It’s October and I’m about to roll into the sixth month of the longest writing/creative dry spell that I’ve ever known. Even the year when I had two sprained shoulders and could only type for fifteen minutes at a time before my hands went numb, I still managed to write a 60,000 word novel.
There have been some false starts; an outline and a few pieces written for a collection of essays/stories on my weird experiences as a freak magnet and all the narcissists I end up with in my life, but no matter how I tried, I could never make the stories come out sounding anything but bitter and weirdly resentful.
After that I thought, hey, maybe I could go back to making something with my hands. But then I’d look on Etsy and there would be thirty people already selling metal nose-warmers or macrame black-out curtains and I would talk myself out of even trying. There really is just too, too much of everything, not all of it good.
I also seemed to convince myself, during this period — because I’m usually never one to keep my opinions to myself — that nobody really wanted to hear what I had to say. I’d find myself writing posts or comments on social media and then deleting them. Nobody cares, I’d tell myself. I’d sketch out a piece for my blog and then bail on it, convinced that nobody would read it anyway and someone else had probably had that idea and already written about it, and done a better job than I could anyway.
This is less (I think) about a lack of self-confidence and more about finding my place in the world. Over the past few years I’ve become more and more introverted and introspective. I don’t really want to work with other people, or interact with them, or more importantly, create things FOR them. Which is a big problem when you want to create something to sell, whether it’s a book or a sweater or a cake. I do see the paradox of my situation.
Further to that paradox, however, is that the writer/creator/artist cannot just make something for themselves. It needs to be salable, someone has to like it enough to want to buy it, or publish it. There are some exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, if you can’t sell what you make then you end up with a big pile of your “art” (whatever it may be) that either never sees the light of day, or that nobody wants anyway.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re not reliant on selling that art to survive, but it still becomes hard when it seems as if nobody cares. Who am I doing this for, anyway? Obviously that answer should be ME! I’m doing it for me! But some part of us always wants other people to like our creative endeavours.
So that’s where I am right now. Figuring things out. Trying to determine whether I even want to keep writing (and what to do with that writing if/when it’s completed), or whether I need to be doing something else entirely (I’m not sure what that could possibly be given the aforementioned misanthropy and general glut of handmade things available), or how to “succeed” once I do determine what I should be doing.
I might be fooling myself, but I’m inclined to see value in this recent restraint. “Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Or something like that. On some level it feels like a strength rather than weakness. But it does mean that there’s more pressure when you do speak (or write, or create) — to be wise, true, and especially coherent.
On the other hand, there’s much to be said for creating a vast output of your art and then sifting and curating. It won’t all be bad, and the more you do it, the better you’ll get. In theory.
Obviously, I have more thinking to do. But hey, look, I wrote something. And I didn’t delete it. That’s a start.