The Writing Life: Sometimes You Don’t

Sometimes, despite your best efforts and most earnest intentions, you just don’t make progress in your writing. Not because you’re blocked, or uninspired, or bored, or frustrated, or overwhelmed by whatever it is that you are working on. Sometimes you just can’t. Life, in capital letters, gets in the way.

Loved ones get sick. You get sick. A significant relationship ends or begins. Unexpected financial or natural disaster strikes. These kinds of thing tend to take up all of your attention, and leave nothing over for writing. I once emigrated. It was a very all consuming experience. Adjusting to a new country, new culture, new housing, new job, a city full of strangers, there wasn’t much left over in my mental tank. I had a work in progress, and didn’t open it for six months, the best I did was make sure it had survived the journey. It was there. I knew I would return to it, when there was a shred of available mental space.

Sometimes, for one reason or another, your head can be filled with other things, other issues, emotions so strong that the writing you want to do does not have the space to exist. This is okay. Get through the time, or revel in it, if it is a joyous period. If it is less joyful, don’t add to the difficulty by berating yourself for not writing. It happens. The mental decks will clear. The important thing is to deal with what life has thrown at you.

Now some artists thrive on adversity, it acts as a creative spur, giving them lifetimes of material to work with, or dreadful urgency to get what they can done while they still have time. Their art can be the therapy that helps them through. Others will use the hard times as inspiration, once those difficulties have been overcome, returning to them over and over again.

Do what you can when you can. Write (probably bad) poems for the first time in a decade. Dictate stream of consciousness gibberish to your phone. Write one sentence a day. Try for two, maybe even three. But if you do none of that, don’t beat yourself up about it. Sometimes there just isn’t space for writing, and that is okay. The time will come when you do again find yourself with the time and space to write as you wish, and when it does, I think you will enjoy it all the more.

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