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When Words Fail to Come

I stand in the mist and cry, thinking of myself standing in the mist and crying, and wondering if I will ever be able to use this experience in a book. ~Erica Jong, Fear of Flying

Happy Thursday!  I’ve been holed up in the one remaining tower of Muse Headquarters that wasn’t destroyed by, ahem, experiments in Amanda’s lab.  I miss hanging out and cleaning up whatever goo flood the lab or whatever substance is on the walls in the dungeon, but right now, the tower is where I need to be.

Sometimes, words can fail even the most prolific writers. I’ve never been one to make excuses or listen to them, but there are times life legitimately throws you for a loop and the words retreat. It’s hard not to panic, but of course they will return when I’m ready for them.

When the Words Won't ComeHere’s the thing about writing. There are natural fallow times that are part of our creative cycle. Then there are times we are sick or overwhelmed with life, and even our solid routine and writing habits leave us at  a tenth of our normal word count.

This is the time to take notes.

If you can’t write fiction or concentrate on a coherent article, take notes on what’s going on. Record your feelings, reactions, and generally have a good brain download onto paper. There are two reasons for this.  The first is that it lets you keep a hand in, so to speak, and keep getting something down, even if it doesn’t feel worth the ink it’s written with. The second is that, when we are dealing with life like that, there are valuable bits of gold in the experience. Writers are memory banks, and recording what’s going on files things away in those memory banks for later use.

On a side note, this also goes for introverts who find themselves face to face with far too many people day after day. That’s enough to slow the word river to a drip all by itself. Just trust that seasons change and so will your circumstances. Take notes.

A year from now, I’ll go through what I’ve written in the last two weeks and find plenty of fodder for characters and plots, I’m sure.  I count on it. Writers have a wonderful tool for dealing with life. “Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And later on you can use it in some story.” (Tapani Bagge).

I feel a bit odd writing this post. Writers who have a history of high word count or regular, daily writing habits just don’t stop writing. They don’t give excuses. They don’t wait for inspiration. They write. Oh how the smart-arse writer has been brought low. I concede. Sometimes life just pushes the words away. Taking notes is a good way to coax them back.

To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes. ~Akira Kurosawa


How has written observation during “course adjustments” benefited your writing down the road?

Author’s Note: It’s just a car accident. Unpleasant for anyone. Life goes on, of course. 🙂

11 thoughts on “When Words Fail to Come

  1. Hmm. I always hope those notes would help when words don’t come but I usually end up looking at them and saying “what was I thinking?” There are just times when words and ideas don’t come. The nice thing about just blogging, and sometimes blogging random stuff is that notes can be extended into drafts. I can usually clean one of those up a bit. Thanks for the help.

    • I have a half-baked theory that the mind works to classify, organize, and file away, so intense events fade. Those notes bring it back in vivid detail but with the added understanding of time. That’s usually when the writer’s brain gets busy making connections. Glad it was helpful. 🙂

  2. What a brave post, Robyn. There are definitely seasons for a writer and it terrifies me when I’m in Winter — when my words feel chilly and bare, and almost nonexistent. Springs always comes around, but it terrifies me every time that my writing will never come back.

  3. I remember when I started my blog. Naively, I read posts from other writers about feeling lost, not feeling as though they had anything to write about. And, of course, I thought – oh, well that will never happen to me.

    Yeah, right. When the word sucking fiend arrived on my doorstep that fateful day, I felt stripped of my identity. Everything that I previously thought could never happen to me came crashing down, crushing my world. Okay, I realize that is a somewhat hyperbolic assessment of the situation, but you get the idea – it was devastating to the writer in me 😉

    I really like your idea to take notes, to remain engaged in what you are feeling, observing, and experiencing in those, ahem, down times. I have had them crop up time and time again. But, I remain confident (for the most part), that the words will return when ready. Until then, I keep my eyes and ears open and add to my daily journal. Thanks for sharing 😉

  4. I never thought about taking notes. Usually, when I get stuck I turn to fanfiction. I know it sounds awful but it actually helps me a lot. I don’t really have to worry about things like creating characters or settings and can just focus on the story. But sometimes, even that fails me so I will definitely remember to take notes if I ever get stuck again. Thanks.

  5. Reblogged this on K. N. Timofeev and commented:
    I really enjoyed reading this post because, every now and again, I get stuck. My usual go to is to do a free write or fanfiction (hey don’t judge) but what’s in this post is a good idea too? What are your thoughts?

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