared. Every night for as long as I can remember, I’ve read myself to sleep. EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Now suddenly I watched movies. I read magazines. I had to force myself to read more than a few pages before bed.

What was happening to me???

I still don’t know. But, in sheer desperation, this past week I started listening to the old RWA workshops again while in my car. And one day, while driving to work and not expecting it, a tiny germ of an idea popped into my head. It was gone as quick as it had come, and I almost didn’t recognize it for what it was, but another popped up. What if . . . instead of him being on the boat because of an embezzler he was her personal body guard. (yes, I realize this makes no sense to you NOW, but when the book comes out, you’ll see where that came from!) what if . . . they were on board with their SO’s and it turns out the SO’s were having an affair – with each other! Okay, not the deepest of ideas, but at this point, I’d take anything!

I’m hoping hoping hoping that this is a turn in the tide and means the synapses are firing in my brain again. Hopefully the connections up there aren’t too rusted out!

I’m taking an online class next week, I’ve got 5 CD’s lined up to listen in to while driving.

It’s time to get back to writing.


11 Responses to “My Non-Writing Life – The ups, the downs and the sheer terror of a blank mind.”

  • Ah, now there’s an idea. Hmm, wonder why she needs guarded, and from whom? Interesting, yes? Listen, babe, I believe you can do it. You’ve got too much funny all up in that brain not to finish a book and get it out there. So here are my pom-poms and I’m rooting for you. Don’t make me rally the town into doing the wave for you LOL Also, *blushing* that you think I’m a mentor. Makes me all smiley and stuff. 🙂 Gotta believe!

  • Carrie, my writing sabbatical has gone on for many months. Two factors in my life brought it on, I think. I was dealing with some health challenges and felt that I needed to de-stress, which meant letting go of the social networking. Letting go of the writing came next. The health challenges are now on sabbatical until a hip replacement on August 30, which requires a 6 week recovery.

    For now, I am trucking ahead with catching up with 4 months of bookkeeping and getting the computers back in order. So I have chalked up 2012 as the year of my body reconstruction and have forgiven myself. The writer that I aspire to be is still there! And will be back!

    I suspect that the added time pressure of marketing and social networking blew the lid off for me. If I tried to do it all, I had no down time, so I welcomed my brain turnoff. And there are practitioners of alternative health “out there” might say that the health downturn was the result of stress. It matters not which came first. I am feeling great and ready for my new hip!

    I loved the social networking and it was hard to let it go. Two conferences this October (ECWC and Surrey International) and I am hoping that will get the juices going again. Two manuscripts are waiting to be finished.

    So, Carrie, I suspect you are not alone. And I am tickled to hear that your juices are flowing again. You have been a great inspiration to me, and I suspect other writers as well, even in this honest appraisal of down time. I hope you can chalk the down time up as necessary to get ready for your new surge. As Sandra Sookoo said, “I believe you can do it.”

    • Marion, I too gave up most of the social networking. It didn’t seem hard to give it up, but it seemed impossible to continue. I LOVED twitter, and had a blast every morning chatting with my friends, and then one day – I just couldn’t do it. I was busy. Not just busy but buried under. I’d flash a comment through and then poof, so busy I couldn’t even wait for a reply. I’ve recently posted on FB a bit more…3-4 times a week. But I no longer HAVE to do it, and that takes an enormous amount of pressure off. This was to be the year I showed everyone that I wasn’t too old, show them what I was really made of. Instead, it’s been a year of waiting. But yes. I can do it.

      And I will. I promise. =)

    • Marion, good luck with the hip replacement on the 30th. It’s so good to hear this important time you have given to your health (in every respect) has been satisfying and productive. Your writing friends are always here for you, Carrie and any others of us who need to follow a similar path from time to time.

  • What good news, Carrie! Your experience is not unusual. I know that sometimes wells do tend to run dry and it takes time to renew those juices. We WANAs are always here to lend an ear, a shoulder, or cheer you on. I’m cyber-sending you some WD40 in case you do find some rust. Onward!

  • Aw, Carrie! I’m with you…every couple of months I have down time when i just can’t do any writing and don’t even feel like reading blogs. I will read books and do a little housework and that’s a bout it, for a couple of weeks. I know how frustrating it is. I’ve played more online games than I’ve written during some months.
    One thing that might help if it ever happens again – force yourself to write for 5 minutes, anything that comes to mind. Even if you write ‘I can’t think of anything to write, dammit!’ over and over for those five minutes. The habit of writing something, anything, daily can open the floodgates again.
    Good luck with your new romance! Thanks for all you’ve done to help me the last couple of months!

    • You’re welcome marcia! =) I’m hoping my imagination is working again – that’s scary to lose it all like that! =) thanks for the great tips!

  • Carrie, I totally feel you. My motivation and inspiration has all but dried up…for awhile now. I barely daydream something I used to do all the time. I’ve tried a lot of things to get the writing juice flowing but everything seemed to make it worse. A couple of months ago, I decided to just accept it and move forward with other creative outlets; blogging, volunteering etc…when it comes back, I’ll be ready!
    Here’s to keeping the spirit and muse alive and well my friend!
    Write hard. 🙂

    • It’s terrible isn’t it, when everything just disappears? People ask how’s the book coming? And I mumble and walk away….sad. Wrote four pages in total on Saturday however, and hoping to do more this evening! Best of luck finding your muse back, Natalie!

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