I first met Anne Lamott in the 90s, via her book Bird by Bird. Someone told my mom about the book and she said she wanted to get it for me, because it was about writing. We gleefully crossed paths with the hardcover (in a bookstore! gasp!) some weeks later, and brought a copy home. It is a book I return to so frequently that its spine has begun to split.
One thing from the book I hold tightly to is the idea that writer’s block doesn’t really exist (your experience may be different, of course, as we are all different humans). It’s more that the creative well inside ourselves runs empty, and we have to allow it to fill again before we can put anything else onto a page. I find this true in my work, that if I haven’t taken something in, I can’t put something out. Lately it feels like there isn’t enough time to take anything in.
This isn’t to say that I’ve been lax — I’ve seen Infinity War, after all, so Important Works are being consumed. I’ve recently finished Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit and A Human Stain by Kelly Robson; I’ve started reading The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton.
I’ve read a writer friend’s drafted manuscript; I’ve read a writer friend’s drafted script; I’ve pondered a writer friend’s poems; I’m taking care of my mom as her memory continues to degrade; I’ve edited stories for an anthology I’m joint editing; I edited stories for Shimmer and those are endless, aren’t they; I formatted the May Shimmer not once but twice because of scheduling conflicts; I assembled the cover design for the May Shimmer; I’ve read an excessive amount of slush and we’re still not caught up.
I edited 60k words of manuscripts for my main freelance gig; I’ve explained exactly why plagiarism isn’t allowed; I’m reading another 200 pages of manuscript for another freelance gig; I have an edit to handle for a Kickstarter reward; I handled three other edits for other Kickstarter rewards; I’m figuring out why the hell the hood over the stove suddenly doesn’t work and oh it’s just the dumb solder on the light that doesn’t allow it to sit flush and actually illuminate; I’m trying not to scowl at the Mormons who broke my doorbell, but c’mon man; I added almost 11k to the Anubis manuscript in April…what.
I’m a little staggered by that last fact there — I didn’t expect that number to be anywhere near that high. I’ve felt very empty when it’s time to work on my own shit; some days, it doesn’t happen, I’m not gonna lie. Some days, you open the file and have nothing to give. Some days, maybe you don’t even get to open the file.
Some days, though, you open the file and add 500 words. Maybe it turned out to only be a session of plotting, of getting people out of a metaphorical corner. Maybe it was 50 words and no more.
Those words add up, though. Small chunks? Keep going.
At writing group, I suggested we talk about everything we’ve accomplished in the time since we last met. I think it’s easy to look at our work and say “omg look at everything I haven’t done.”
Okay, but look at everything you did.
If literally all you’re doing is queuing up video games when you get home and losing yourself for days, then maybe we need to reconsider our choices, but I sure as heck have been exploring Assassin’s Creed Origins when I have bits of time. You could have been writing during that time, someone is thinking right this very second. And no, I don’t think I could have been.
Wells need refilling.
Sometimes that means you need to go pet cats in ancient Egypt.