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The blog of m/m author Jaime Samms. 

Not Running Aground

Jaime Samms

Every writer encounters it. There are many different names for it. Writer's block. Blank page panic. An obstinate/missing/depressed/difficult/insert-expletive-here Muse. Down time. I call it my funk. For me, it doesn't happen very often, and when it does, most times, I feel it coming on, I get a kind of kinetic energy that won't let me sit and write.

This is fine. I can do other things. I can draw, weave, make something out beads and string. There are a lot of other things I can do besides write. In the mean time, I think. Eventually, the ideas come, the need for motion fades, and I can sit and write for hours.

Then there are the other times. The rare ones. The ones when I don't want to draw. Weaving seems like too much work, beads are too infinitesimally small to contemplate. This is more than writer's block. This a creative sinkhole. At these times, mountains of laundry look inviting, the bathroom tile grout welcoming. At these times, the thought of opening a file on the computer does unpleasant things to my insides and the fog of my funk is thickest.

During these times, it seems like there is no way I can get through from one end of the day to the next, because eventually, all the laundry will be folded and neatly tucked away. The bathroom will sparkle. The kitchen will shine. Heaven help me (and my family) I will even cook; anything to avoid the elephant sitting on the kitchen table and disguising itself as my laptop.

What to do then? The more you think about it, the worse it gets. Best to just ignore it and hope it goes away, but what if it doesn't? What if it persists? So I sit and open a file. Something safe. Something in edits that has a nice network of comforting red lines telling me what I should do. Some piece where the hardest decision I have to make is what word to substitute for 'pressed'. And while I do this, I wonder if my editor has any idea how much she is helping me keep the engine running, even if I can't really see where I'm going right now.

Another of my favourite tricks is that handy-dandy chat window. That convenient line to others of my kind (because lord knows, there are none in my house!) I pester other writers. "Whatcha doin'?" "How's your day?" and other seemingly innocuous questions. And they respond, almost invariably, with kindness and patience, putting their own projects on temporary hold to keep me company and pat me on the head. Which seems a lot more patronizing than it is, because in this state, head patting is exactly what I need. And a little bit of hand holding. And a chance to talk about things other than writing.

And eventually, the fog begins to lift. The funk dissipates, and the glimmer of an idea, a lost scene, a satisfactory ending, a character development, something to sort out a plot tangle from an old ms surfaces, like a treasure chest floating up from the depths, enticing me to unlock it and see what's inside.

It really is like the sun burning away a mist. It doesn't necessarily mean I'm in for smooth sailing, but at least I'll be able to see the shore. All that's left is to watch for the lighthouse.

How's that for an extended metaphor?


Thanks, fellow writers, editor, chatters, (you know who you are!) for patting me on the head, guiding my words and seeing me safely through the funk. Very much appreciated.