Writing When You’re Broken

There would be a post here, but life got in the way.

Seriously, though, life sometimes does get in the way. Vacations, family responsibilities, illnesses, day jobs. But what about the days when you have several hours free and you sit at the computer, staring at the screen, willing the words to come?

What about when you get in the way?

I’m not talking about the distractions of social media. Everyone knows they can shut off their net connection if they have no willpower otherwise, right? I’m also not talking about writer’s block, at least not in the way you think.

What if the illness is a big one? What if the day job is suddenly gone, along with the paycheck and the health insurance? What if your partner or spouse just packed his or her bags and took a permanent vacation away from you?

How do you find the mental will to write when your brain is slowly crumbling from the stress and chaos?

The first choice is the easy one. Don’t write. Step away from the computer completely or limit your use to Twitter and Facebook. Maybe you have that luxury. Maybe writing is just a hobby.

But what if you have a deadline waiting and not writing is not an option? What if the bats in your belfry are not just lingering but swarming in a chaos of ammonia and fluttering wings?

Use your stress.

Yes, gather up those bats and channel them into your writing. Feed your words with anger, with sorrow, with hurt. Do terrible things to characters, give them the life you wish you had at the moment, or give them the life you fear most. Write dialogue that says all the things you wish you could.

Your writing may very well end up with a different, stronger, resonance. You may be able to see things from a different point of view. Strong emotions don’t have to work against you. They can be the incendiary fuel for your phoenix of words instead of immolation.

But maybe you can’t. Maybe what you feel is too big, too much. So escape from your stress. Disappear into your fiction. Use it as the buffer from the chaos. Maybe things outside the word cave are terrible but inside, you are the master. If you wallow too much in your chaos, you’ll end up spinning your wheels on a stationary bike to nowhere.

View your writing as a toy. Ever notice that kids like to play even when they’re sick? Sure, you say, they’re kids. They have that endless energy. Maybe so, but maybe those towers made out of blocks help them not pay so much attention to their illness. Use your words in the same way. Build your own tower. Slay a dragon. Banish a ghost. Break a heart.

Words can cut, they can wound, but they can also help you heal. Even when you’re not aware they’re doing so.