Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Monday, October 25, 2021

Can't Write? Live!

If there’s one thing that a writer dreads, it’s going through a dry spell. We writers love to write so much that we want to be doing the writing thing forever – even when we are not making a living from it. For many writers, writing is a passion, and not just something that puts money in the bank. It’s the very air we breathe and a crucial part of our day. We love to write so much that we spend hours at it, just happily typing away and telling stories, writing poetry and putting together an essay.


When something like that stops, it’s as if we aren’t ourselves anymore. And that’s hard. For the writer who is unable to write, it’s like something is wrong in the universe and we gotta fix things before we can be happy again.


This is something that I am familiar with. I went through a dry spell, and it was awful. I had no ideas for anything to write. There was no motivation or desire to write. Writing was no longer a Very Important part of my day and I just didn’t feel up to telling anymore stories. Even if I wanted to tell a story, though, I found that it was easier to actually tell it verbally than to write it down. Seriously; anytime I sat down to even TRY to write, I no longer understood how to do it! Words were not familiar to me anymore.


Ironically, after a while, the only thing I could write were reports at work. But that was it.


So, yes, I was working during the time that I wasn’t writing. I worked a job as a DSP (Direct Support Professional) and I made the mistake of all of a sudden assuming this as my identity. I identified as a DSP and no longer identified as a writer. I thought my writing days were over.


But they weren’t. It was just a dry spell. I didn’t know it at the time, but I WOULD be writing again one day. I just had to get through this dry spell and wait it out.


So, what did I do during that time? I lived! I didn’t want to sit at home and cry about being unable to write. I didn’t want to go into a deep depression over it. I did talk about it here and there on social media, and my fellow writers were amazing in offering support and assuring me that I would write again. I didn’t believe them, but at the same time, I questioned if I was ever going to write again. I even doubted wanting to write again, since my books didn’t sell. I am extremely grateful to them that they took the time to be there when I was going through a rough patch. If anything, this whole experience taught me the value of just how important it is to write for the love of writing rather than for wanting to profit off of it. Writing is good for more than just earning a buck. At the same time, though, it was hell to get through this dry period. I was so confused and unsure of what my future looked like. Not being able to write bothered me a lot too. I was sad I couldn’t write like I used to.


But I didn’t let this whole “being unable to write” thing be the Big Deal in my life. It was hard, yes. And even as I went about my days doing other things, I felt like I was living someone else’s life.


But it is important to do other things all the same. If you can’t write, live. Go ahead and do other things. In fact, give yourself permission to do other things! You will thank yourself for it later on.


The thing is, life is all about change. We are not all going to be doing the same things day after day after day forever. Change comes along and we have to be able to roll with the punches and adapt to that change.


The best way to do that is to keep going on. Just keep swimming. If you’re no longer indulging in your passions or working the same job you have been doing for years, then do something else. Take this time to learn new skills, meet new people and try out other things. Also, if you happen to have a different skill set that you CAN earn a living from, and you are able to do that now, then do that now! Go ahead and earn a living from something else! You are not obligated to only do ONE thing for the rest of our life. We are not meant to only do one thing or only stick with one thing forever and ever. Just do other things. It’s okay to do other things. Because, guess what? Now you will able to write about those other things from the POV of someone with that experience when you start writing again.


And you will start writing again. Know this. The day will come when the muse is back and getting you to pound those keys once again. You’ll get back into the writing game and get back to doing what you love.


That’s what happened for me. And for every other writer out there, that can happen for you too. The writing will come back. Meanwhile, just keep on going and do other stuff.


When I was doing that “other stuff,” it was like a wake-up call. I kept pausing to wonder, ‘Is this really something that other people do??’ It was interesting, fun, educational and quite the experience. I still remember the terror I felt that one time I had to drive a huge van on a narrow road up on the hill and how I was scared about losing control of the van and going tumbling down the side of that hill. I also remember the joy I felt when we made it out of there. Now that’s something I could write about should a character in my story ever end up in that situation! I can also write about somebody giving another person a shave, what it's like to use a Hoyer, the fun of binge-watching a TV show and the patience required in learning how to draw. (I never finished that course, unfortunately, but it was fun!) And there were so many other things too. I saw interesting places, I met interesting people and I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone many times to try new things. I got to hang out at the River House and check out the nearby river. My youngest and I explored woods in the dark, without a flashlight! I took the road less traveled, explored other cities and attended events that were out of town. I did a lot of exploring and read a lot of books.


I would not have had those experiences if I was writing like I used to. If I was writing at the desk for hours like I used to, I wouldn’t have been doing all of that stuff. I’d be at the desk for hours, typing away and staying closed up inside of my house. Instead of out there in the world meeting people and doing things.


And you know what? I am GLAD I did all of that stuff! I am GLAD I got to meet so many interesting and awesome people. I’m GLAD I went through so many experiences and tried new things. Sure, I wasn’t writing and I wasn’t working as a writer, but I am at peace. I have no regrets for getting out there and doing stuff BESIDES the writing. Because that’s how life is supposed to be. Life is about getting out there and DOING STUFF.


So if you can’t write, then do stuff. Go do other things! Try out new things! Do stuff you haven’t done before. And if you are able to work a different kind of job while you can’t write, then by all means, work that other job. It’s not just about adapting so you can keep bringing in a steady income; it’s about putting yourself into new situations and doing something else that you enjoy and earning new experiences. Those experiences are all gold for a writer. All those experiences that you have when you can’t write – working another job, climbing mountains, living off-grid, traveling the country – are things that you can write about later. And, they are the stuff that makes for a well-lived and satisfying life.


Don’t worry about people who judge you for doing this. Unfortunately, people who have been writing for years and see it as a career may see your attempts to enjoy life WITHOUT the writing as you just “giving up” on the writing life. This is not true. If you know in your heart that you are still a writer and believe that one day you will be writing again, then those opinions don’t matter. That is not you. You have not “given up” on writing. Dry spells happen to everyone. As long as you believe that you’ll be writing again someday and just keep getting out there and enjoying life, then don’t worry about those negative opinions or judgments. Those writers don’t know your story. They don’t understand what you are going through. So just let them be.


You WILL write again. That’s why those opinions don’t mean anything. You will write again someday. You will get back into the writing thing again someday. Trust me, that day will come. You’ll be back to pounding those keys and indulging in your passion once again. Only this time, you’ll have more material to write about!


Just don’t forget to keep on getting out there and living life, too. Now that you have realized just how valuable it is to experience life AND write, keep that as part of the picture. Keep experiencing life. As writers, we are better off having the whole experience – living life and writing about it – and one day you’ll be able to write about all of it too. And when that happens, you will keep writing.


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