We all think it. Not very many of us will ask it out loud. Maybe because that makes the possibility too real. You always hear writers talking about their craft as something as fundamental to life as breathing, more important than eating or sleeping. (Not more important than caffeine, though. Don't get me wrong. We do have our priorities.) But we speak of our stories--our creations--as we speak of our children. With pride, excitement, frustration, but ultimately, with love. We love what we do. We have pride in our creations. Writing is a part of our fiber, DNA, spirit, soul.
When we can't do it, we go a little bit nuts. Someone once told me, for them, it was the spiritual equivalent to a bad asthma attack. As though their soul was fighting to take the next breath, to let go of the trapped, stale air, but was, instead, suffocating under an invisible weight.
The weight was nothing: no words. No ideas.
And in that moment of wondering if you'll ever fill up again, who would dare to tempt fate and ask, out loud: "What if? What if the last story was the last great I idea I ever have?" No one. Not even me, because I didn't decide to write this blog until I was once agian in the spiritual free-fall of a new idea.
For me, the binding comes soon after I finish something. For a day or two, my mind rests. I'm free of the guilty feeling of not putting words onto the page and I revel in the pride of a job well done. I let myself feel good about not writing. I enjoy the contentment of having completed a project.
Then it begins. I start to feel the emptiness of "what next?" It isn't that I don't want to think about what I will write next. I literally can't. My mind shunts away from looking for new ideas, like a trickster engineer in my brain, continually switching my mental train to a new track for his own enjoyment. It isn't even that I want to hang onto the previous characters. They have told me their story. I've written it down, and they are gone. Moved on. It is me who is trapped on the endless loop of no ideas. The longer and more intense the finished project was, the longer this stage lasts, but every time, it lasts just long enough for panic to set in and I begin to think..."What if..."
You would think by now, I should be able to recognize the pattern, and sometimes, I catch on. Sometimes, it isn't untilI am finally well into the next project that I can appreciate the break for what it was. A necessary part of the process. Down time of the soul. Regeneration.
But holy hell, is it scary when you're in it.
So if you love a writer, and one day, they look at you, their eyes half-wild, and a bit staring, their lips slack, just hug them and whisper in their ear "It isn't the last one. Don't worry. You'll have more stories to write. You'll be okay."
Trust me on this. You'll be their hero for recognizing their distress. You can't fix it, but you can help them not go off the deep end.
I know I'm not alone in this feeling. Anyone else want to share?