help help i’ve fallen and i can’t get out. There you are, walking along your path in life. And let’s say ours cross each other. Only when your path comes to mine, you see that mine dead ends in a wide hole in the ground. You hear muttering and typing and scratching noises from the hole and decide to take a peek inside. So you lean over the edge to see what’s at the bottom of the hole.
And it’s me. I’m in the bottom of the hole. Well to be precise, it’s a pit. Tacked to the walls are papers, papers everywhere. Where there aren’t papers, there are great sloppy smudges of paint. The papers are full of notes and illustrations and lists and thoughts, most of them scrawled in legible but hurried lines. The floor of the pit is hidden from view because of the carpet made of paper wads. Yes, hundreds and hundreds of wrinkled up balls of paper litter the floor. Rising from this sea of discarded ideas are desks and tables covered in art supplies and you guessed it, more paper. And in the middle of this mess is me. I am furiously typing away at a typewriter, ripping the pages out and wadding them up and adding them to the generous supply on the floor. Or I tack it up to the wall. In between the typing I am racing over to the other tables, tapping stuff out on a laptop, creating lists, scrawling down countless ideas in countless notebooks, mixing paints, splattering colors everywhere, and you get the idea now. You can see it for yourself as you lean over the pit: Things are a mess. I am a mess. And I’m stuck.
Now obviously if you happen to run into me at Starbucks tomorrow, that’s not what you would see. But if you could look inside my head, that mess of a hole in my life’s path is exactly what you’d see. Because I’ve somehow fallen into a pit, and that pit is a creative slump. And I can’t seem to find a way out.
I’ve always had a story to work on since I was eleven years old. It was something that once it started, it just didn’t stop, and I was always in the middle of writing a story after I started my first one. Sure there were stories I didn’t finish, but I just put it away and picked up what had formed in my mind in the meantime and was ready to be started. Several years later, and I’ve fallen into my first major creative slump. I started working on a novel five years ago that I had serious intentions of getting published. I worked on it consistently for three of those five years. The following two years I was still developing it in my mind but wasn’t working on the actual text. But after coming back to it recently, I have come to terms with what I was suspecting for a while: there are major plot holes and it needs to be substantially rewritten. Like main characters get cut rewritten. So I decided that after five-ish years of being my main project, it needs to be put away for a while.
That’s not really important to you, I know. I say all of it because it’s led to me falling into this pit I’m in. I’ve never been so desperate for another story to work on, and I’ve never had such a hard time coming up with my next one. On a regular basis, the pit would be random but organized, and I would be content going from one desk to the next instead of frantic, and the pit wouldn’t be a pit at all. I have several story ideas swirling around in this fog of a brain but none of them have solidified enough to be of substantial use yet.
I am chasing after wisps of cloud, slipping on streaks of paint as I try to crawl out. The more I search for inspiration, the more it eludes me. The ideas I’m trying to piece together are curious but so far meaningless, like I’m trying to paint a picture with a pencil instead of a paintbrush. I know all writers encounter blocks, but this isn’t a block within a specific story; it’s a block to the story itself. I like what ideas I’ve been able to come up with, but they aren’t formulating enough to build an entire story.
I like to think the other aspects of my life are in order, but creatively I am in a dark place, and not in a good way. It’s not the first time, but I always seem to forget what it feels like. An occasional hobby of mine is to go through my journal and see what I’ve written a year ago, just to see where I was at and how or if I have grown. This was the piece I found, which I wrote one year ago this very day. I was in a rather dark place then too, and something must have really upset me that week to generate these kinds of thoughts. Copying the whole thing has made me a little uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to cut any of it. So here are the vulnerable words of me a year ago:
July 14, 2016. 1:11 p.m.
It amazes me how my anger and pain unlock my ideas, my thoughts, my desires. My frustration boils up inside me, then it’s channeled through the music I listen to and comes out in ideas. Ideas for my books, for blog posts, plays, story plot holes, they so often fall into place when that anger and longing is tapped into and released. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Emotions tend to rule me, but they also unlock my dreams and desires, ignited with a determination that I will do better. I will be better. I can’t tell if it’s just pride, though I’m afraid that it is. I’m even more afraid of what would happen if I let go. If I let go. Let go of what? Isn’t that what the music does? Helps me let go of those feelings so they can be pinned down on paper and refined, maybe even made sense of, instead of turning into monsters that live in my heart? I feel the urge and the drive to break things, to destroy, because I am broken. I am broken. But instead I try to resist those urges and use them to create. To maybe fix the cracks.
The context of those words I have forgotten. I’m sure something happened that ticked me off and made me furious. And then while I was listening to music to calm that fury, it sparked an idea that I could use for one of my stories, and I wrote about it in my journal as a result. That’s usually how it goes. Most of my stronger emotions bleed into words for my work. So is that what I’m missing? Those emotions? Life is relatively fine, so I have nothing to draw on for inspiration? I find that hard to believe.
These are the times that scare me most, almost as if I can feel my wonder, my “muchness” begin to slip away, like I won’t be able to find it again. I know it’s not true, but the darker side of my mind likes for me to believe it is. 91% of the time, I overthink my problems and get my head stuck in a loop of circular thinking, when if I just stopped worrying and took a second to breathe, to look at my surroundings in a different light, it would all come back to me.
I try too hard. I try too hard to make my stories perfect from the get go, to try and shortcut as many writer’s blocks as I can. I am so afraid of starting something and then not finishing it. I realize now that being afraid to try in the first place is worse. I don’t want a repeat of the last story: working on it for years and then deciding to put it away, even though I have every intention of coming back to it some day. But it only takes one story to get published: the first one, and who am I to deny that first story its chance?
So yes, I am still in the pit, and you can continue on your way now. I’ll find a way out. I’m not sitting on the floor in dejection, although stopping to watch the clouds might not be such a bad idea. If I know myself (and I like to think that I know myself fairly well), my mind won’t slow down until I find a new story. But I think the best thing I can do right now is rest my head and collect my thoughts and start with an open mind. Because once I finally do find my way out of this pit, my mind really won’t shut up, and in a good way that time.
Thank you for reading if you did. This doesn’t make sense right now, and I don’t make sense right now, and I need to understand that sometimes that’s okay. All that matters is making sure I don’t lose sight of my imagination, of what got me here in the first place. There is real magic in the imagination, and it’s powerful stuff. You don’t have to be smart enough or strong enough or desperate enough to wield it.
You just have to be brave enough.
If, however, anyone happens to have some rope—and by rope I mean story ideas or a willingness to share in conversation about the crazy stuff formulating in my head—I would greatly appreciate it if you threw it down to me.