Sometimes writing isn’t writing, sometimes to write you need to stop writing. This just occurred to me as I sat here listening to music and emotion suddenly infected me with a sense of joy, love, clarity. What I realized is that writers need breaks. Sometimes we have to live or our stories will not be truthful or feel…alive. How can someone who doesn’t feel alive or who is too close to the story, too zeroed in, write with emotional honesty? And that step back that we sometimes need to take can bring a new clarity to the work at hand.
I read a tiny portion of my novel today (the first time I’ve touched it in probably 2 weeks and yes I was beating myself up over this) and suddenly it became clear what was missing. Emotion, love, a true depth of feeling. I had failed to insert myself into the characters, I failed to inject the love I feel in my own life into their veins. And I was missing physical description, sight, yes, but also senses like sounds, physical sensations, the vibration of loud music, the way a room can make you feel, trapped or free or confident or nervous, the pungent smell of burnt cigarettes. The heat created by a crowd, either enveloping you with oneness or strange and constricting depending upon the person or the mood. The smells of perfume, body odor, sweat. A kiss, almost indescribable, like softness, yet firm, the emotions it draws forth, skin to warm skin. Love.
Sometimes I feel out of touch with expressing my feelings. I know that sounds strange coming from me because I am so…prolific with my emotions, but sometimes when writing it’s just not there! That magic that makes a story seem true, that allows you to see and feel and know that the characters are real is missing and to publish a book without it, is a crime.
It’s part of the process, what happened today. It’s why going slow can benefit a writer. Stepping away, looking at the big picture, taking the time to let an epiphany occur, seemingly out of the blue that gives you the clarity and vision you need about your story. You don’t plan that kind of thing. It just happens. I was feeling despondent when suddenly I…felt. And with that feeling I started to think about my novel. The desire to write was overpowering and it was like I had new sight to see what I had already created. I could see what was missing that I could not see before, just looking at a few lines of my story. And that gave me hope.
I need these epiphanies to keep going. To sustain me, to urge me forward, to make clear what was hidden and that’s special. Has this happened to you as you write? With time and experience do you suddenly see with new eyes what you couldn’t see before? I remember now that this happened with Angst as well, however it didn’t mean I wasn’t blinded again in my next venture into a story. Each story, for me, has been revealed through layers of story, learning and experience and each time I step away, I seem to gain some new insight. Each story, like anything else, is unique and so has been the path to understanding what I’m trying to do and whether I’ve accomplished it.
So next time you’re feeling desperately guilty about not writing, give yourself a break and realize that maybe you need that break. Maybe you need to live for a few months, to experience and to come back with new eyes formed through new life experience. Maybe you just need to remember what you want to say, or how things feel, or what it’s like to kiss someone you love. Maybe you need to read something else to remind you what you want to do. It can be anything. Maybe you just need to really feel something, deep inside. It’s magic, huh?