I’m in such a writing slump. But really, it’s no different than any other summer, when as the outdoor temperature rises, I slide into writerly hibernation. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas–I have tons, much of it gained from workshop with Junot at VONA last month. I can see the end of this stage of revision. It’s an amazing feeling.
But you see, it’s not the ideas. It’s that the words don’t come. It’s maddening to see the finish line, but to feel unable to move towards that end.
I sit at my desk regularly, because faith is eventually rewarded; if you’re not at the steps waiting, you may miss the Muse when she decides to visit. The day the Muse visits is amazing–it’s like the dam breaks and all the words come flooding forth. But waiting is…well, it’s a turd.
In the interim, I’m keeping busy. I’ve lots of travel these days (I love travel!). And entertaining. And I’m reading. Feeding the ideas. And I’m scribbling down story and character development notes on my novel.
I’m also thinking about ways to get “unstuck.”
Firstly, I realized that part of why I was so stuck was that I was preoccupied with requested edits on a short story that was accepted for publication in a litmag.
The story had been accepted months earlier, but the night before the issue was pushed live, I was asked to make changes. No problem to the request I thought, but I was a little anxious (and surprised) about the timeline.
I had great empathy for the editor, having worked as a fiction editor for a litmag in the past–this empathy worked against me as a writer, and I neglected to champion my story. To make a long story short, the edit requests evolved (over a span of weeks) to the point where I didn’t feel all that good about my story anymore. I felt sick and rushed.
It didn’t feel like MY story.
I awoke in the middle of the night in London with immense clarity. There was a single looming thought in my head: I am unwilling to publicize my story, as revised, in this issue. I don’t want people to read it.
So I got out of my hotel bed and went straight to my computer and typed out an email to the litmag’s editor and sent it out over the crappy wifi. It was kind of a Jerry Maguire moment as I feverishly pecked out the words that I hoped were a balance between diplomacy (thanks for spending so much time on my story) and my standing up for myself as a writer (but I don’t think the story succeeds in its current state).
In the past, I didn’t wholly understand when my writer friends refused to make changes to their manuscripts, to the point where they withdrew their books from consideration at publishing houses, or from litmags. While I supported them, I thought to myself, “What could be so bad? These editors know what they’re doing.”
In fact, I held one of these friends in my thoughts as I typed the email, feeling more sure of myself with each line, and wondering what it was she would do or say.
When I returned to bed, my husband asked me what I’d been doing. He murmured in response, “Well, you can’t just have any set of words next to your name. Good job.”
A new lesson learned.
It’s not always convenient for me to go someplace to write. There are days when I need to stick around at home, or I don’t have more than a couple of hours.
So–we got ourselves a writing desk. I’m writing at that desk right now. It feels good. I’m in my pajamas, completely ungroomed and barefoot, typing away. Sometimes, I don’t want to get dressed up to write. Sometimes, my novel demands that I not wash or comb my hair. Sometimes, my novel demands to stay at home. I’m listening.
Third: “Allow yourself to write badly.” These are the genius words of my friend marlanesque, when I jokingly asked him, MAKE MY WRITING SLUMP GO AWAY! Huh. Genius. I typed the words up and taped the sign up in front of me.