Sunday, August 10, 2014

Stuck in the Muck

It happens when you least expect it.

You take a turn down a road that looks promising and before you realize what’s happening the tires sink into the muck and you can’t back out.

Or you are swimming in clear water and the next thing you know there are weeds tangled around your arms and legs and you are sinking into the mud.

Your brain is stuck, your pen is frozen.

Words have vanished; they simply won’t come.

No matter how hard you push or pull or plead, the words will not appear. 

You are stuck in the muck.

It’s where I’ve floundered for the past few days.

Stuck in the muck, going nowhere. 

You may be wondering how in the world I got stuck in the muck.

I could say that I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going, but that isn’t true. 

I could say that I wasn’t writing what I felt passionate about, but that isn’t true either.

I got stuck because I received conflicting advice about a work-in-progress

And the conflicting advice stopped me in my tracks.

I ended up questioning the worth of my story.

And questioning the worth of my story led to questioning my own worth as a writer.

And once I started questioning my worth as a writer, words froze. They dried up and disappeared.

Getting stuck in the muck, I discovered, is more than just having words disappear. 

It’s having your confidence as a writer disappear, too. 

Your desire to write anything is gone, and you fear yet more criticism and advice.

Whatever compels you to write shrivels up and hides, and no amount of pleading will bring it out of its shell.

Some writers remain stuck in the muck for days and weeks and months.

Some remain stuck for years listening to well-meaning voices telling them what they should or shouldn’t write.

Luckily, though, I have friends who have faith in my ability. 

They were kind enough to remind me of that ability and, in so doing, helped me find my way out of the muck.

Their words of faith helped me regain my footing so that I could return to solid ground, to a place where I could hear my own voice again.

I could trust my intuition, I could follow it again without trying to second-guess myself, without looking back over my shoulder.

There is always the possibility, of course, that I can find myself stuck in the muck again. 

Any of us can get stuck in the muck. It's one of the dangers of writing.

But if we can take a long view of our work, we may be able to see that getting stuck in the muck is simply part of the larger process of writing and finding our way.


Pat McDermott said...

"Stuck in the muck" comes with the writing territory for sure. If we are aware of this, we might see the muck as a blessing in disguise, a chance to recharge, catch up on reading and other activities that will tow us out of the muck, refreshed and ready to move on. Best to you and your voice, Bruce.

Bruce Black said...

Thanks, Pat. It's hearing an encouraging voice that I find most helpful in getting out of the muck.

Dianne Ochiltree said...

“If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.“- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anyone with the guts to be a writer is bound to be stuck in the muck, and to sometimes momentarily lose confidence. Rest assured that the universe is WITH you and wants what you to communicate with others via your WIP. Get back up on the horse with confidence ASAP and ride off into the sunset with your wonderful, wise and wild words!
Namaste, Dianne

Bruce Black said...

Love the Emerson quote and the feeling of riding (writing!) a wave. Thanks, Dianne, for sharing your wisdom about the process.

Lynne Buchanan said...

Glad you are finding your way out of the muck. Though finding readers is important, it takes diligence and discernment not to start seeing our own writing solely through their eyes and losing our perceptions of what our creativity is all about, its worth, and our worth as human beings. Everyone has a creative voice worthy of being expressed. This is Pat Schneider's philosophy behind the Amherst Writer's Method.

Your voice is so wonderful, Bruce, in part because you are such an authentic person. It shines through all your writing and inspired me and no doubt countless others to find my voice and examine my life with more clarity. I put down many of my own blocks after meeting you and I encourage you to put down what doesn't serve you as well. Writing is evolutionary and your voice is one of the best I've read about the creative process. Keep writing. I'll be here reading...

Bruce Black said...

"Everyone has a creative voice worthy of being expressed." Pat Schneider's work is inspiring, and this quote is an example of why her Amherst Writer's Method is so successful. Thanks for sharing it, and for sharing your own inspiring work on your blog, Lynne. I'm so glad you return to wordswimmer for ways to understand the creative process. Looking forward to sharing more thoughts with you in the weeks ahead.