(This post brought to you by The Eastern Shore Tea Company, Red Bull, Diet Coke, and Five Hour Energy Drinks)
Those of you who’ve been with me for a while know that I’m a teacher and that I tend to mark my “new year” by the academic calendar. For some reason, this year I was moved by the changing seasons to start all those resolution-type things in late spring. I think it was the prospect of my second summer off (since writing is starting to pay enough to cover those two months). Whatever it was, I decided that I wasn’t going to start taking better care of myself. I started doing yoga again, started getting massages, started eating better. Then over the summer, I weaned myself off caffeine. Nothing drastic, I still had a soda or an iced tea, or even a hot green or decaf cup, but no more industrial strength brew, three-cup mugs in the morning just so I could open my eyes.
I’d been having trouble sleeping, and I thought it would help. It didn’t. I didn’t make the connection at the time, but my writing brain went off line as well. During August I told myself “You just need to refill the well.” Then I said, “You just need a story you’re excited about.” But despite plenty of ideas, there was nothing but cold dead silence from whatever takes those ideas into workable stories, and worse that same silence from the so noisy imaginary people who yammer in my ear until I get the words down. I hope I never have to live with an atrophied or amputated part, but I think I might know a bit of what that feels like.
Then I got a nice idea, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I was going to tell the story of one of Aaron’s twin brothers from Collision Course. I had the other hero, finally, and an opening scene. Then nothing again.
Where the hell did all my words go?
I missed blog dates. I hated going on Twitter. I didn’t email my friends.
I had motivation. I had desire. I had an open file and hands on the keyboard. But nothing was hooked up in my brain. I tried everything I knew to work unsticking me before. I asked friends for help. I switched writing locations. I switched from keyboard to notebook to notecards. Nothing. And I was still having trouble falling or staying asleep.
I can’t ever remember a time when it was so quiet in my head. I was scared and miserable. I’ve been stuck, I’ve been so busy that life temporarily drowns out the story flow, but never experienced over a month of silence. Not ever in my life. Finally I said, "I’ve got to get something together for critique and I’m going to have a venti macchiato and I’m going to write."
Halfway through those four shots of espresso, like someone flipped a switch, it was back.
I’m not claiming the words came through me like fire or that it was suddenly easy, but the words were there again, praise the muses. After that, the ideas, the voices started rolling—and I picked up a few of my favorite little addiction enablers at the store.
Now the skeptical part of my brain is telling me that’s a nice rationalization to restart a bad habit, but the relief is too great to listen to it. Hey, if oiling those neural pathways with a few grams of a nice legal substance is what it takes, I’m all for it. I’m just glad it came back—and for a cheap-as-addictions-go cost.
Now excuse me. Dylan’s hero wants a word with me.