When the Thrill is Gone

Today I had lunch with a writer friend. He’s written short stories, novels, a memoir, and plays, but he was feeling down today. He said for the last few months he simply hasn’t had the desire to write. There hasn’t been anything he’s wanted to write about, and that bothers him. He likes being a writer, likes the process of writing, but he just can’t find the enthusiasm to do it. At least not lately.

His question was: What should I do?

Well, I didn’t feel qualified to advise him, but he was buying my lunch, so I felt I had to come up with something. The first thing that came to mind was the old cliché “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” So I told him to stop writing.

Of course, being apart doesn’t always work when it comes to matters of the heart, but I thought maybe it might work in this case. I know I always tell people who ask if they should be writers, that if they can “not” write, then they probably shouldn’t consider writing as a career. Most writers will tell you they simply can’t stop writing, that when they don’t write for a period of time, they start getting cranky and feel out-of-sorts. So I figured  if my writer friend stopped writing maybe that would once again trigger his desire to write.

I also told him to give himself permission not to write. Sometimes I think we put too much pressure on ourselves. We have to produce, otherwise we aren’t really writers. Right?

No, that’s not right. There are times when creative people (whether they’re writers, artists, or in any of the artistic fields) need to replenish the well. I’m hoping if he can get past worrying about why he’s not writing, that something will come along that inspires him. Something he can get excited about…  something he’ll want to write about.

I also suggested he might try doing the “Morning Pages.” That’s when you simply write, non-stop, for three pages (preferably when you first get up in the morning) without thinking about content, grammar or spelling. In fact, you’re not supposed to reread what you write or let others read it, and it’s even suggested, after a time, you simply toss, shred, or burn what you’ve written so you aren’t tempted to go back and read it. Although that sounds drastic, the idea is to free yourself from your internal editor. Simply let the words and ideas come out, that by doing so, you will actually stimulate the creative juices and you will, then, be able to be more creative in the writing you do either for your job or for yourself.

I have no idea if my friend will do any of the things I suggested, but I hope he will find the desire to again put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment and I’ll pass your ideas on to him.

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11 Responses to When the Thrill is Gone

  1. kc stone says:

    I think you gave your friend sound advice.
    Added to that, what I have found tremendously useful is reading. When I’m not happy writing, I become the voracious reader I used to be. Oddly enough, this seems to be a way to refill the creative well. Eventually I become frustrated by some of what I am reading and that hits the switch that makes me write again.

  2. Mary Roya says:

    Tough question? What caused the spark to begin with? The burning desire to put that story on paper (in the computer). If he/she can remember that, it might help. Most don’t have the luxury to go find a new muse. But if he/she can I think that a way to bring the spark back.

  3. I would recommend morning pages. Julia Cameron makes a clear case for writer’s block being almost a crime against the universe that calls us to be writers. I was down for six months after launching “Salome’s Conversion.” It seemed such a failure to want the book in print more than I cared about who published it. However the good reviews helped assauge any guilt. Now the book is being used as a Bible study guide. I did reschedule my day (I demanded ten pages a day out of me before any other endeavor.) Now I only write on Thursday and Friday, more actually. But I scheduled a time to force out a new scene and succeeded in producing four pages.

  4. Joe Novara says:

    Who is this guy. I think I would like to meet him.

  5. Diane Burton says:

    I would ditto your advice. Stop writing. As I’ve experienced, there are times when it’s necessary to take a step back–where the harder you try, the harder it is to write, the more pressure you put on yourself, writing isn’t fun.

    I’d forgotten about Morning Pages. Glad for the reminder.

  6. I also think reading might help him find the spark again. Reading an especially well-written story or book always makes me want to start writing again. It also helps to read outside of what you write or even to watch movies. Maybe he needs a week or a month of just doing that and not writing. I hope your friend does find the desire to write again, but like you said, sometimes you need to give yourself permission to not write and to realize there is no failure in that.

  7. You gave your friend some excellent advice, Maris. Reading for pleasure works for me and sometimes, not trying so hard and simply focusing on a totally different type of project will trigger the desire to write again. Good luck to your friend.

  8. Carol Yavruian says:

    I have to agree – I find both reading and Morning Pages help me to be more creative. And actually, the Morning Pages (when I am good about doing them), keep me sane!

    • MarisMaris says:

      Carol, how great to hear from you. I agree with you. I love it when I allow myself the time to sit down and do the Morning Pages, but all too often I let what I think is more important get in the way. Hope all is well with you. I miss our yearly visits.