Do you have any advice on what to do if you lose your joy and interest in writing when a writer was how you identified yourself?
(wry look) Life just pulled one of those cute things where I had three-quarters of a response written and I hit the wrong keys somehow and it all went away. Which tells me that this is important. So let me recreate it.
The best advice I’ve got for you right now is to lean back and wait, because normally the joy and interest will come back. Being a writer, and having enjoyed and been interested in it previously, isn’t something that goes away all that easily. The set of behaviors that make up being a writer are complex and difficult to ingrain… which is going to make the ability to do this kind of work difficult to lose even if you were trying to do so. So, first of all: take heart.
Now it has to be said that, human nature and psychology (and nature itself) being the cranky intransigent things they sometimes are, it may (paradoxically) be necessary for your recovery of your joy and interest in the work to completely surrender to the concept that you might actually have permanently lost it. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but the effectiveness of simply giving up is sometimes surprising. There’s a saying attributed to Carl Jung, the father of the concept of Archetype as we now understand it, that goes like this: “What you resist, persists; and not only does it persist, but it gets bigger in size.”
(There’s a good long article about this concept over here in
Psychology Today: worth looking at. …Though I also have to say that the
illo at the top is hilarious and perfect, because Kylo Ren should frankly be the poster child for the whole idea.)
My own experience suggests that there are times when as soon as you give up, the thing that’s been eluding you either collapses to the ground where you can just stroll over and reclaim it, or turns around and runs headlong into your arms. Frustrating, but what can you do? When the whole point is to get whatever it is back, the idea that it played you a little in the process will after the fact seem less of an issue.
Possible causes for what’s going on with you are worth touching on briefly. I’ve had occasion to post a number of times about something that C. S. Lewis codified in The Screwtape Letters as “the Law of Undulations”. Now as much as I love him, there would be a lot of things that Clive and I would disagree about, but this wouldn’t be one of them. I think he was really onto something. So take a look at that basic post, and then we can move on a bit.
With the Law in mind, while you’re working on what “giving up” might look like – assuming you need to go that far – here are some possibly similar situations and strategies to consider.
- Having a dry spell and trying to get the few ideas that are available written.
- Losing your confidence and feeling like you’ve got nothing worth writing.
- Having lots of ideas but “freezing” when attempting to actually get the writing done.
- Not being able to write as a side effect of absolutely everything in life going wrong. (AKA a broader version of the John Watson cri de coeur: “It is what it is, and what it is is shit.”)
Some of the above situations come with suggestions of possible things you can do about them. But do not underestimate the power of simply waiting a while and not doing anything. It’s worth emphasizing that in our culture as it stands at the moment, there’s endless emphasis on immediately DOING THINGS to fix what ails you. Sometimes not doing anything is more effective – though to some people that’s going to sound heretical, and you’ll run the risk of being accused of laziness (not least by the back of your own mind, once it realizes you’re onto something that’s going to give you back control of the situation. The self-sabotaging wiliness of a subconscious about to lose its advantage can be a terrifying thing… but even that loses some of its terrors when your conscious mind suspects or knows what it’s up to.) Anyway, ignore that noise.
Give doing nothing a good long chance. Stoke up on your reading. Get caught up on TV and movies if that’s your thing. Do other work. Create something that isn’t writing. (Cooking’s good for this. I love being responsible for mighty successes or godawful failures in the kitchen and knowing that the critics at Kirkus and PW are not going to give the slightest damns about it.)
But tl:dr; Don’t despair: just kick back and wait. And see how it goes.
…And eventually let me know how you get on. :) HTH.