Sunday, August 7, 2016

Craft of Writing: Losing Your Voice

Sometimes writing is a glorious thing. Words just pour out and scenes dance before the mind's eye like some exciting play. It all is so easy. Work is done in something of a trance and when it is done, it is as though some form of time travel happened because it didn't feel like several hours had passed. This type of inspired flow is often upheld as how all authors work and that it is the ideal experience.

I wish it was so easy. It is not. Anyone who tries to convince you that it is like this all the time is selling you something or lying to you. In a casual survey over the last year with other authors I know who write in a wide range of formats and for a wide range of reasons, the type of writing where it feels like you're shoveling manure from a sitting position seems to happen more often. Now, this is not an instant kiss of doom to anyone's aspirations. Because hard work doesn't make things worth less most of the time, it usually makes them even more valuable for the labor.

Once in a while, though, that hard work is extra hard. Your tools for shoveling the proverbial manure got downgraded from that nice square ended shovel to a wee, little trowel that is bent, has the tip broken off, and the handle is more than a little bit questionable. In those times, it may be that you are tempted to just give up on it all. It could be that everything you write just looks awful to you. It could be that you look at your work and find next to nothing about it that is truly standing out as yours. It could also be that you spend your allotted writing time staring at the blank page suffering from enough existential dread to make Friedrich Neitzsche look as cheerful as a Disney princess with her songbird chorus.

Those moments where you have lost your voice are awful. Nothing quite is as gut wrenching as the feeling like you are never going to write anything worthwhile again. Except perhaps the prospect of actually doing so. Giving up on our dreams is a really hard thing to do. Sometimes there are practical reasons to give up on dreams. Sometimes the dreams just can't be manifested because the circumstances necessary to manifest them are beyond what you can orchestrate.

Sitting here at the computer at the end of a long day, I struggle to come up with words to put down. This has been the struggle pretty much everyday since sometime last spring, if not earlier. My sense of time right now is a bit skewed. Some days, I'm stuck in a sense of despair that I am going to never break this dry spell. Other days, I just grimly glare at the blank page and put down words only to erase them. I can not say that I have miraculously found my voice right now.

Even this blog post is difficult. I am, however, not going to give up. I have more than just this going on. When I find it functionally impossible to work on the fantasy novels, I switch my attention to backstory. If this fails, I move to entirely different genres. Sometimes, I find myself just writing a very emo sounding entry into my journal. And, when I am at a point of utter impasse in producing material, I edit.

At one point, last year, I literally lost my voice. I caught a fairly nasty cold and after prolonged bouts of coughing, I lost my voice. Something my family doctor told me was crucial to healing my vocal cords (which I had strained and this is why I lost my voice) was being silent. Now, with two small children, it is really hard to be parenting them effectively when you are silent. It was a challenging week and a half. But, taking that time to be quiet and use alternative modes of communication was what I needed to do to regain my voice.

Difficulty in writing is a lot like losing your voice. Sometimes, you just have to be silent in the area that you are struggling with and do something different until you are able to go back to that difficult area. It will be hard and frustrating. But, with a little time, you will find that you can get past that thing which is making writing so hard.

Right now I'm whispering. Please be patient with me. I hope to soon have my full voice back.


  1. Kold_kadavr_flatliner: I'm not familiar with wiseabove. Is this something that helps people with their writing block?