Although I have always considered myself a writer, I have also spent many years not writing. In fact, for most of high school, college, and my 20s, I didn’t write at all. Not one story, not one poem. During that period, I was mostly entangled in living the life of a depressed alcoholic, while trying to keep my shit somewhat together in the meantime. So, you could say I didn’t have time to write, but the truth was that I was really in no place to write.
I didn’t start writing seriously—and by seriously I mean that I committed to sitting down and doing it at least once a week—until 2006, one year after I got sober. Two things happened when I committed to the practice of writing. Number one, I found that it was hard. It challenged me on nearly every level and forced me to look honestly at my addictions, my demons, my self-loathing, and my depression. Number two, it felt better than anything I had ever done before. It felt like a huge relief to open doors within myself that had been closed for years and let all those long-buried thoughts and feelings pour out of me onto the page.
Writing my first novel was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It took me two full years to get through the first draft, and I felt like I was slogging my way through the entire time. I would write sections of the book and read over what I had written and cringe. Sure, I also had days where I felt like I had actually written something good, but most of the time I was full of self-doubt.
I’ve been writing seriously for about 12 years now, and while a lot of things have changed along the way, one thing has pretty consistently remained the same: I always seem to feel dissatisfied with my writing life.
Sometimes I’m unhappy with the writing itself, but experience has shown me that almost all bad writing can be improved if you just work hard enough at revisions. What I’m really talking about is something different, something deeper. It’s an insidious feeling of never being where I wanted to be, of always striving to reach some goal, and then reaching it and still feeling like I didn’t get what I wanted.
If you’re a highly creative person then chances are you’ve gone through periods in your life when you felt creatively stifled. Maybe you had a brutal work schedule or you were caught up in a bad relationship and your head wasn’t where it needed to be to make good art. Or maybe you had critical parents and you just never had the self-confidence to put your work out into the world. But no matter what the reason, all of us at one time or another have wished we could bring more creativity into our lives, and then we’ve gotten blocked on how to make that dream a reality.
Why is this? Why is it so hard to tap into our own creativity and make it work for us?
Being stuck in a certain place in your story is different than writer’s block. Writer’s block is a condition that paralyzes writers and prevents them from ever getting started in the first place, or derails them so completely they can never finish that first draft. But being stuck is more like running your car off the road into the mud. You know it’s possible to get out of it, but it still feels like a big messy unpleasant obstacle in your creative life.
Right now, I am stuck. I am just about in the middle of the last quarter of my novel, and I am most definitely in the mud. Things were going so well up until now. I was writing consistently every week and my plot and characters were moving along at a good clip. And then, I hit this wall. I got…stuck.