Not In The Mood To Write?

Common advice for writers is to put the seat of their pants on the seat of a chair and turn on their computer and start writing. This advice always gets a good laugh because everyone knows writing good fiction is a lot more complex than that.

But it’s good advice nevertheless. Some day when the muses are avoiding you like the plague, try it. Doesn’t matter if you have an idea or not. Just sit there and start writing. The alphabet. Drivel. Anything.

Because the physical act of writing causes something to happen. It’s like those laugh therapy groups. Even if you aren’t in a laughing mood, the physical act of laughing changes your body’s chemistry for the better and, before you know it, good things are happening to your body.

Same principle applies because the physical act of putting words on paper changes your mind’s chemistry and slants it towards writing something viable. What mind wants to scribble dribble forever? Even on the worst days, my mind … and yours … wants to do something worthwhile. So the rest is just a matter of figuring out where  your mind wants to go and going there.

Okay, the first few lines … or paragraphs … or pages … might end up in the waste basket as you and your mind come to agreement as to where you are heading. But the rest could be pure gold.

Coming of Age as a Writer

When I first started writing professionally, I couldn’t imagine what I’d write about.  Where I’d find inspiration.  Who my characters would be and what would happen to them.  As time passed and I discovered that a steady living as a writer could be had by writing confession stories, everything came clear.  I’d write about myself and anyone and everyone I knew because no one, including me, would ever be embarrassed by what I wrote.  Because confession stories are written anonymously.

I soon learned there was another advantage to writing for the confession market.  By writing about past problems large and small, I could get rid of a lot of emotional baggage that I’d been carrying for a long time.  It worked in much the same way painting or writing or any other creative endeavor works in an institutional setting.  Like when mental patients paint pictures of their demons.  Or write about their nightmares.  It worked and, by the time I’d gone though every negative experience I’d ever had or anyone I knew  had ever had, I was well on my way to being a fairly good writer.  My catharsis was complete.  I started writing happier things and I’ve never stopped since.

Some time later, when I joined a writers’ group, because I had some experience in the writing field, new writers sometimes came to me for advice and to critique their work.  Guess what?  I saw a lot of writers doing the exact same thing I’d done, using their writing as a way of getting things out of their system.  It was such a common phenomenon that I  privately began to call it the ‘cathartic phase’ of becoming a writer.  I suspect we all go through it in one way or another.

I mention this today because, if that’s where you are now, in your own personal cathartic phase, go for it.  Get it out.  Get rid of the angst.  And when the day comes that you realize you don’t have any more negative things to write about, be thankful and find other topics.

Don’t worry that your readers will think you are no longer the same writer as before.  You are that same writer, just without the baggage.  And that’s a good thing.  It means you have come of age as a writer.

WINTER SURVIVAL

We didn’t host Thanksgiving this year.  Instead, we went to our granddaughter’s house because it’s big enough to hold the most relatives and is centrally located.  The reason I mention this is because what happened illustrates a fact of life in the north.  Don’t count on getting where you are going… or on returning… until your trip is finished.

The weather was warm and lovely when we drove to Jo’s house.  Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful.  While we ate, we watched the weather outside change.  Snow fell.  Wind blew.  By the time the sun set, some time after four in the evening, stepping outside was walking into a white-out with all sense of proportion lost in the darkness beyond.

We started home.  We got about two miles, then turned around and spent the night at our daughter’s house.  We had a lovely visit, a nice breakfast, and drove home without incident. 

You could say we were lucky.  I remember one Thanksgiving when our youngest son didn’t make it to our house.  He turned around a mile from home and went shopping for turkey in the one store that was open near there.  In the store,  he met a neighbor who invited him and his family to share Thanksgiving.  So he had turkey after all.

Another time, our daughter and her family were traveling to our house for Christmas.  They got half-way and ended up in a motel and were glad to be there.  They celebrated Christmas in a motel with others who were also stranded.

When I finish this post, I’m going to put our winter survival gear in the SUV.  The four-wheel-drive SUV that’s the only vehicle we drive in the winter.  An old sleeping bag.  A large coffee can packed with candy, candles, and garbage bags that can be pulled over coats for added warmth and protection from the wind. Not much, but it can make the difference between comfort and losing toes and fingers to frostbite

When our kids were teenagers we insisted they throw snowmobile suits in the back of whatever car they were going to be in, whether it was ours or someone elses.  And we also insisted they tell us the route they would use coming and going.  So if they were late and we couldn’t locate them by phone, we’d know where to begin the search.  They hated it.  We insisted.  Usually we won though more than once I found a discarded snowmobile suit in the bushes where they’d tossed it because it was humiliating to actually admit to a friend the kind of rules we had.  But we lived miles from anywhere.  If there was trouble, there’d be no place for them to walk to for help … if the cold and the wind would allow walking anywhere at all. 

I’ve never had to use our winter survival kit and don’t know anyone who has and I doubt anyone I know will ever actually use theirs.  But here in the north country, it’s not a joke.  It’s a necessity.  And is part of the reason I became a writer.  Because my commute to work involves nothing more than walking from one room to another, and I don’t have to go outside at all if the weather is really, really bad.  Which is sometimes is.