Writers are sensitive.
Maybe not burst-into-tears-at-the-mere-mention-of-Steel Magnolias sensitive, but probably more touchy-feely than your average stockbroker or brickie’s labourer. We have to be sensitive to do our job. Not just sensitive – raw open wounds. Unafraid to indulge any and all emotions, explore every impulse and analyse every reaction. After all, how can we truthfully describe the interior landscapes of our fictional characters if we’re unfamiliar with our own?
Which is to say that writers can be moody. I know I can be a pain to live with at times – distant and preoccupied when writing, pensive and morose when I can’t. Prone to fits of mania and depression. Like a teenager caught in the throws of puberty. However, it’s not all soaring highs and plunging lows. Sometimes, being a writer means experiencing long periods of emotional flatness. I call this the Scribbler’s Blues.
If you’ve ever spent a considerable amount of time pouring your heart and soul into a draft and finally reached the point where you felt comfortable (or the publisher could no longer be kept at bay) to push print, then you might understand what I’m writing about. Once the manuscript has been posted, the champagne popped, family and friends re-acquainted with, a slight greying tends to creep in at the edges of your celebratory mood. This greying intensifies when you wake up one morning, walk to your desk and realise the book’s finished. You have nothing left to write.
Relief might be the appropriate reaction here – exhilaration, even. After all, you’re finished! You’ve overcome all obstacles, climbed the mountain, reached the summit, and planted the flag. Be proud of your monumental achievement. Fewer people than you think actually finish what they start. Unfortunately, you’re a writer. Instead of patting yourself on the back you feel a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. A listlessness that is all the more troubling because its source cannot be identified.
Writing is like acting, except instead of just one character, writers sometimes have to inhabit the skin of several characters over the course of a single day. It’s a little schizophrenic. Also highly addictive. Kind of like crack cocaine but better for your oral hygiene. When writing, we condition our limbic systems (thanks, Google), to be ready to dredge up fear, lust, anger, sadness, amusement, whatever the necessary emotion for the scene we’re writing – at a moment’s notice. After day in, day out of riding this emotional roller-coaster is it any wonder that once we step off, real life can seem a little, well…flat? Less real maybe than the story we’ve been slaving over.
So, how do we combat the Scribbler’s Blues? Is there a pill? A drink? A ritualistic animal sacrifice which counteracts this malaise? The solution is deceptively simple. Start writing something else. Buy your ticket and get back on the roller-coaster.
Remember, it could be worse.
You could be suffering Writer’s Block.