The Outage is almost over, and it’s been a hell of a month. Between insane work hours and class, I haven’t had much spare time. I spent most of my days off cleaning, shopping and doing laundry. Worse, the stress was taking a toll on my writing. Instead of churning out 5 or 10 pages a night, I was lucky if I wrote 5 or 10 words. Even the quality of my writing suffered, and try as I might, I couldn’t make it better. Frustrated by my lack of skill, I usually wound up deleting the few precious words over which I had spent the last few hours sweating.
When it came down to it, I just didn’t want to write. It wasn’t fun anymore.
Then something happened that changed everything. A massive snowstorm swept over New England, dropping up to 24 inches of snow in one night. The drive into work usually takes about 40 minutes, 35 if there aren’t any cops around. That night, it took three and a half hours – one of which was spent waiting while emergency crews cleared away downed trees, power lines, and cars in various states of distress – and I didn’t even make it to work. Instead, I found myself stranded at a bed and breakfast roughly ten miles away.
Here’s a picture taken the next morning:
After the roads were clear, I drove home only to find that I had no electricity. That meant no laundry, no classes, and no writing. After a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I got into a pair of my fuzziest flannel pajamas, jumped into bed and started reading. Soon, I was lost in a Discworld novel, not caring that I was out of milk or that my closet looked as though it belonged on an episode of “Hoarders”. I didn’t think about all the things I should have been doing. I just read.
When the power came back on a few hours later, I kept on reading, only stopping for a hot shower and a fresh pair of pjs. As soon as I had finished Sir Pratchett’s book, I reached for another favorite by Neil Gaiman. That snow day was one of the best I’ve had in a long time.
Needless to say, my shopping and laundry never did get done, and my house remained a mess. What did happen was my passion for writing came back. I felt renewed. I plopped down in front of my computer and wrote for the next six hours. I’d forgotten what it felt like to create entire worlds and fill them with flawed, interesting people. Reading books by people who have mastered the craft brought it all back. All I could think was, “I want to do that too.”
The fact that I will probably never be as good a writer as Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman or John Shirley or Patrick Rothfuss or hundreds of others doesn’t matter. What matters is that writers like them inspire people like me to create and dream. Their words have seen me through poverty, illness and heartbreak. What about you? What do you turn to when your passion for writing, for life, diminishes? Movies? Music? Books? Poetry? Who is your go-to muse?
Who or what you turn to isn’t important. The next time you feel blocked: you’re out of ideas or the words just won’t come, step away from the computer and visit with your muse. If you’re anything like me, you’ll come away with a renewed sense of purpose and awe that’s all consuming.
Just don’t wait for a snow day to do it.