Stuck! by Georgie Tennant
Ever found yourself stuck in a rut? Fed up with everything and everyone? Feeling like you’ll never write anything, ever again, in your whole life? You’re not alone!
I am currently in the phase of what I like to call ‘stabbing at writing.’ Most of my time is taken up being a Mum and a teacher, church member and friend. Writing is something I only ‘do’ when I have a deadline approaching or when my heart overflows with something I need to get down on the page. The deadlines bit is still ticking along – I haven’t missed a post on this blog and, if I’m asked to produce something on a topic for someone, somewhere, the keys and blank screen generally comply.
The rut bit is showing itself more in the heart stuff – the inspiration simply isn’t flowing. Life has taken me through some emotionally draining times, of late, and writing has often helped with this. As I have ridden the waves of emotion that sometimes threaten to sweep me away and walked through valleys of no emotion at all, these experiences have sometimes found their voice on the page and writing them down has been helpful and cathartic. It has helped, too, to share and have others say they resonate with my words.
Now, though, I’ve stepped into a different season. God has been working in my emotions, bringing a new level of healing. I am experiencing a strange calm and stability that I haven’t for a while. But the writing has dried up too! I don’t know what to write. I have no fresh ideas, no new material. My heart has stopped overflowing quite so much, so my pen doesn’t know what to say. I have no long-term project, nothing I can chip away at, calmly and non-emotionally. Where do I go from here?
I decided to try to view this as a learning opportunity – after all, if I’m serious about doing some ‘real writing’ in the future, I’ve got to learn what it is to press on and write, whatever the weather or mood. So this is the advice I am giving myself and desperately trying to heed.
1. Don’t give into sinking feelings of despair
This is something I am learning in life as well as writing. It is so easy to be swept away down a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions – I’ll never get anywhere with this; I might as well give up; I’m useless at it anyway; it’s all, already been done,; nobody reads what I write – but if I can learn to catch these thoughts as they sprout and throw them out as far away as possible, as quickly as possible, I can press on with what I need to do, and be more productive because I’m not wasting my energy on all these niggling doubts.
2. Feel the fear and do it anyway
My husband has a fond memory of a 23 year-old me, on our honeymoon in France, declaring this very thing, as I drove down a slip road to join a dual carriageway. He was exhausted from a long drive and needed me to take over for a bit. The thought of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road terrified me, but I knew we wouldn’t get where we were going if I didn’t at least give it a go. Half an hour in, he was fast asleep in the passenger seat, and I was relaxing into the experience. Sometimes we just have to launch at it and hope our feelings and productivity follow.
3. Know when to step back and take a break
This is crucial and something I’ve learned through walking the road of grief. Sometimes I have to feel the fear and do it anyway. Sometimes I have to step back and take a break from it all. The hard thing is, learning which the right one at the right time - but it comes with practice and getting it wrong a fair few times.
This is true of our writing too. Sometimes, we need to just give it a go, write something - bang out some words, without thinking too hard or too critically. At others, we need to take the day off and do something far-removed from the frustrations of our keyboard and mouse. And we need to see this, not as a failure, but as a deliberate move, part of the rest of the whole, that will rebuild our capacity and restore our strength and desire to write again. If we can make ourselves do this, we’ll probably be twice as productive the next time we try.
4. Avoid the comparison game
It is so, so easy to wish you were someone else whom you perceive as much further ahead than you – you long for their blog, their book and their radio interviews to be yours – and you don’t even have a concept for a book yet and only manage to blog once in a blue moon. Teddy Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” He was absolutely right. Of course, we all long for our writing to be read, enjoyed and have impact on the world, but embracing the season I’m in is the only healthy way to keep my mind from wandering down all sorts of destructive paths.
5. Have a bit of fun
Write something silly, don’t take yourself too seriously and keep placing your writing back into the capable hands of the One who gave it to you, as a gift, in the first place.
During the particularly stuck week, I wrote something silly, to try to heed my own advice. If you still have a few sips of your cup of tea left and time to spare before you rush into your day, I include it below for your fun and amusement!
An Ode to the Stuck
I really am quite squarely stuck,
I cannot move from here.
Inspiration’s packed its bag
And won’t come back, I fear.
I check my laptop keyboard –
The letters are all there.
It’s not a hardware issue, more
A problem between keyboard and chair.
I daydream for a morning,
I make a cup of tea,
I dust and sort and clean the bath –
O, Muse, come back, prithee!
I have a look on Twitter,
No inspiration there.
I watch some videos of cats.
I’m sinking in despair.
Pathetic fallacy noted,
As grey clouds pass the sun,
I need some inspiration, fast –
This really isn’t fun.
Afternoon becomes the dusk
And hope is fading fast.
But just when I’m about to quit,
Something stirs at last.
A tiny little flicker –
No more than an idea,
That tickles at my fingertips
And whispers in my ear.
I grab a pad and fan until
The flicker is a spark
And the spark becomes a bonfire
That lights up this dim dark.
Stuck no more, I stoke the flames,
Basking in the glow.
The words burst forth like fireworks,
I’m fully in the flow.
Next time inspiration parts,
I’ll try harder to remember
To hold fast, stand firm, panic less
And fan that tiny ember.
I’ll daydream for a morning,
Make coffee strong and black
And trust that, when the time is right,
It will all come flooding back!
Georgie Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive. She is married, with two sons, aged 10 and 8, who keep her exceptionally busy. www.somepoemsbygeorgie.blogspot.co.uk