Monday, March 26, 2012

You're not a writer

The Husbinator and I sat down and watched the first part of Stephen King's Bag of Bones tonight. It's about a popular author being haunted by the ghost of a blue's singer when he relocates after the death of his wife. He's been struggling with writer's block since his wife died, and at one point in the movie, he gets so frustrated that he screams at the laptop, "Just give me something!".

As soon as he screamed, The Husbinator gave me one of those, "I know you can relate to that feeling" looks. You see, The Husbinator knows that I'm having the same problem. I've been having the same problem for the last year.

When I got sick last January, a lot changed in my life. I went from sleeping 4 or 5 hours a night, to sleeping 9 or 10 and still being tired. I went from remembering exactly what the entire family had to do and when, to writing down everything just to remember my own schedule. I also went from writing every single day, to being lucky if I can find words once a week.

In the last year, I've had to face the reality that there just isn't such a thing as getting back to normal. Once normal is gone, it's gone. You can't get back to life just as it was "before" because life has changed. Whatever dragged you off course can't be tucked into a back corner and forgotten completely because, like it or not, it's still there, and it still happened.

For me, facing reality has meant sacrificing what I want for what I need. I learned that in a big way in October. I was so tired of walking when I wanted to run that I pushed myself too hard, and I paid for it. I ended up being rushed to the emergency room unconscious. I'd exhausted myself trying to do too much, and when a bad migraine hit, my body just couldn't handle it with everything else it was fighting. It scared the crap out of my friends and family, and forced me to wake up and realize that what I want can't always come first.

I want to sit down every day and write a thousand words. But I can't do that because what I need is a little brown pill that keeps me healthy at the expense of my cognitive and psychomotor function. That's meant a lot of changes in my life in the last year.

No matter how much I sleep now, I still tire easily. I can't sit down to write, get interrupted, and pick up right where I left off anymore. Nor can I sit down to write, and write three thousand words with ease. I forget a lot. I make mistakes like pouring carpet cleaning solution into the washer instead of laundry detergent, or writing the same sentence three times in a row. I can't remember certain words without looking them up, and I have to plot everything in detail. I have to concentrate hard on simple tasks like walking some days, and I still stumble and mess them up. I want to say things sometimes, but when I open my mouth, nothing at all comes out, or it comes out sounding like gibberish. I wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea, only to fall back to sleep against my will. When I wake up again, the idea is gone.

It's frustrating, and there have been plenty of times where I've wanted to scream at my brain to "just give me something." There have been times when I've gotten so frustrated because the words were right there that I have yelled at the computer, or tossed my pen across the room.There have been days where I've cried because nothing at all would come out when I opened my mouth to speak.

I don't read as much now as I did then, because I can't concentrate on the story as easily, or remember what I've read when I have to put it down for a while. And I don't write as much anymore either. In fact, I don't write much anymore. I sit down every day to write, but more often than not, I spend that time staring at a blank page.

The last year has been a lesson in patience and acceptance. I've had to learn entirely new ways of doing things. I've had to face the reality that I have limits, and that those limits are a lot more restricting now than they were a year ago.

I've not always learned those lessons or faced that reality gracefully. My brain doesn't work quite as well now as it did before, and that frustrates me. It makes me feel weak, and that frustrates me, too.

There have been times when I've wanted to throw my hands up and give up. A little niggling voice likes to ask how I can possibly call myself a writer when I can't even write most days. On particularly bad days, I have no answer to that question. I think, "You’re right. I should just give up and spare myself the frustration."

But the thing is, even on particularly bad days, I'm still me. I'm still the girl who talks too much, giggles a lot, and likes it when things explode. I'm still the girl who believes elves make all the cool stuff, and dragonflies are really fairy taxis. And I'm still the girl who loves the way it feels to sit down and coax the story that's whispering around in my mind out into the open.

It may take longer now, and it may not always go so well. I may spend more time looking up words than writing them anymore, and half of what I write may be destined for a dusty corner labeled "Never Publish", but I'm still a writer, and I'll only stop being a writer when I choose to stop writing.

That hasn't happened yet, and I doubt that it will because, no matter how frustrating it is to sit down and realize that the words just won't come, the days when they do come are just too homey and comfortable. Those days make the others worth it. They also remind me that practice makes perfect.

No one sits down and writes a perfect novel on the first attempt. Most don't even write one on the second or third or fourth attempt. And that's okay. None of us are writers because we write novels or even because we write every day. We're writers because we can't imagine not writing. Whether the words come easily, or we find ourselves fighting for every single one, we're still writers. And we'll keep being writers because, even on particularly bad days when that little niggling voice whispers the loudest, we still find ourselves sitting down to try again.

There will be days when no words come, or when every word that comes is awful. That's part of what makes writing so rewarding. So whether you're writing today or you're cursing a blank screen for the eighth day in a row, you're still a writer.

It may not be easy, but it is worth it, and you can do it.

And so can I.

My name is Ayden, and I'm on day eighteen.

Goonies never say die,
A.K.M. 

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