I’ve always gone through phases in my writing: times when I’m incredibly prolific and can see my abilities growing rapidly, and times when nothing’s doing upstairs. The bad times can last from one to several years, but in the past I’ve been able to wait it out and do other things in the mean time, like work a full-time job.
But right now, after two years of prolific writing and growth, I’m back in a bad period, where I’m blocked and when I do have ideas I fumble them into clunking messes. And while I’d usually wait it out, I’m racking up some serious loans right now in this graduate program; I really can’t afford to waste it on barren time, no matter how natural it might be for me. I finally decided to talk to my workshop teacher about it and to ask how to get past it.
This is the first time I’ve gone to this woman with anything, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. But she gave me her full attention and sympathy, stressing how much she liked the writing she’s seen from me so far. She said this kind of hump is normal for the second year of the MFA program; everyone gets burnt out on workshop and comes to the point where they can’t shut the voices out. She asked if I wanted to push my deadline back, and I thanked her but said it wouldn’t help, I really just needed to push past it and make an awful story on deadline to prove to myself that I can write even when I think I can’t. But she said I should come talk to her and we would figure out ways to make the writing joyous again.
And you know what? I met my deadline. I wrote an awful story. And I realized that if I’m not attached to perfection on the first draft, that gives me a lot more flexibility about making changes on the second draft, something that’s usually hard for me.
So, with my next creative deadline more than a month in the future, I’m trying to get back to playing and figuring out what I actually want to write instead of trudging through what I ought to be writing. And I’ll see if I can’t make it joyous again.