Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Green Zone of Write-ability

I've never been one to believe in the need for inspiration in regards to the ability to create art. Perhaps it comes from my somewhat tempestous relationship with my muse, aptly named Cecelia. Perhaps it comes from my father, fiercely and proudly and wonderfully blue-collar, who taught me that you work whether or not you feel like it, and whether or not you enjoy it. Perhaps it is the fact writing, for me, is neither a hobby nor a part-time gig, but one of the very real ways that I feed my children. Or perhaps it is some combination of the three.

So, I write. I write whether or not I feel inspired, and whether or not I still like the story. I write what I will enjoy and what I think will sell. I write when the seed has just sprung and all is shiny and new and I write when the bloom is well off of the rose and it feels less like art and more like work.
Except. .. lately I can't. It's not for lack of trying. It's not for a lack of stories in my queue waiting to be told. It isn't even, really for lack of time. I just sit with my notebook or my Alphasmart or my computer and I say I'm going to write and I get my hands in the right position and nothing happens. Nothing. At. All. Ernest Hemingway said once that writing wasn't hard, you just sat at your typewriter and bled. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I've been bleeding out in too many other places. But the nothing has gotten frustrating in the extreme. In examining it, and talking to others, I've come to believe in the "green zone of write-ability."

In my mind, it's like an gauge on a control panel. To one side, in the red zone, is not enough stimulation. Not enough "anguish," let's say. "Oh piffle," you respond, "that trope about poets needing pain has been done to death." Maybe it has, but the very real link between artists and slightly less-than optimal mental health has been shown again and again. To read more, look here and here. Also, and if any of the people I'm lucky enough to work with read this, please hear what I mean and not what I say, I've known enough artists and authors to say that, empirically, I've found this to be true. Creativity, artistry, requires a bit of instability to create a fertile field in which it can grow. It feeds us, somehow, allows us to see more and feel more and then use our talent to show it all to the world. Like Aladdin's carpet, if carpet occasionally crashed and burned leaving Aladdin and his lady-love all broken and burned on the ground.

On the other side of the green zone is "too much anguish." When our demons become external instead of internal, we go into full survival mode. Real-world problems rarely make good stories, not as raw and simultaneously mundane as they are. I've been pondering the thought that real-world romance doesn't either, but that's a post for another day. I can talk about how, when Charlotte's brain was glitching, she shoved Aidian away and the pain they both felt. That's big enough. Epic enough. It doesn't make a good story to talk about how my ex-husband is everywhere. His belongings mixed in with mine, his phrases coming out of my mouth, memories of him in nearly every city, his facial expressions on my son's face. He is everywhere and while sometimes I'm pragmatic enough and able to compartmentalize enough to take the good and leave the bad, other times I think I'm going to go insane. I don't know how to live in a world that he isn't in, when he is literally everywhere. That doesn't make a good story or, if it does, I'm not detached enough right now to figure out how. Maybe someday. The fact that I'm afraid that my income won't match my needs and that any job I can get (because I forgo continuing education and an out-of-the-home job because that was our agreement and I didn't ever expect to find myself here and. .. and. . but I digress) would barely cover childcare doesn't make a good story. But these are the things taking over my mind right now.

I'm hoping that soon I make my way back into the green zone. Because I need to write. For practical reasons, and because, as a writer, it's more than what I do. It's part of who I am.

*Photo credits to Disney and Gary Larsen

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