I’ve been going on about how I’m so fulfilled by this draft I just finished that I’m not inclined to write when the appointed hour rolls around but I think that was a bit of misdirection. I’m in a dry spell. I don’t feel the need to write because my inkwell has (temporarily) run dry.
It’s like when you have the car radio turned down just low enough that you can barely hear it and you’re driving along getting more and more annoyed until you want to scream. And then you realize it’s the radio making you crazy. It’s the same with a dry spell. You sit down at the computer every night and assume the position as if assuming the position will summon the words but nothing comes. At first you make up excuses but eventually you realize where you are.
How is this different from page fright? When you have writer’s block, you desperately want to write or have to write or need to write but nothing comes out. There’s no story there. That’s when you type out, “In the morning the women went down to the water…” and get on with it. But with a dry spell, you’ve actually got words in your head. You have a story to work on. You just don’t feel the need to do it.
There is a definite feeling of being compelled to tell a story when you’re writing. The story itself seems to egg you on. It appears in your dreams. It robs your concentration at work. And when it’s your time to write, it slams you down in your chair and pulls your hands to the keyboard. It also makes you feel guilty when unfortunate disturbances like your birthday and Christmas keep you away.
But in a dry spell the story is just something you think about. It’s something you type at, jotting down the paragraphs like notes to a future self who will someday give a damn. That’s what I’m doing now. I’m typing out the plot without paying any attention to style or wording, just getting the data down so I can replace it with quality work later on.
I don’t know which is worse, the page fright or the dry spell. The page fright is terrifying because you’re worried you may never have the words again, but the dry spell is a more insidious thing. It makes you think you’ll never care again. And this is one of those things that you can’t do if you don’t care an awful lot.
So, in honor of my dry spell I’m going to close with someone else’s words. What follows is my favorite throw away joke from my favorite television show, Community.
Shirley: I’m thinking of signing up for the class on standup comedy.
Annie: Oh, don’t bother. I dropped it right after the section on setups. (Pause) The instructor was sooo old.
Everyone leans in for the punch line but she goes back to reading.