Friday, January 22, 2016

The Void



It's late Friday evening as I write this, and by now, you've probably noticed that this is not a flash fiction installment. My apologies for the interruption in routine, and I assure you that our regularly scheduled programming will resume in time for next week's Flash Fiction Friday.

Here's an oddity: the last time I read extensively about writer's block was in the mid-80s. I wasn't even a teenager yet. Since that time, I really haven't given writer's block much thought. What did I learn about writer's block when I studied it as a pre-teen? Mostly that it's a malady best solved by carefully applied self-discipline. I seem to recall that the prevailing theory in whatever it was I was reading (I have no memory of the title or author(s) of this material) was that insecurity and low self-esteem were the primary causes of writer's block. That's probably why I never bothered to read anything else about this topic. I have plenty of human flaws and frailties, but insecurity and low self-esteem, especially in regard to my writing, just aren't really my style.
I've always envisioned writer's block as a kind of wall, or even a gate, that once removed, blown through, or opened, led to...well...to a return to writing. I realized today that I periodically have writer's block and it isn't at all a blockage the way I've always imagined it. Instead, it's like a void. A black hole. A vast vacuum into which my words and inspiration are sucked. It's not that I can't come up with ideas, I have a zillion of those. It's not as though I can't write down words. As you see, I'm doing that right now. Instead, it's as though the magical force in my brain that squirts out stories just goes out for a long walk. Or a holiday. Or a sabbatical. I am what is known as a "pantser". I enjoy a bit of planning when it comes to novels, but my best writing comes to me in dreams and other messages from my subconscious mind. When those sudden bursts of "AHA" dry up, I'm not left with much to work with. It's not like I have a clever outline with all the twists and turns mapped out for me. Oh, my subconscious might have that outline, but it does not share that sort of information with my conscious mind. Where would the fun be in that?
Today, I decided that all of this feels very neurological. It really doesn't feel like a self-discipline problem, and it certainly doesn't feel like a self-esteem problem. It feels like a non-cooperative brain. In fact, prior to even recognizing that I might have an output problem this week, I was aware that I was swimming in the shallow end of the pool called depression. Whoops! That's no good. I have extensive experience with this and a host of cognitive, behavioral, environmental, and supplement strategies that I immediately began to implement, and I'm confident that I'll be out of the pool and drying off within a week. Meanwhile, I did a little internet research and discovered that, nowadays, writer's block is considered a neurological event. Apparently, my limbic system has given my cerebral cortex the boot and dear old lizard brain is running the ship while my fore brain has a lovely time-out. I'm determined to be back to my usual neurological activity soon, however, and promise that there will be a new flash fiction morsel here next week.