One problem that every single writer who has ever lived (or ever will live) has come across is the problem of writer’s block – a period of time where inspiration decides to leave us in the dry, cold, colorless dust. It’s an incredibly frustrating feeling: wanting to write, knowing you should be writing because you haven’t for far too long, but unable to conceive of a worthy topic or just unable to put anything you think and feel into the right words. It’s like feeling out of sorts. Nothing is right or normal or the way it should be, and you feel unsettled and uncomfortable in your own skin until the feeling goes away, or – for writers (and other artists) – until inspiration returns. Which usually happens in long-anticipated floods of emotion and epiphany and color.
But how does this ebb and flow of inspiration work? What makes it flutter away on disdainful wings like the spiteful Muses of old, and what makes it return in such productive floods and overwhelming relief? (I think the Muses had/have Bi-Polar Disorder. It would explain a LOT.)
Some writers turn to alcohol and/or drugs to prolong (or induce) their surges of inspiration. Others feed off the emotional roller-coasters that dominate their lives – and sometimes those in the lives of others, too. Sometimes it’s a combination of both those things that provides the impetus for new pieces to be created.
Not long ago, I wrote a journal entry about my current (at the time) state of mind and related it to the descriptions of how other writers get their artificially-induced periods of inspiration, and I think it does a pretty good job of describing my position on the issue of inspiration and how it comes to a writer. Following is a section taken from that journal entry:
“I assure you, I am NOT saying that I’m “under the influence” right now, but I think I can begin to understand why [the writers doing drugs] did that… for the last few days now, I’ve been hovering in this state of mind where it’s as if I’m in some sort of detached unreality. It’s like I’m still living my life, but I’m also observing it from a perspective that lets me see more – perceive more – than my normal outlook would usually allow me. It’s giving me so much inspiration that I’m hardly finishing the first draft of one poem before the words of the next get shoved through my mind and out my fingers…
I am not a sadist or a masochist, nor am I the type to think of the glass as either half empty or half full (actually, I tend to really dislike that metaphor), but the pain that I’m going through has been a blessing as well as a curse. I won’t be sorry when it’s gone, but I also won’t be sorry that I went through it. Make of that what you will, but I can understand why those writers might have tried to prolong the time they were in the state of inspiration.
Nothing good (usually) comes of writing without inspiration, so they tried to figure out how to bring it on at will. Granted, it was very often through using illegal substances or being irresponsible drinkers, but you see my point, right? I tend to not call myself an optimist or a pessimist because there is truth in both of those labels for me, but I like what’s coming out of my pen right now. It’s a slightly new style than my norm, but I’m letting it take me where it will, and I’m just fine with going along for the ride…
As long as the ride ends happily. If not, then I’d be ok with it continuing for a while longer…”
My point in sharing this excerpt is that life gives us every reason we need to write. It provides too many topics for us to ever explore thoroughly enough, and its ups and downs leave no time – or reason – to use anything else to augment the flow of that vital inspiration.