My Dirty Little Secret

 Not to worry. I’m not going to reveal some Fifty Shades of Grey-type secret here.

But I have been keeping something to myself lately and holding it in is starting to feel unhealthy. My dirty little secret? I haven’t written since the beginning of May. Not a word. No fiction. No blog posts. Even getting this post together was brutal.

Why am I sharing this?

I feel a lot of shame about not writing. Writing always came very easy to me. I never had to think about it.

But now? I sit in front of the computer and … nada!

I’ve read so many blog posts and articles about how if you are a “real” writer you should devote time to your craft every single day. Butt in the chair, write all the time, you know the drill. So what happens when you can’t do that? What happens when life gets so crazy and gives you so much to deal with in such a short time that you can’t find the ability to put a word on paper. Hell, you can barely brush your hair or get out of bed some days.

I hate being Debbie Downer. But it’s tough to read about people getting published and moving their careers forward when I am so painfully stuck in place. Ordinarily, hearing about others’ successes makes me feel inspired. Lately, it makes me feel ashamed.

I still don’t know if it’s even okay to write about this. My stomach is in knots as I type this. But then I thought about how writing is not for the faint of heart. Writing is tough, tough stuff. And maybe I’m reaching someone who will benefit from this. Maybe someone else has had a rough time too. Does not writing make me a bad writer? Or just a normal one?

So fellow writer’s blockers – UNITE! Please tell me: how did you get past your slump?

43 thoughts on “My Dirty Little Secret

  1. Kerri– HUGS!! Internet chatter is a death knell to a writer–too much celebration, too much angst, too much…. When your subconscious refuses to come out and play, it’s a sure sign that it’s overwhelmed or you are forcing it to perform and it won’t do it anymore–so, no words.

    In order to quiet your mind, you need a break. Take the time to do other things, recharge the creative well, just stop writing. But at the same time you can’t beat yourself up mentally over not writing or your break is fruitless. Fear has a funky way of freezing us in place on that hamster wheel. Instead of running[writing], we go round and round accomplishing nothing. Sound familiar? I have to mentally give myself the talk that the ultimate end is what I decide to do. It’s my decision. To write or not to write. So, allow yourself a break without guilt.
    Then choose to write and write “the shitty first draft” as Ann Lamont says. Take the pressure off and enjoy the process again. Write outside the box, write a grocery list in rhyme…do something different that brings the joy back to your words.

    You are not alone. 🙂

    1. Sound familiar? Absolutely!!!! You summed it up beautifully, Jean! Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement. 😉

  2. You had me hooked at ‘Dirty Little Secret’! hehe 🙂
    I totally hear where you are coming from, you never see people sharing in their challenges or defeat so it is normal to feel like you are the only one not getting the promotion, award, or big prize and ask the question ‘Am I the only one?’. I think it would be healthy for everyone to post a challenge as life is not always rainbows and sunshine, if it was there would never be a story.

    I know your writing streak will return and as those wonderful character begin their chatter in your head it will follow onto paper. Everyone needs a vacation, even your characters! Stay positive but know it is okay to get into a funk – we all do and we all climb out 🙂

    Happy August to all – it is a new month with new opportunties!!!

    1. I like thinking of it that way. My characters are on vacation. Man, those crazy people sure like to party it up!

  3. You have immense talent that’s simply taking a break. It will return. Until then enjoy reading blogs and celebrating your friends successes. We all are competitive and when other people are getting things we are not it starts to eat at you. It happens to best of us. Your time will come. Just be patient.

  4. I am a poet and a blogger. I haven’t written much in over a year. Grief in my life sent me into a very dry desert. In fact I resented when anyone asked me whatI was writing! I understand your feelings of guilt etc. I felt all of that.

    Yesterday I had my first desire to write in so very long. A conversation stimulated me to write a poem!! and it was a shitty first draft but it felt good. But I am not going to force things. I have been focusing on other creative endeavors for the last year so I don’t feel so worthless and also on a spiritual journey which as empowered me to just BE. It has been life changing. Give yourself permission to just BE and relish life. It’s the greatest inspiration!

    1. I heart you, Deb! Congrats on the poem! Shitty first draft or not, I’m proud of you! And I hear ya – I really resent the “what are you working on” question. But I know people mean well. 😉

  5. Kerri – hugs! I went through a bout of “not writing” late last year that seeped into the early months of this year. A few things that helped me: 1) I stayed connected to my writing community 2) I kept trying 3) I gave myself permission to write crap 4) I gave myself permission to jump from story idea to story idea if the choices were that or not even trying. I also tried to be kind to myself.

    I was talking with some of my pals about how easy it can be to get caught up in black and white, all or nothing, thinking. I’m good or I’m bad. That kind of mindset can be debilitating so I channel my inner Scarlett (a lot) and chant, “Tomorrow is another day.” A clean slate, fresh canvas kind of day.

    I heard James Carville say this the other week. “You know, the best time to plant an oak tree is twenty years ago. The next best time to plant an oak tree is today.” Somehow, that’s comforting to me. And Fly Lady says: “You are not behind. Start now.”

    And one last quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson might help get the shame monkey off your back:

    “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

    1. Hi Keely!!! Love the quotes, especially the Emerson. I think I’ll print that and put it next to my bed.

      You know it’s interesting about staying connected to your writing community. I think a part of me was really starting to worry that if I wasn’t writing should I still be around the people who are. Do we have anything in common? Am I a fraud? So your words were very comforting to me. Big smoochies!

  6. I think you got some very astute replies that I hope will let you know that you are not alone. Everyone has bumps in the road but they don’t like to share them. I’ve been thinking about this and I think it is because it is always easier to respond to people’s successes…we know what to say to those.
    Give yourself a break…your writing is ‘part’ of who you are and will always be there. Right now it is taking a little hiatus, but it will come back, probably stronger than ever… and don’t forget why you love to write.

  7. I keep an ideas journal. A sentence or two pops in my head. I also keep a list of character names. When I’m stuck, I read through them. Some are awful, some have been done, and some give me an ending. I never start at the beginning. Too much pressure.

    1. Ha-ha, I’m the same way, Mary Jo! I don’t really have an official ideas journal. Just a bunch of papers. Hmmm, new project! Yay!

  8. My dear K-Boo, I feel you and commiserate. I’ve been through so many on/off cycles with my own writing now that I can say with some authority that shame has no place in a craft that is as individual as the writer herself. Give yourself an enormous break. Regardless of what else is going on (or not going on) in your life, you need no excuse for your process and no fear of whether or not the writing will return to you. You will return to it when the time is right for you. You are okay. I promise. xoxo

    1. JEN-BOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      As always, you know just how to make me feel better. I send you super big smoochies!

      1. Just so ya know, this was the most productive thing I did all day. Well worth it, though! Smoochies back. 😀

    1. And wine! And glitter and sparkles and fun shoes and cute purses and awesomesauce dresses and and and… *faints from over-excitement*

  9. Kerri – I think this is really insightful. I sometimes think about the fact that at 15 I had written a novel and several notebooks full of poetry and short stories. But that was many years and 3 kids ago. Now I am lucky if I find time to write once a month, much less once a day. It brings a lot of sadness – I think about getting published. All the ideas I have – and wondering if they will ever make it to paper…much less to the bookstores?
    It is natural to be a combination of envy and joy when you witness the success of others – especially when their successes are in your chosen field. I curse Stephenie Meyer daily – I had vampire love triangle ideas long before she did LOL 😉
    Your moment will come – I am sure of it. Just keep writing – when you can. And when you can’t – well don’t be so hard on yourself. I try not to be.

    1. Ahhh thanks Aimee! I truly don’t know when any of you with kids has the time to do ANYTHING, let alone write! But don’t give up – keep at it! 😉

  10. First, Kerri, you are an awesome person so not writing cannot make you a bad person. It’s a physical impossibility.

    Second, well, life happens, right? It gets in the way, it makes you sweat and sigh and laugh and want to throw things – sometimes at people. This time it got so in your way it blocked you from writing – coincidentally, it was also the cause for you to start writing again. Funny how we always go with what we know in the end, hey?

    My friend Natalie has this great email signature. It says – God never gives us more than we can handle, I just wish he didn’t trust me so much. I’d say, regardless of your person belief in the big man upstairs (or woman, whatever, I’m open minded), that’s a reasonable assessment of life in general. We hear about the most horrendous things that happen to people – usually via a Lifetime movie – but they keep on going. Survival is what we know.

    Writing is what you do. It’s what you love. When it doesn’t come naturally go out and try new things, meet new people, get new grain for the mill. Just keep doing what you love even if it doesn’t come naturally sometimes. How can that ever be wrong?

    1. Thanks, Caroline! I absolutely love that quote! “God never gives us more than we can handle, I just wish he didn’t’ trust me so much.” That’s fantastic! 😉

  11. My best technique for getting over a slump is to write crappy short drafts on any stupid thing that crosses my mind. I save them on my blog or on my hard drive after I’ve written as much as I’m moved to, even if it’s just a phrase summing up an idea.

    “MSG is the spice of hate.”
    “What would it actually feel like if the earth as it is right now were to suddenly shift its magnetic poles?”
    “Pretty sure my dog is trying to keep me from meeting women.”

    Sometimes, the phrase will spur me on to write a whole blog post or short story or book. Often, it won’t. But I get it out of my system and then I find there’s usually more behind it. It might take a little while for the more to come out, but it’s there.

    Other times, the little bit of nothing that I dash off won’t be anything useful at all, but the mere act of writing gets me in the mood for writing.

    Hope this helps!

    1. Hi Paul! Fantabulous suggestion! I particularly like “MSG is the spice of hate.” Reading that actually made many, many crazy little phrases pop up in my head. Yay!

      Thanks so much for stopping by! 😉

      1. Yay! I’m never sure how my voice will go over when commenting on a blog for the first time. Thanks for making me feel welcome!

  12. Kerri – You are the bravest, strongest chick I know. How do I know that? You wrote this post and I know that you are dealing with all the crap in your life right now. Yeah, you aren’t hitting the mark you set for yourself everyday but you are getting through each day and getting to the next one. That is a lot. Hugs.

    When I can’t get the words flowing, I write something else. Anything else. Sometimes I just close my eyes and type. Set a timer for five, ten minutes and go, don’t even think.

    1. Hi Laurie! *waves and throws glitter*

      I’m so doing this today. 5 minutes of my lunch break, I’m just gonna go on a writing rant. 😉

  14. Thanks so much, Diana-Mermaid! I think I couldn’t truly give myself a break because I was afraid that it would turn into a multi-year break that I may never be able to rebound from. But such great suggestions from you. You know, I have wanted to reread my first romance attempt…

  15. Wow, Kerri. These are all amazing responses that I, for one, am grateful to have read through. But mostly, I’m thankful that you wrote this post and put it out there for the rest of us. Thanks little sister mermaid. You are MY HERO 😉

  16. Oh excuse me? Did I hear you guilting over taking a break from writing? Mine was *twenty years* of not writing. Seriously, it was Christmas letters and lesson plans for budding seamsters (sewing students). That’s all I could make myself do. I was so freaked out by the move to NY and subsequent “failing” at a quick repeat to my debut, that I ditched the keyboard and story-building entirely.

    Honest, I feel your pain. I don’t like myself very much when I skip a day of writing now. Forgiveness is always just one keystroke away, though. Allow yourself to suck at it today, as I do. Tomorrow will be better.

    Lots of love, mermaid-girl! You can do it!

    1. Ah, thanks Susan-Mermaid! I’m definitely still a work in progress but I’m glad you got back into it! 😉

  17. Kerri,
    I have you sooooo beat. I haven’t written since November. I’ve tried revising, but that hasn’t helped either. I keep thinking that I’ll start next week, and then next week arrives faster than I expected. Then I make another excuse. I think it boils down to perfection versus fun. When I wrote for the sheer love of writing, I wrote. When I felt like my words needed to be perfect, I couldn’t write. And it doesn’t really help to tell myself to write a crappy first draft because there’s this big part of me that thinks it will just remain another crappy first draft–since, again, not liking revisions.
    So, I feel your pain. But everyone else seems to have great advice. Sorry I can’t give you any, but maybe I’ll steal some of theirs. They all sound great.
    I do have one suggestion. Keep a journal. It’s personal. It’s freeing. And you’re writing. You’re writing FEELINGS, which are always hard to write. But they are yours! And nobody ever has to critique them and tell you that you’re using too many prepositions in one sentence or you’re not using enough senses. It’s just for you. Or when your lazy characters come back from vacay, help them write their journal. Their feelings. And then maybe, just maybe you’ll help each other out.
    Love and kisses to you!
    I’m ready for gnawing on a sugar cane soon…call me…:-)

  18. All this talk about not writing is suddenly making me silly and wanting to sing Little Rabbit Foo Foo. Like, not writing for a day is equal to a bop on the head. Today I get a bop. I did not write.

    So, if you don’t write, you purge the gluilt factor with a virtual bop and move on. Does that make sense?

    Gosh, I need some sleep…

    1. Susan,
      I’m going to strongly–and I do mean strongly–protest bopping on the head. I would have a major concussion by now. Or be dead. There is only so many bops a poor head can take!
      (Was that believable? Was it?)

      1. Okay. Nerf bops only and prefaced with a consensual moment. You guys crack me up. I’m going back to writing too! Smiles to all.

  19. I’m coming into this discussion quite late. Hope you don’t mind. I’m a big fan of reading your stuff. I find that I go thru these I I think I felt a big loss when PNN shut down because there we got so much enthusiastic feedback and sharing of ideas. Blogging feedback takes consistant networking or something. And I am drifting more toward journaling again, maybe coming to terms with the fact that my yet-to-be-born granddaughters may some day kill to have something with my thoughts on it. Take care and hope to see more work from you down the road.

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