Thursday, June 4, 2015

Breaking the Funk: What I Love about Writing Fiction

I have lost my mojo. My groove has filled in. The thrill is gone.

I'm in a funk.

Some of you writers understand (at least I hope you do). Somehow, for some reason I will never completely understand, I haven't been able to feel the joy that writing used to grant me. I think longingly about writing during the day, but when I finally sit down in front of the computer or open up my little black notebook, the only thing my mind seems to conjure is a silent scream.

I fear I have fallen out of love of with writing.

This cannot stand. There are few things in this world I love more than writing, so if that's gone, what do I have left?

The solution: I need to fall in love with writing again.

With a little inspiration from Jeff Goins's "Writer's Manifesto," I am here now to try to reclaim my joy — to get my groove back — by setting down what it was I loved about writing in the first place.

If you find yourself in a similar inexplicable funk, you might find this exercise beneficial as well.

So here's what I love about writing fiction:

The Creation

The simple act of creation, of bringing into the world something that didn't previously exist, has long been a strong motivator for me. It drew me not only to writing but to fine art and to music.

Creating something means that I am not just taking up space in this universe; I am, in my small way, contributing to its growth. Even if sometimes I feel like I'm contributing only one really good phrase for every thousand words I type.

Creation means I am not just in the universe, but of it.

The People

I don't mean other writers here. Though I do truly enjoy the company and camaraderie of other logophiles and wordsmiths, writing is ultimately a solitary act.

At least from the outside.

But inherent in that solitary act are some of the most interesting people ever. The type of people I could never, in real life, hope to form any kind of personal relationship with. Famous people. Weird people. Impossible people.

People like Lola Bennett, who I met in the library and fell in love with under an oak tree while we waited for the end of the world to come.

Or people like Mark Flyleaf, whose purpose in life is to connect fictional characters with the right authors so that their stories may be told.

Or people like Carl, who understood what it means to be human only long enough to know what he will lose when his operating system is rebooted.

These are the people I enjoy spending time with when there's no one around to spend time with.

English: Mary Pickford writing at a desk
Mary Pickford writing at a desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Solitude without the Loneliness

Writing allows me to be alone without being lonely. To do amazing things with amazing people without venturing any farther from the dining-room table than the bathroom.

Let's face it: I'm an introvert. Shy even. I live alone. I don't have a lot of friends, and I'm no good at making new ones. It gets very lonely around here.

But I shudder to think how much worse my life would be if I couldn't dive into a page with my fictional comrades, my infinity of imaginary friends. Because when I'm with them, I don't notice the silent hours ticking away, all alone.

The Escape

Sometimes life just sucks and I want to get away from it. Far, far away.

Many people read as a form of escapism, and I do that, too. But it seems that, more and more, the stories in the books that show up on my to-read list prove too real, so that, far from being an escape, they serve to amplify my woes into horrors. (I'm looking at you, Haruki Murakami.)

When the novel I'm reading hits too close to home — or when I don't have a book near at hand — I escape through writing. On receipts, on used envelopes, on scraps of paper rescued from the recycle bin, it doesn't matter. Just a little bit of another universe I can go away to.
English: Creation myth Deutsch: Schöpfungsgesc...
Schöpfungsgeschichte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Control

So much of what happens to us every day is totally beyond our control. Taxes, gas prices, others' bodily odors.

But in fiction, nothing happens unless I want it to happen. Unless I say otherwise, the IRS doesn't come knocking, the gas tank is always full, and no one farts in the elevator. I am in control.

The Revenge Catharsis

The bullies, blockheads, and braggarts from my past have lived on in my writing. But not for very long.

I dropped a car on one of them. I shot a few of them — with bullets, arrows, and lasers. I fed a couple of them to a ravenous, acid-fanged alien aboard a starship floating through the vast silent vacuum of space.

Just the other day, I threw one of them under a bus. It was a school bus, and he had it coming.

Some writers don't like to talk about it. Your average high school writing teacher probably won't mention it. But there really is a satisfaction that comes from taking vengeance in your writing on the people who have done you wrong. Even if it's just the guy who cut you off in traffic.

There's a T-shirt out there that you can buy that says, "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel." It's supposed to be moderately funny.

It also happens to be true.

Will this exercise pull me out of my funk? Only time will tell. But I do have a hankering now to drop some of my coworkers into a pit in some sadist's basement.

What do you love about writing? Why do you write? If you've ever been in a writing funk like this, what kinds of things helped you get through it? Please share!