Every once in a while (and thankfully, it doesn’t happen often), I start feeling a little like a hamster in a cage– running forward as fast as I can, but not going anywhere. The last few weeks, I’ve been in kind of a slump; not just about writing, but the whole life’s purpose sort of cosmic mis-alignment deal. I’ve got an end-of-the-decade birthday coming up, my dearest old dog has recently become distinctly older and more dear, and I just passed another major milestone, my 5-year anniversary of writing full time.
My malaise has pretty much put the brakes on my usual writing productivity, something I haven’t had much problem with in the past. After an entire week went by without writing a single word, I started to try to figure out the problem. What’s changed in my life?
I finally figured it out; I’ve forgotten to feed the muse.
Until a few weeks ago, my pre-writing morning ritual was to have my coffee while I read the local newspaper, do the crossword and sudoku puzzles, and then read a chapter in the current writing book I was reading. Then I’d walk the dogs and go up to the office and start writing.
But I cancelled my home delivery of the newspaper because they couldn’t seem to deliver it on time, and the format changed to digital (not possible to do the crossword unless I print it hard copy). Since I wasn’t reading the paper any more, I also stopped reading writing books, and just walked the dogs.
But the thing is, as small a ritual as it might have been, the newspaper and those writing books were feeding my muse. The newspaper always brings interesting stories– real world shit (for good or bad) that gets me thinking about characters, places, and conflict. And those writing books. Wow. They feed my writerly soul. I just devoured (for the 4th time) Ray Bradbury’s ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING and I feel reborn. Last night, it was Steven Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART. And yesterday morning, I watched Dean Wesley Smith’s video lecture series, HEINLEIN’S RULES.
Aaah. I feel better. Re-fueled.
Life is what it is. You work hard. You get old. Those are the rules.
But if you’re a writer, you’ve got other rules, too. And one of them is to be sure and feed the muse.