The writer perches at the edge of her seat. He taps furiously away at his keyboard. There’s a glass of wine or whiskey on the desk. And Billie Holiday, or something otherwise mournful, plays in the background.
It’s all very romantic. But what these people don’t see is our torture. They can’t grasp our capacity for pain. Nor the phases – the bipolar, schizophrenic – phases that we live through. Each month, each week, each day, or when we’re really lucky, each hour.
It feeds us, mind you…because if our minds were still, our fingers would stop.
And that would suck.
Here are some of the writerly phases I’ve been able to nail down:
- Early Morning Syndrome. This hits on those days when you wake up with the sun. You can’t believe you have the entire day before you to write. You fantasize about the number of items you’ll cross off your list. You quiver at the thought of running out of pen ink! And then. You’ve been futzing around for 4 hours, blinded by all the time you have—and though it’s only 11 am, you’re in a total panic because you’ve wasted the entire morning.
- This is too easy. It does happen. When it all just works, one project to the next and you think, someone is paying me for this? But…it’s so simple and so much fun! How is that possible? Someone recently told me that it all comes down to physics…or maybe it was calculus?
- But first I’ll eat the contents of my refrigerator. Which is why my fridge has very little in it. Still, I’ve been known to eat a tahini, ketchup, pickle and carrot sandwich. Because damn it, I will not start writing until that cold, white box in my kitchen is empty.
- The second wind. Usually it’s around 9pm. You haven’t accomplished much all day, you have to get up early the next morning, you’re about to turn off your computer. When suddenly, from out of absolutely nowhere, you are writing your ass off. You can’t stop. You can’t BE stopped. You have more energy than an eight year old boy.
- Where is everybody? Perhaps eased by the abundance of beeps, bings and gongs that my phone and my computer give me on a minute by minute basis, I still get the feeling sometimes that I’m all alone. And that I don’t want to be. I need to see, be seen, touch, connect. I simply can’t sit in this studio, at my desk, by myself for another second.
- I suck. Alisa Bowman did a phenomenal job writing this one up a few days ago. Because we all climb into that cave and think about how terrible we are. It’s not a good place to be. I’m convinced there are soul-sucking leeches in that hole. The antidote, of course, is a batline to people that will tell you unequivocally that you do not suck. Alisa suggests you keep all of the good emails in a special folder for reading at times like this.
- I rock. The world is my McDonald’s. And I am its Happy Meal. This phase is great—we all need ego to write. But it’s also dangerous—lest we think we are too good for our work and just take, take, take until there is simply nothing left for us.
- Dreaming. I’ve been known to get lost in a daydream for a good hour or so. Always shocked by the clock and befuddled that I’m sitting here at my desk. Really was so deep into it that I was convinced I was somewhere else and lost track of time and place.
- Plugged in. Pure creative output. Nothing but net.
I do not claim to capture every phase in this post—the phases of creativity frown on captivity. They’ll sooner morph into something new than be pinned to a page where they can be sussed out, possibly even bottled and sold. For more than just our sweat and tears, that is.
What did I forget? What are your phases?
Addendum: I usually put in a disclosure that this isn’t just for writers, but all creative types. I was just informed by the loverly Traeger di Pietro (painter extraordinaire) that this is indeed applicable to the painterly fellowship.
Image credit: SivamDesigns