I’ve been a posting a fair bit of awesome writing news the last little while, so it might surprise you that amid all of that the last month I really wasn’t feeling it creatively. All of January I was getting solid words done on draft 1.5 of Three Coins, mostly thanks to my weekly check-ins with KT Bryski – if you can find someone to regularly report to as a writer, it works wonders, FYI – and forcing myself to write 800 words minimum every weeknight, on the advice of another writer friend of mine. But more often than not (with the exception of the last couple of days), it was a slog getting those words done; I felt like my regular energy and excitement weren’t there, even seeing the fruits of my labor in a variety of ways.
Maybe it’s partly because of semester turnover at work, which is always a bit draining. Maybe it’s because I caught up to where I stopped in Three Coins before going back for early rewrites, so I’m drafting entirely new content, and that’s a little scary. Maybe it’s because of the hundred other things I have buzzing around in my head, courtesy of the universe tossing things in our path. Maybe it was one of those little burnout periods every creative goes through. Whether or not there’s a definite explanation doesn’t really matter, since either way I’ve had to suck it up and deal with it.
One really interesting thing lately is that I’ve hardly been watching any new television or movies. Usually I’m following a few shoes at once, mixing up what I’m watching when, but for a while I haven’t felt the desire to get into anything new (except Critical Role and The X-Files). So I’ve been rewatching my old favorites, like Human Target, Fringe and Castle, almost as though I needed a guaranteed jolt of what I love about storytelling. Ironically Castle helped the most in the last couple of weeks, by reminding me about the kind of writer I want to be. Not the cocky, stupidly rich side of Richard Castle (which is obviously unrealistic) but the side that gets excited about the strange, has a wealth of knowledge from book research, and understands that acting like a kid isn’t a bad thing, since it lets your brain relax.
The other thing that’s been helping me lately is listening or watching live music from some of my favorite artists – the ones who are clearly having a good time performing, even after decades of shows. There’s something magical about watching Eric Clapton at age 70 busting out “Cocaine” or “I Shot the Sheriff,” or the Killers at the Royal Albert Hall, or Elton John and his band live in Hyde Park. You can tell that they’re having an absolute blast, and that’s inspiring as a creative person. Better yet, seeing the way they feed off the audience’s excitement (and vice versa) helps get my own creative energy pumping. Because at the end of the day that’s why I tell stories – not because I’m looking for adoration, but because I want to give people something they enjoy.
Tonight, that little jolt of energy comes from a source that might surprise people who don’t know me very well: Sir Tom Jones. While I grew up on classic rock courtesy of my parents, from my grandparents I developed an appreciation for legends like Elvis Presley and Tom Jones. I’ve always loved the latter’s music, and I keep an eye out for new clips from The Voice UK, so I can see him in action. Watching the clip below from this weekend’s episode is actually what got me to sit down and write this post (and when I’m 77, I hope I’m half as active as Tom):
My point? Everyone has slumps, and I think it’s important to talk about them, and what works when you’re in them. And even in a slump, keep writing. Otherwise, to quote the Eagles (another favorite of mine), you’ll be “worrying ’bout this wasted time.”