If a Writer has Nothing to Say …

And she trips over a fallen tree while running through the forest in order to escape her muses … Can you still hear the clacking of her keyboard?

farm somewhere in pennsylvaniaOr … something like that.

And so, I find myself sitting here in front of my computer, full of the desire to feel the keys of my keyboard bucking and jumping beneath my fingers, but sadly bereft of any original ideas. Even entertaining words with which I could express my unoriginal ideas would be all right. It’s not the ideal, mind you, but it is something. Something is a whole lot better than “nothing”. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can summon up the words for my unoriginal ideas, either. Which sucks.

In contrast to a few days ago, when I found myself nearly giddy with the prospect and promise of a “perfect” day, I fear I have ended up in the doldrums of life today. I am grumpy and unsettled — restless … and annoyed, too — although I can’t say exactly WHY I feel this way. And, in spite of my excitement and happiness over the coming of a new school year, I am finding slipping back into the normal “routine” of life much more difficult than I expected. I want to do so many things. I have so many ideas. But I feel unmotivated and exhausted.

It’s okay. The doldrums happen, right? They happen to all of us, and they will pass. Doesn’t make it fun to be stuck there for any length of time, but it won’t last forever. At least … that’s what I keep telling myself. At the moment, I’m not sure I believe it. I rather relish the idea of finding my “positive self” and socking her in the nose or something. Perhaps that’s too harsh. Maybe I would just put glue in her her hair or call her names behind her back.

giant windmill / turbine thingies in pennsylvaniaThis evening, I’ve been thinking about that old adage that I’m sure all of us have heard about a million times: “Write what you know.” Specifically, I was remembering a time when I shyly confessed to someone close to me my ambitions to be a writer. I told them I was working on a book, even. I had never, ever confessed this to anyone else in my whole, entire life. Never. Ever. Ever. This person seemed interested, and they asked me to tell them about my story. I excitedly told them all about how it was a fantasy novel, with a world-hopping protagonist and his Viking-inspired bodyguard / friend, and how they worked for this entity they couldn’t quite trust but also couldn’t quite escape. I went into great detail, as this was back when my story was still new, and I was still excited about the whole thing. At the end of it all, my relative frowned at me and grunted in derision, saying, “Why do you write crap like that? You should write something you know.”

some little town in pennsylvaniaAnd you know what? Here I am, years later, still struggling to bring that idea — the very one my dear relative slammed — into being. I have a first draft, but there’s just so much MORE to the story. It has morphed and changed over time. My characters have changed, too. They’ve grown and matured, just as I have grown and matured. But … I don’t know. I believe in this story. I really, really do. I think it has legs … and teeth. It darn sure won’t let me go. At the same time, I have to be honest and say doubt has crept in to sully the whole process.

What do I know? What am I doing trying to write a story like this, instead of something more familiar? What if I’m wasting my time and effort? What if I’m wrong about this story and about these characters? What if I can never finish this stupid story, so that I’m stuck with these characters rattling around in my brain, talking to me and demanding free pie, for the rest of my life — until I slowly go (even more) insane?

I know. It sounds ridiculous. Laughable, even. But doubts are like that. They are insidious and, even if you can laugh them off as goofy when they first occur, they tend to hang in there. Until, finally, you’ve had enough, and they start to look like Truth.

weathered, red barn in pennsylvaniaHere’s the thing: Behind all those doubts, there is a sliver of true fear. And it is this: What if I don’t know anything? Sometimes, I wonder if my life and past have to be tortured and difficult in order to make me a good, relatable, or moving writer. And I tell myself that, if this is the case, I’m out of luck. Because my life hasn’t been hard. Or painful. Or difficult. Or any of those things. I’ve never been tortured.

And yet … truth is a funny thing. When you think about it objectively, you get the idea that it’s only one thing. It’s “The Truth”, and that’s that. I don’t think life is like that. And I don’t think truth is like that, either. It’s like an onion. You painfully pull back the layers of your thoughts and your memories and your life, crying the whole time and wishing this wasn’t something you had to do in order to get things cooking.

My life has been painful. And difficult. Growing up wasn’t easy, and I’ve done many, many things I wish I hadn’t. I’ve given up bits and pieces of myself in order to make others happy, only to find, in the end, that this was something beyond my power. I’ve towed the line my whole, entire life, trying my best to be “perfect” and “good” … to do things exactly as the people around me wanted … only to realize I would never, ever be good enough. I’ve lost things and people who mattered to me. I’ve been kicked around and hated and vilified by people I thought I loved. I’ve had to face up to being a disappointment and a failure in my own eyes.

little pennsylvania town


These are the things I know: Love hurts — a lot. You can never live your life in a way so that it counts for two people. You can love someone and not like them all that much. It hurts when you don’t belong. Most of the time, it’s best to keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself — until the depression sets in and you can’t do that any more. There are things in life that are beyond understanding. And, once time has done a thing, it’s not possible to go back and undo it. You don’t get a “do over”. Sometimes, the truth hurts, too — enough so that it’s better and kinder to live a lie.

But I can’t write about these things. They are still too painful and too close. And I’m afraid of hurting people I love, because they wouldn’t understand. At the same time, truths need to come out before healing can happen. So I couch the tale in fantasy terms, with a hero who is flawed but trying his best, a demanding outside influence he can never please, and a family that will desert him, in the end.

farm with silos, pennsylvaniaWhich brings me back to …

If a writer has nothing to say, and no words with which to say it … And she trips over a fallen tree while running through the forest in order to escape her muses … Can you still hear the clacking of her keyboard? Can you still hear her scream?






14 thoughts on “If a Writer has Nothing to Say …

    • Thank you so much for reading and for your extremely kind comment. Today hasn’t been one of my best days, so it makes me happy that you enjoyed this post. At the very least, something positive came out of this messy jumble of feelings and fears. πŸ™‚

  1. What you “know” is true passion for life and your beliefs, and you can funnel that into anything your heart desires. Follow your gut and keep plugging away. I was going to tell you that you can do it, but in a way, you’ve already done it!

    • Thank you so much, elisaruland, for your kind and lovely comment and support. I appreciate it so much. Today is one of those days when I don’t feel particularly capable of accomplishing anything meaningful (or otherwise). This makes your kind words mean all the more, as they serve as a reminder to me that tomorrow is, indeed, a new day. And potentially a much better one. πŸ™‚

  2. We must be very, very careful who we share our dreams with. You know that now. πŸ™‚
    “Write what you know” is what I imagine people get taught at a “how to write course”
    Forget about ridiculous, subjective, open to interpretation bulldust and just write.
    Don’t worry (at this point) if is “good” or “bad” just write.
    Example is HG Wells “Day of the Triffids” Did Mr Wells go to other worlds and come back and write about them? I don’t think so! Anyone who criticizes your writing is just jealous. Tell everyone you are working on a novel and then tell them you believe it is bad luck to go into detail until it is finished. If you are pressed say “no”
    A novel is like a baby. You get to say who gets to hold or interact it at first.
    Say what you mean.
    Mean what you say.
    Don’t say it meanly.
    I love your writing and so would anyone who read it.
    I love my own writing too. Good bad or indifferent, writers gotta write!

    • Oh, you are so right, my friend. We really do have to guard those dreams jealously and take ever so much care with them. It was a hard lesson to learn, particularly as the comment came from someone I should have been able to trust and rely upon. But, then again, trust is also a fragile thing.

      I agree, too, that a novel is like a baby. What a wonderful way of putting it. I love that! I was too careless with the beginnings of this particular baby, and I think letting others know too much about it or have too much interaction with it kind of took away some of the joy for me. After all, we have to spend time with our kids to truly appreciate them, right?

      At any rate, these were all hard lessons to learn. But good ones. As for the “write what you know” comment … it’s even funnier considering that it came (in this case) from someone who has never written anything. Ever. And who has never even tried to do so. I’m sure they thought they were being helpful. But they missed the mark.

      Thank you, as always, for your support and your kind and thoughtful comment. I appreciate it very, very much. πŸ™‚

  3. A powerful post. Take out the unfinished novel and write it. It will torment you as an ‘unfinished project’ until you do. Put pen to paper and finish it. Let your demons live in the characters you create. . .

    • Thank you, my friend, for reading and for your comment. The word “torment” is so eerily accurate, as that’s exactly what the unfinished book is doing to me … has been doing to me for so long now. It’s exhausting and frustrating. But you are right. There’s nothing to do but just push through all the emotions and pain and finish the darn thing. Such an easy thing for me to say, particularly because I know it’s right. But it is proving very hard for me to put it into action.

  4. I don’t have all the answers but I will tell you this. You write from your heart and your soul and when you write I am sitting on the edge of my seat wanting to hear your every word, your story! Whether it’s black and white, non fiction or written in fantasy form…I want to hear it. What if you did finish the book? What if people read it? What if people love it? The answer is inside of you. Listen to the voice that is passionate and bold and tell the negative voice to shut the heck up. I wish you could read your own writing through the eyes of your readers. I believe in you ❀

    • Oh gosh. Your comment has me in tears, but in a good way. Thank you so much for your kind words. You are such a true and good blogging friend, and I treasure you and your wonderful blog. I am so happy we “met” here through WordPress.

      I think part of my problem with this particular book is that it comes too much from my heart and soul. Much of the time, I don’t realize … or, perhaps, it’s more accurate for me to say I don’t think of it like this … that anything I write comes from my heart or my soul. I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about where it comes from; it’s just “there”. This story, though, has really taken on a life of its own. In many (unexpected) ways, it parallels my own struggles and life, albeit told in a fantasy-type format. Writing has always been an escape for me, but this particular task isn’t going to be an escape or pleasant.

      But, during my therapy session today, I realized it’s something that has to be done. It’s something I need to do, even if I don’t want to do it.

      I know … it all sounds crazy and makes no sense at all. *embarrassed laugh*

      • It sounds like doing it might be just the healing and therapy you need. Thanks for your sweet comments. I feel exactly the same way ❀

        You can do this thing. Try and focus on how you feel when it is finally completed. I really believe its been hanging over your head and you will find at the very least peace and relief when it's finally done. You are my special blogging friend and I will always be here for you rooting for you in whatever the endeavor may be!

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