The Writing Process

Lost for Words

Some years ago, I published a book, Loving Imogen, in which one of the characters, a photographer, says this:

“A photographer is by virtue of what he does, and these days I really manage to do very little at all.”

Loving Imogen EBook Cover

The same might be said of a writer, and I currently find myself in the same position as my imaginary friend. If a writer is because of what he or she does, I cannot be said to be one at the moment.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Maybe it’s that old nemesis, writers’ block, though some people insist that this condition doesn’t really exist at all, and is just an excuse for idleness. Maybe it’s distraction, or laziness, or lack of time – I have a day job, after all, and a dozen other things to take care of. Every day I sit down at my desk and open my laptop, but the words steadfastly refuse to flow.

Perhaps it’s the nature of the world at large that is keeping my mind from imaginary events. We live in interesting times, in which a number of more-or-less unlikely things have happened and are happening. The relatively safe, stable and indeed predictable world that I seem to remember from just a few years ago is hopelessly lost, it seems, and things will never be the same again. No one seems quite sure whether this is a good or a bad thing. Talk of a potential World War III occasionally surfaces on the internet, and the talkers are not exclusively conspiracy theorists or paranoiacs, either…

This photo has absolutely nothing to do with the post, apart from the fact that it's mildly sinister.
This photo has absolutely nothing to do with the post, apart from the fact that it’s mildly sinister.

Love it or hate it, it’s quite a spectacle. Nothing that my feverish little brain can concoct really competes with it. Perhaps this is why I can’t seem to find the right words, or the right use for those words, at the moment: reality is just way more interesting. When I sit down to write, my mind invariably wanders, and the internet is just a mouse-click away.

It will all even itself out in the end, I expect. After all this time, writing is just what I do; it’s part of how I relate to the world. When I’m not writing, I feel less complete. When the real world stops distracting me, I’ll no doubt make my way back to my imaginary world, which at least has the benefit of being under my control. Until then, I suppose I’ll just have to keep on watching and wondering…

14 thoughts on “Lost for Words

  1. As one who is eagerly awaiting the sequel to ‘Pietra’ I say – you mean thing, Mari! How dare you suffer from writer’s block? Talk about a lack of consideration for others!
    No, seriously, I am sure you will surmount it soon enough. I wish I didn’t believe in writer’s block. If I say that you are probably too perfectionist about what you are writing down, that is said remembering vividly that I wasted two months and 40,000 words trying to work my way through it on the first version of ‘The Villainous Viscount’ and 20,000 words the summer before last trying to write my way through it on the ‘That Scoundrel Emile Dubois’ sequel. Yes, I actually produced work, bu I felt thatt none of that work was up to scratch. i wondered if I wouldn’t have done better to spend that time in the real world, doing something else, and waiting for the unconscious to stoke up and spontaneously to combust again, Now I am returning to the Emile sequel, it is with trepidation…
    And back then, I was writing at that optimum time, first thing in the morning, scribblling in notebooks when the unconscious is supposed to be so much easier to access…
    I tried playing music, too, for inspiration. One piece did finally do it.
    I saw a blog at that time recommending an ice cream sundae a day until the problem cleared. Hmm. Would I have been able to get through my front door if I ate the number I would have required?
    Another recommended writing anything down. Hmm.
    There is one I hadn’t tried that I have thought up since: – that of saying ‘I mustn’t think about writing; not plots, not characters, not specific episodes, nothing to do with it. ‘ This, on the same grounds that if someone says you mustn’t think of a green monkey, you can’t think of anything else.
    I do note that the Edwardian writer of romantic melodramas Charles Garvice never seems to have suffered from writer’s block – probably because he wrote multiple versions of the same
    story. Perhaps that is a form of comfort. If what you do requires some imagination, it must run down now and then.
    On that ‘World War Three’ scenario, I always comfort myself with the memory that a famous accurate palmist said that wouldn’t happen. If it was about to, everyone’s life lines would stop more or less at the same time. As it is, they don’t…
    Certainly,startling things are happening. I think, though, that the comparative stability of western society recent years has always seemed to me to be an aberration that couldn’t last.

    1. HI Lucinda, and thanks for commenting. I think my problem at the moment is not to do with perfectionism – just writing anything, however imperfect, would be a good start. The ice cream sundae cure sounds like a good idea, even if I prefer cheesecake myself… Perhaps, as you say, my imagination is running low on fuel at the moment, and I just need to give it a chance to recover. We shall see!

  2. Sorry to hear that you’re not being productive in your writing at present, Mari. Are you not currently working on anything at all? As you know, I don’t really believe in writer’s block. If you have nothing that you’re dying to articulate right now then not writing is for the best. I’m sure that when there is something you want to say, the creativity will flow once more and I shall look forward to reading the end result.

    I’m nearing the end of my latest big project so I shall soon be pestering you once again to have a read-through for me…

    1. Hello Paul! No, I’m not writing anything original at the moment – the most I’ve managed to do is tinker with an old manuscript that may, or may not, one day come to fruition. As you say, I just don’t have anything I really feel desperate to say at the moment, and I find that I do have to feel at least slightly emotionally involved with whatever I’m writing about. I’ll look forward to reading through your manuscript, though – even if I can’t write, I’d really love to have something good to read!

  3. Wow, Mari,I think you got inside my head and walked around in it today. I don’t have any answers to the questions we are asking ourselves, but let’s each take some reassurance in knowing we are not alone in wondering who turned the lights off and where our muse went. You’re an excellent writer. I’ve read every published story of yours. I’ll wait patiently for the next one 🙂

    1. Hello Naima, and thanks for visiting (long time, no speak!). I’m glad to hear I’m not alone. You might be waiting a good long while for the next one, I’m afraid, but hopefully it will arrive sooner or later…

  4. Your post has crystallized something for me, and I thank you for that, Mari. I feel that the stories I considered or drafted two or three years ago are antiquated, despite in many cases never having been expressed beyond the boundary of my own mind. The world moved on and those stories have no reason to exist in this incomprehensible now. I have a sense of mourning – even betrayal. What was once vivid has become colorless. I have no voice to express this inchoate disorientation. All I know is that where there were stories, now there is confusion. I have shifted from long work fiction, stranding two novels, and picked up poetry. I write now to survive, to touch even for a moment, a sense of completeness. There is no illusion that what I write is meant to save or speak to anyone beyond me. Maybe the time for my stories has passed? Or maybe my true stories are ahead, and I am growing towards them?


    1. Hello Aniko – it’s nice to hear from you again! You’ve also expressed something that I am feeling – that, somehow, the books that I was working on/thinking of just a short while ago feel antiquated. They seem to have no place in the current time. But I hope that your best stories are indeed ahead of you, and that you’re moving towards them!

  5. Me too. You might try writing something without any connection to ‘a safe and predictable world’ (When was that? Must have missed it) with the intention of never publishing a word. Let the beast out.

    And Aniko, your time has not passed until you are dead.

    1. Sounds like a good idea to me, J.D. – perhaps if I don’t even think in terms of eventual publication, I might do better. It’s worth a try, I suppose. On reflection, I agree that our world has never been particularly safe or predictable – but, until a short while ago, I did feel that it was more so than now. Perhaps I’m blowing it all up in my own mind, turning it into something it’s not. I’ve been thinking in terms of a break with the past, but perhaps it’s simply a continuation of the past.

  6. Might it be that you are trying to work within a self imposed niche that is too narrow, and that it’s time for you to expand your own borders in order to become reinvigorated with a new creative narrative? Perhaps something beyond the boundaries of your own imagination that just falls into your lap one day; such as the story of an old man who stumbles into an innocuous relationship with other worldly visitors. The interactions between the old man and the visitors is almost comical at times, much like the Warner Brothers cartoon where a construction worker finds a singing dancing frog, but the frog won’t sing and dance if there is anyone else around. Thanks for dropping by.

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