A few years back, I had several big life changes happening at the same time. A long-time friendship ended, there was a serious illness in the family, and I’d had to helm an interstate move of three adults and one cat who did not sign off on any of this. Needless to say, all of the above did a serious number on the ability to create. I have multiple Moleskines filled with random ramblings, trying to make sense of everything, but fiction? Not so much.
Those changes also did a number on my ability to sleep, so there were more than a few times that I said to heck with it, slip out of bed, and plop myself in my recliner, in the dark of pre-dawn, underneath a hand-knit blanket, and plug in my earbuds. I’d kick back in the recliner, eyes closed, and let the music play, Skye kitty nearby, to send love beams my way.
The songs on that playlist didn’t pertain to any one particular novel project. It wasn’t the time for that. What it was time for, was to feel. There were a lot of sad songs on that list, loss songs, and songs that were just…big. Meat Loaf. Mary Chapin Carpenter. Elton John. Snow Patrol. HIM. Others.
Lying in that chair, under the blanket, one thin wire connecting me to the thing that I needed to have pumped into me, reminded me of sitting with my father during his dialysis sessions. By the time the sun came up, I’d have enough to get up and start doing things. In time, I started writing fiction again.
I remember those mornings, sometimes, when I find myself facing a blank page, or looking askance at my to-do list. On those times, I’ve found that it’s usually time for a creative transfusion. This morning, that included watching Bob’s Burgers, in my pajamas, while eating oatmeal, and then meandering a few feet to the left, to the kitchen/dining room table, and mess around with some of the art supplies that had been sitting in their moving boxes for far too long. watercolor, ink and stencils layered onto the paper, guided by instinct. The language part of my brain went on the back burner, my conscious attention divided between the backlog of TV shows I’d been putting off watching, and the images that composed themselves, as overthinking was the farthest thing from my mind.
And then…because there always is an “and then,” because that is how stories work, the tips of my ink-stained fingers tingled and itched to get at the keys. This entry wanted out of my head and onto the page, because after that (see previous comment about the inevitable “and thens”of every story) it would be time to rad Melva’s next scene for Drama King, and, after that, I can work on my own, and tomorrow, N and I get back on board with our mutual butt-kicking, for my historical and her contemporary. I am keeping one eye on library notifications, because I have some classic standalone historical romances on their way to me, to help stoke this historical fire. By which I mean get me back into historical mindset, because A) as much fun as co-writing the contemporaries is, I need some historical transfusion, and B) we are now in October, which means full superpowers should be going into effect, and I want to go at this as strongly as I can. There is also C) the fact that love beams do indeed come across the Rainbow Bridge, and writing between cats is, in fact, different than writing with a physical furry shadow.
There’s also the transfusion of last month’s Connecticut Fiction Fest, this past weekend’s Albany Book Festival (as an attendee, not a participant) and enough pages logged already in my reading tracker to put me two weeks ahead of my goal for October, on the first day of the month. Today, I got a transfusion of cartoons at breakfast, and cop shows at lunch, all the cups of tea I couldn’t have while the cold sore was in town, (totally making up for that now) and the agreement of all family members that now would be a good time to decorate our for-now apartment.
We still plan to find a pet friendly place some months from now. We can spend those months living out of boxes and staring at plain beige walls, or we can have some fun and put our stamp on the place. Expect progress pictures, as we go.
Such is the way a new normal begins. Do what you can, when you can. When it’s a struggle to put out, it’s time to take in, as much as it takes, for as long as it takes. Creative transfusions can come from old favorites, or the most unusual sources. For me, I like to throw it all in there, and see what sticks. Sometimes, the enthusiasm for writing will wane, especially when there are big life changes, even when the desire, or even the need, to write, hasn’t gone anywhere.
Even as the enthusiasm can ebb, it can also flow. Sometimes, that’s at a trickle, and sometimes, after a big enough or effective enough transfusion, crash in like a tidal wave. Usually, it’s somewhere in between. I have a list, in my bullet journal, of things that I know make for good transfusions: Spotify playlists, secret Pinterest boards, favorite movies, books, and TV. Taking the time to set up a Sims world exactly the way I want it, then spend long weekend afternoons, playing through generations. Hauling my beloved antique rocker (I don’t know how old it is, but it’s older than me) out of storage, and setting it up in my corner of the living room. It doesn’t recline, but it rocks, and that’ll do.