Celebrate your creative vacuum, make the most of it
I’ll be the first to admit: I panic when I can’t write. I tend to descend into the depression that is the emotion of feeling that not only am I not writing period, not producing that next great novel that will bring me fame, glory and – above all – finally some money to provide for my family… No, instead I do household chores, from doing dishes, folding clothes, get the garden ready for summer, [add any household chores] etc. Recently, though, I’ve grown tired of falling into this pit after every submitted manuscript, I’m naming the monster. My creative vacuum is no Voldemort. I have named it, I’m calling it out and I’m fighting it.
Name your demon…
Creative vacuum. That’s my demon. It visits me every time I finish a manuscript. I feel empty, literally. I have this screaming voice inside me informing me that I’ll never write another story. Ever. Only nobody can hear it through the emptiness of space. Good thing about vacuums… With that voice comes the obligatory depression. No, not medical in nature. But I do feel down. My life slows down and everything I do (and do not), feels amplified because I have this thing called “time”. Time to think, contemplate, ponder. Why am I not sitting down and writing? Why am I folding towels rather than writing? Why am I doing my mother-in-law’s taxes instead of writing? Why am I worrying about my dad’s lungs and a potential cancer when I could be writing? Should be writing? Why?
It’s debilitating. It’s useless, yet it’s life. I’m not “just” an author. I’m also – and maybe even more so – a father, a husband, a member of society. And as such come obligations. I’m not sitting alone in my ivory tower writing stories. Alas, life has its demands and I need to meet my obligations. However, I also have those when I’m not stuck in my creative vacuum, so why does it bother me so much now? And what can I do to fight it?
I think the most important thing for me is to relax. Accept it. Embrace it even. I will never be able to defeat it. My creative vacuum is like a purging fire across a steppe. When we were in Australia, we learned that the Aboriginals purposely light fires to burn the land, because like a Fenix, what is reborn is fresh, vibrant and full of life. I had to accept that my creative vacuum is the wait for rebirth.
I slept miserably last night…
Toward the end of my creative vacuum, I sleep badly. Once I wake up, I can not go back to sleep. My son woke me up at 1:25 last night, asking for water. After that, I didn’t sleep. I was thinking, and oddly, my thoughts circled a lot about stories, that idea I have of writing twenty-four short stories, about a character representing each of the letters of the alphabet. I’ve had ideas about a sci-fi story involving a mercury sea, fantasy stories, a story about a bisexual character etc.
And all of a sudden, despite being exhausted, I have this strange energy pulsing through me. And my fingers ache to write. And once I’m back in the zone, I could go for days, weeks without eating, drinking, personal hygiene. Luckily, I know better…
More than just accepting
My creative vacuum, I’ve learned, is more than just mourning the end of a story, letting go of beloved characters. It’s also a chance for me to learn, to read and do something else, something that is not related to my author life. Peek outside my writing bubble, and the small community surrounding me. There’s such a thing as “ordinary life” out there. I need to learn more about it, to better reflect it in my books. And who knows, earn a buck, or two? Wouldn’t that be nice?
What else is new?
This week is going to be busy. And as the realization has dawned on me that my creative vacuum has evaporated, it will be even busier. Unlike some, I only have seven days at my disposal. I have a newsletter due this week, and that needs to be written. If you haven’t subscribed, feel free to do so top right here on the website. Thank you.
My coming novel is in the editing phase and it seems my editor likes it. In a short statement last week, they’ve told me that I have nothing to worry about. That was nice to hear, and it shows how well we work together. I didn’t even have to tell them how anxious I was. They know me well enough by now…
Do you ever feel that way? Is this creative vacuum something all artists go through at times? I look forward to your comments.
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Hans M Hirschi