Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Dry Heart

Failure to sell your work, and the rejection that accompanies such failure, can eat away at your heart until there’s nothing left but a shell pumping blood but no longer pumping words. A dry heart.

It can happen to you if you’re not careful or vigilant enough, if you’re not aware of the words dwindling or the sentences shrinking or the desire drying up.

It’s a disease, this dry heart. Invisible. Silent. Before you know it, it has stolen your voice, and your pen stops moving across the page, and you can read but the words of others only echo in your ears, never penetrating that space where your own words used to form like new currents in a stream.

It’s like living outside of words, outside the world of words and stories that you used to inhabit. Now you are an outsider looking in.

How words begin to flow again is different for each of us.

Sometimes it’s simply a matter of time and letting the disease of dry heart take its course. It will leave like a drought when the clouds come and drops of rain and words begin to fall, and you can only wait.

For others it’s a refusal to wait; they dig, drill, and search in desperation each day for new sources of water to carry them through the drought.

For some there is no cure. Once dry heart strikes, the heart withers, words die, and the writer is gone, in the same way that grasses and wildflowers dry up and die, never to return.

To keep dry heart at bay, to keep your heart filled with words, you need to fill it with hope and faith.

You need to continue to believe in the possibility of finding stories wherever you might find them—in the aisles of a grocery store, in the waiting room of a car repair shop, on a bus or a beach, in books, in movies, on Facebook and Twitter.

Listening for stories—it’s what can keep your heart alive.

So can writing in a journal, even gibberish, day after day. The simple (or not-so-simple) act of writing can prime the pump so that when you’re ready to begin, your well has remained full, and your words are there, at the tip of your pen, ready to flow onto the page.

To keep dry heart at bay, you need to surround yourself with people who believe in you.

You need to read interviews with other writers to find out how they have combatted dry heart to keep writing.

You need to read.

If you can’t read, you need to watch Netflix, or you need to go to the movies, all for the sake of hearing and seeing stories.

If you can’t watch TV, then you need to sit in the park and listen to nature spin its ongoing story of seasons changing, of life and death, and of returning to life.

Each year we tell ourselves a different story. 

What story will we tell ourselves this year, I wonder, to prompt the words to flow again?


Bobbi Miller said...

Such a thoughtful, insightful discussion. Thank you!

Bruce Black said...

Thanks for the kind words, Bobbi. Isn't it interesting how, even when it may be hard to find words for our own stories, we can still find ways to listen to the stories around us?