I sound like an angst-ridden teenager, I know, but there is good reason for it. Recently, whilst looking over some old pieces of my writing, I was shocked to find the stuff I was churning out six or so months ago was much better than what I was producing now.
It was very unsettling. And, considering the small hell the last six months of my life have been, even a tiny bit infuriating. It’s almost as if the words I wrote in those six months before—and in those six months I have molted and shed layers of my old self as wildly as any snake—were written by someone wiser, more talented, who allowed their imagination free reign and gloried in the work for its own sake. Someone who didn’t think when they wrote, and simply let the words settle onto the page naturally, like fallen snow. Someone who wasn’t me, and who I wouldn’t be able to reclaim, absorb back into myself, ever again.
I’m trying too hard. I’m not sure if every artist encounters such a block in their life, but I see very clearly that this is the crux of the problem. In between moving houses and struggling with mental illness, I grew desperate at all the time I was losing, and to compensate for this, banged away at the Art like I some smith in a forge behind on orders until I was blackened and sweating and panting. Only I don’t think that is how Art works. It has to come from love, a place of fun and delight, for it to be anything worth reading. Or at least not from a place of hatred, despair, desperation and sheer doggedness.
At least from my recent perusal I know I was doing something right six months ago, as the pieces I wrote, while not of publishable quality, actually possessed a few gleams and glitters of potential, whereas everything I am writing now would need several more rewrites before they become anything better than printed toilet paper.
Heck, even the characters were more realistic and believable—even though I was not actually trying to make them so. Now, despite analyzing characters from the inside out before putting pencil to paper, they still come out stiff as wooden dolls.
You can’t imagine how despairing this realisation is. I honestly don’t know how to return to a place of “unthinking”, when I just let the words flow out as they pleased. Sure, I can do that in a blog post, but that’s because it’s just a blog post, a place where I can relax and spill my mind, not an actual fictional work requiring actual concentration with actual stakes at hand. I don’t know how to transplant the relaxation I feel when writing blog posts, or writing pieces six months ago, to what I am scribbling away at these days. It’s a conundrum.
Oh, you can’t imagine how—it’s like being someone who sings for their bread and butter waking up and finding they have lost their voice. Forever. A bird unable to fly; a pirate confined to a prison on land, forced to gaze at the endless blue sea between the black bars of her high, prison cell window. Alright, perhaps I am being a little dramatic, maybe even a little whiny, but I can’t help it, it’s just very, very frustrating to know that when it comes to writing, sometimes, the harder and more furiously you work to make up for lost time, the worse the end product ends up being. In any other field, you are rewarded for working hard, doggedly—but when it comes to writing, some measure of relaxation is required for any good, creative work to be made. And as someone who is high-strung at the best of times, especially with the move this year, the changes in my home situation, it’s very difficult to relax. I wonder if that’s why people are less creative these days, because we’re all so anxious and focused on surviving in a capitalist society to even bother with obsolete concepts like joy and wonder and delight.
Fingers crossed that this is merely a natural progression in the life of any writer, and that things sometimes need to take a turn for the worse before they can get better. I really have no idea as to how I am going to “unthink” my way out of this, to return myself to a place where writing was done purely for the joy of it, without any pressures or anxieties involved. The more I live, the more I am aware of how very dream-like life is, the way the days seem to blur into one another, memory the only marker of passing time. From the earliest reaches of my memory up until this present moment, my entire life so far seems to have transpired in less than a blink of an eye.
Taken in this context, art, then, merely serves the purpose of making the dream a little more enjoyable, which, if you think about, isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t an ignoble pursuit to devote one’s life to. I just wish I knew how all the other creators and filmmakers and writers and artists working today and throughout history manage to relax enough to create despite being naturally more predisposed to depression and thinking about death and the meaning of life. Then again, many ended up taking their own lives, boggled by the existential emptiness of existence, so perhaps they’re not the best role models to turn to. Life truly is a series of silent sighs, expelled deep inside our souls.