Introverts and the Doldrums

This post is a repeat of one in my Writing for Introverts series. (To read them all, see “Blog Categories” in the side bar.) I’m repeating this one (#3) because introversion is on my mind this week. Next week I’m going to the World Science Fiction Convention, an event designed by extroverts to terrorize introverts. So, if you’re going to that con, you won’t want to miss my dandy presentation Lone Star Con for Introverts at 6 p.m. on Friday.

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In the opening installment of my series on Writing 101 for Introverts, I explained what introversion is and is not, and why we don’t need to be ashamed of being a tad more inner directed than people for whom a room full of people holding cocktails is nirvana.  Part 1. Part 2.

This installment’s on doldrums. You know, the garden variety, I-don’t-feel-like-writing this week (and in more severe cases this month and worse.) You don’t have the energy you tell yourself. You are not inspired. Oh really? I think there is often something else at work, namely, those under-the-surface emotions that sabotage our writing. Such as:

  • discouragement about how the last story sold or isn’t selling
  • resentment of the industry which is so vile and unfair plus random
  • (related to above) incredulity and jealousy of how so-in-so is selling (plus his perfect life and that he mixes beautifully at cocktail parties)
  • a shrewd analysis of how your writing sucks
  • embarrassment over the total absence of anything professional to Twitter about
  • fury and sorrow that your agent does not answer your emails
  • and so on, into the depths of (your name here)’s true psychological state

Not a Malady of Just Introverts

Fortunately we are not alone, so we don’t right here have another reason to feel inferior to extroverts. But how does the other side deal with the doldrums? You got it, they go see people. Lots of people. They complain loudly at writer’s gatherings. And you know what, all that braying is not bad (I’m not here to beat up on extroverts. OK, maybe a little left hook, no more.) They are getting rid of it. They are imbibing energy and good will from others. For them, all it takes is “You poor son-of-a-bitch.” (Hey, he Likes me! He’s on my Side! I’m not alone!)

For introverts, seeing people when in the doldrums is excruciating. Any energy we might have scraped together is instantly bled off. We limp home, reaching for the TV remote so we don’t even have to be with ourselves.

If you are an extrovert, you can stop snorting. Naturally, I am exaggerating to drive home my point and write an entertaining blog. Or, um, did you miss that nuance? (OK, sometimes I am just so jealous of the other side that I do beat up a teensy bit. My bad, but my blog.)

The Awful, Ironic, Unpalatable Fix for the Doldrums

Write the next page.

Wait, you don’t have the energy, you said. You’re not even sure you care. But I’ve already told you that energy depletion is not the cause. (It is a symptom.) As to caring, don’t even waste my time. You love storytelling, you love the writing when it spins through you like gluons on the way to creating the universe. Saying you don’t care is a way of defending against the emotions of discouragement, jealousy, anger, etc. (If you want to have therapy to get back to writing, be my guest–but it’s a lot cheaper to sit down and write.)

The thing about the writing doldrums is that they will visit you now and then throughout your writing career. You will be sailing along, and then–vast silence–you are becalmed. So, if you want to be a professional writer, and you are introvert, you must learn that writing will make things better. You don’t need inspiration to write. Writing creates inspiration. Therefore: butt in chair and just do it. Why does writing cure the doldrums? Because:

  • Writing will light a fuse. You remember how it feels: like slap to the side of the head that feels good. (Wow, where did that awesome story bit come from?)
  • Getting pages, even if you consider them inferior, will contribute to a respectable forward progress. Not writing will build to a hideous anxiety that the book is stuck on page 199. Forever.
  • You are conserving what little energy you do have, because you are not frittering away that battery power on cleaning out the basement or on excruciating conversations with friends who will ask you if you are so miserable why don’t you just quit. (Well DUH, if they don’t know the answer to this, why do they even flap their lips?)
  • The muses are a bit snotty and random. You may write drek for say, two whole weeks, and all of a sudden you get a lightning bolt of inspiration. Your hands fly over the keys. Your eyes fill with tears. (“I’m sorry I didn’t believe, I’m sorry I was such an ass, you are a goddess, I bow down . . .” She roles her eyes. “Yeah, whatever. I’m busy. Get on with it.”)

I’m terribly sorry to be the one to tell you to stop resting and start writing. I know it is unfair, unsatisfying, and you really don’t have the energy. My friend, I know. I just got back to writing after a ten day pout and wrote the best sequence of scenes in the history of fantasy-as-I-conceive-it.

It’s the fix, all right.

I’m an introvert, too. We’re all in this together. Now get back to work.

#SFWAauthors

7 Responses

  1. Jan Hawke says:

    Amen sister!

    Doldrums aren’t the same as a block per se, but I’ve always found that writing anything helps (not necessarily what you desperately want to write but can’t), if only with the need to goof off and get some input from somewhere/someone else.

    If that means you get a shred of inspiration then great, but at least you got some intellectual activity under your belt, even if all you did was bitch about something…

  2. Kay says:

    Once a writer is committed to the writing life, I think it’s important to write on the work in progress whether or not you’re blocked or in the doldrums. If we wait for an inspired day to write the next scene, we’ll be working on the novel for years! We can always go back and revise it later. I don’t mean to make light of the crushing blues that can descend on our writing. But I do think that letting it delay work is the wrong approach. Call me compulsive!

  3. Laura says:

    I did some research on writers’ block from the perspective of writers, psychologists, life-coaches and neourscientists.

    Writers’ block is a real condition. Here are some tantalizing bits:
    http://lauravaleri.com/2013/08/21/the-biology-of-writing-or-not-writing-creatively/

  4. Adrian says:

    I have heard this argument at least 20 times since I statred reading writer’s blogs. Its the same old saw, “Don’t feel like writing? Too bad!”, with the same hard and smug tone of a drill sargeant telling you how much better his grandma is at running, jumping, scaling walls and writing dialouge than you.

    Yet it still works, every time. Thanks Kay for the kick in the butt. It really is helpful, in all manner of creativity. Evne when I’m not “inspired” to write grants, It helps to write on them anyway!

  5. Kay says:

    Actually, I’m not experienced enough in journalistic or grant writing to know if one can take inspiration from the act itself. Appears you are saying that pushing through it does help. But I think creative fiction or nonfiction definitely recharges us–eventually. Thanks for chiming in!

  6. Kay says:

    This is a wonderful article, Laura! Thanks so much!

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