Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Is It Time to Call it Quits?

Back in 2011 I wrote this blog post (read it if you wish) about losing my muse. Until I lost my muse, writing was so automatic, so real, the words and scenes and dialogue so vivid, that writing was really very easy for me. Then I lost my muse, and it's never returned. This loss happened just a month or two before I retired from the world of work. The loss of my muse was a terrible loss. Before very long it became apparent that it wasn't coming back, and it hasn't.

Despite that, writing was all I knew. It was still my dream, and I had (still have) much unfinished/unpolished material to work on. For the past three years I've been living off that surplus; yes, I've been living off the past. My short story collection The Gunman in Black was the first original fiction I'd written in three years. I've also written three more stories yet to be published. This appears to have been a temporary burst of creativity, because I've been unable to write anything new since February. In fact, I've been unable to write anything except a few blog posts and entries in my journal . As far as fiction goes, my mind seems to have become completely blank. I fear that my ability to write fiction has died.

The question has been floating around in my mind for a while now. Is it time to call it quits? The thought of trying to write a novel, to spend months and months, possible years, on it, struggling with every sentence, every scene, with all the complexities of creating a novel, seems an impossible task now. Lately, I haven't been able to even grasp the possibility of doing so. It just seems too difficult now. So, is it time to call it quits as a writer?

The desire to write still comes and goes. But it doesn't lead to action. So, I've been trying to accept the reality of my situation. Maybe it is time to call it quits.


Kamille Elahi said...

Oh no. I'm so sorry you're feeling like this. It's horrible when you lose the will to write. I don't know what I'd do without it.

If I were you, I wouldn't push myself. Give yourself some space and maybe that desire to write may come back.

I hope you do continue writing though.

Tanya Reimer said...

Here's my dark secret. I took a 9 year sabbatical. 9 years.

During this time, I read, I researched. I edited and dabbled. Wrote articles, editorials, recipes cards for my mom... I attended courses and seminars.

I did many things that grew me as a writer even though I felt like I was lying to myself.

Truth is, you're always a writer, it's something you can't escape and to hell with the muse, he's a jerk anyway. When the fit takes you, come back. I haven't taken a day off in 5 years. The days I have nothing to say, I spend perfecting what I already said.

To me, you'll always be a writer. Draw, read, dabble, but I know the depth of who you are. There is no hiding talent among your friends.

Elise Fallson said...

My Dad went through something similar. The painting “muse” left him years ago when he lost his job. The family went through a rough spot. Years went by and little by little he stopped painting. That is until the day I sent him pictures of a painting I was (butchering) working on, asking for his advice. That got him to pick up his paint brushes again and he hasn’t put them down since. He doesn’t feel the same passion as he did in the beginning, but he still enjoys painting and he paints every day. What I’m saying is, it may take time. Don’t force it. And something tells me that right now, you feel better with paint brush in hand than with a writing pen. And who knows. Maybe in the near future, a story will hit you like a bag of bricks and the words will start flowing again…or maybe not. Either way, I hope you keep sharing your thoughts and art with us on your blog.

Nadine_Feldman said...

I have felt much the same way in the past year or so. I have been working on a second draft of a novel that I really like, but my heart's not in it.

You mentioned that the loss of the muse coincided with the end of the work career. Mine coincided with a cross-country move to a new town. Maybe those major life changes invite us to take time to rest and adjust? I don't know if that's the answer, but it makes sense to me.

We all have fallow periods, and they're tough to go through. Sometimes they signal a change in what we're writing or how we express ourselves. At some level, I know that I am a happier person when I write, and perhaps that's true for you, too at some level.

I don't know if any of this is helpful...hang in there.

Sharon Bradshaw said...

None of us knows where the creative flow comes from, but it arrives usually when we least expect it. It seems to be taking you into art at the moment, but that doesn't mean you won't feel in the future words would be the more appropriate medium, so please don't give up. Maybe, or maybe it won't be, a novel but it could still be prose, a short story or poem. It's still there, Richard. I don't think it's something you can lose once you've known it. Paint from your heart, and see where it takes you.

Richard Hughes said...

Kamille, thank you for your encouragement.

Tanya, thank you. I consider you a friend in person, not a virtual friend.

Elise, yes, art has become important to me. It may keep me sane.

Nadine, thank you, your thoughts are helpful.

Sharon, thank you, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Jon said...

With all the things you've written in the past, I have absolutely no doubt that you will write again in the near future. Don't try to force it. It will come naturally.
In the meantime - it's always relaxing to draw and paint.

Creativity never ends.

Julia Hones said...

I agree with Jon. You may need some time. Do some free writing exercises if you have an idea but don't push yourself. Try some physical exercise. You will be surprised by the effects it can have on your creativity. Also, read different kinds of stories. Add variety. Read authors that inspire you. I've just discovered Kurt Vonnegut, for example. Read some short stories by him. (I'd love to discuss some of his work with somebody, so you are welcome to join me!) Have fun.

Todd R. Moody said...

The idea of a muse is a myth, Richard. Don't buy into it. Easy for me to say, sitting here miles away. I understand how you might feel like the muse is gone, but it sounds to me like you've actually been working at it. The ideas will come when they will. There are ways to generate them, but the trick is to sit and write. If the joy is gone that is another thing entirely. I struggle with it from time to time. I think all writers do.

I am approaching the point in my life when the day job will stop and the new day job will be writing. Maybe that is where the crux of this is. Your routines changed. Perhaps a look at what brought you the joy of writing before you retired will give you some answers. Looking at it now as a job instead of a pleasure could certainly suck some life out of it. I wish you the best of luck finding the answer you seek.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I went through something similar when I took early retirement to write. Until then, writing was this indulgence in my life that I always had to squeeze in, and then suddenly I had all this TIME to write, and it sort of stymied me. Then it finally leveled out when I realized you don't really need to write 8 hours a day. There was room for other stuff too, like painting. (I like to paint, too, and it's very restorative). I agree with the others. You don't need to depend on the Muse. Sometimes I make word lists, or I scribble down "Idea for a story . . ." and leave it alone and go read a book. You ARE a writer, and that's not going to change, Richard. When you don't have a new story, work on an old one and do other things you enjoy.

Paula R C Readman said...

Take time to read through unfinished stories, sometimes an idea will jump out at you. I have lots of half finished project that I keep just in case I get stuck. Never delete anything.

I'm sure your muses will come back to you.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I agree with can't be forced. It has to come naturally. I have no doubt that it will come back to you sir.

Richard Hughes said...

Thank you, Jon, I know you're right.

Julia, I might just do that.

Todd, I don't know if it's a myth, because it seemed real enough. But you make a good point. I've been trying to write for the market instead of what I love. Maybe I need to get back to writing what I love.

Elizabeth, I'll follow your advice. And thanks for looking at my drawings.

Paula, you have a good point. Work on old stuff until the new comes along.

Keith, thanks, it does need to come naturally, which goes along with Todd's comment. Writing what I love would come naturally.

Jeff Hargett said...

You've received some good advice here and am not sure what I can add other than never say never. We all go through our dry spells, some deep, some long, but I'm confident that it's still there in you.

I have, however, come to think that inspiration can't be chased and caught. It's an elusive little bugger. But when you least expect it, it can whack you upside the head with brilliance. Just don't duck. ;-)

Richard Hughes said...

Hi, Jeff, I'll always be open to inspiration. It's one of the greatest joys in life.

Julie Luek said...

I find writing short articles and getting something published to be such a lovely morale boost and reminder of why I love to write. I have set aside a large project for now until I know what I want that to be and have fun with shorter posts and seeing them in print. It's satisfying!