I may have been going about this the wrong way.
Having attributed my recent writing slump to illness, I believed that all I had to do to get back to full steam was to build up a daily habit, making small incremental gains every day. It’s one of the more reasonable and credible pieces of productivity advice around, and one that’s served me well in the past.
But I’m not convinced it’s the right approach for me at the moment.
To take a step back and get all real with you, it’s not only a ridiculously protracted cold I’ve been getting over. The thing that really laid me up is a classic triple-whammy of depression, anxiety and stress. I’ve always been prone to the latter two, but over the past year or so (or maybe much, much longer) the symptoms escalated to the point where I was basically paralysed by self-doubt, indecision and generally being tense as a barbed-wire fence.
It came to a crisis point – not one involving harm, I should note, rather than near complete incapacity – and I sought medical help. Long story short – therapy and medication was obtained.
This happened around the same time I decided that I would wrap up the Friday Flash Fiction project when I hit the hundred-story mark. It would be reasonable to suppose my dismal emotional state influenced the decision to quit, and maybe it did. But maybe not. Looking back on it with a couple of months’ hindsight and less-blinkered vision, I think I’d probably have called time on the project anyway.
Since then, I’ve wanted to focus on a new story. There’s also a backup old story I’ve kept hanging in the wings waiting for attention.
I haven’t advanced either of them so much as one word.
I want to write – but I also don’t want to write. Which is nothing new – sitting down for a writing session is always work for me, even when I’m in the zone and the words are flowing. What seems to be happening right now – something that hasn’t happened to me for a while – is that I’m feeling no urgency to have new words out in the world.
Am I done? Is my creativity broken? Have I medicated myself out of being a writer?
I don’t completely discount the possibility, but I don’t think it’s that serious. I think instead that my brain has seized this moment as a great opportunity for a holiday.
It wants to do some more reading. It wants to play video games. It’s coming to grips with a change of day job. It’s wrestling with family responsibilities, catching up on household chores and dealing with the occasional crisis. Most of all, it’s coming down from a constant state of near-panic that might stretch back as much as a few years. It’s been dealing with a whole lot.
It’s a tired, tired brain. It needs to recuperate, and it’s decided that creative fiction is what it can afford to sacrifice for the moment.
I’ve said it like that, like the decision was taken out of my hands, because honestly that’s how it feels. I want to write, but I don’t think I’m going to. Not for a while. What I know is, when I’m ready to get back to it, the work will be there, waiting.
I hope you will be too.