No books, no stories

It’s been a very hectic (but very good) summer. I’ve moved across country and established a new household and reactivated many old social connections, all whilst maintaining this blog and being fairly productive as a writer and reading a number of good books.

But I’m also feeling a little burned-out right now. Usually, when I approach the end of the book, I’ll stop reading it and quickly go browsing through my libraries and searching for a new book. But, last night, as I finished reading Anthony Trollope’s Framley Parsonage, I just couldn’t find anything that interested me. I even got a few dozen pages into the second Hunger Games book, when I thought to myself, “What’s the point? I’m just doing this so that I can tell myself I’m reading something.” So when I finished the Trollope novel, I went to bed without a next book, without even a glimmer of a next book in sight. It was frightening, but also a little liberating.

I also don’t have a “next story”. I knew that writing might get a little difficult once my program started, so I’ve been planning to begin revising my last novel, but I’d been hoping to write one last story before Orientation begins (on Monday, August 27th). That is looking less and less likely. Every time I start to think I’ve found a story idea, I rapidly lose interest in it. In truth, this began almost two weeks ago. I powered through my last story by brute force. Now, I’m feeling a little tapped out. It’s been over a week since I’ve been actively “working on something” (as opposed to brainstorming, free-writing, revising, and trying to figure out what to work on).

Obviously, it’s not optimal to experience this kind of idea deficit right before one begins a major writing program, but it’s also not calamitous. I have plenty of stories that can be made ready for the workshop, and I have plenty of writing-related tasks to occupy my time. The only major problem is the fear that the next idea will never come. With each passing day, I am highly tempted to just take ahold of something–anything–and write the shit out of it, just to prove that I can still do it.

But I don’t think I will. I think the important thing is to have faith and to listen to my subconscious and to try to understand what it’s telling me. The problem I’ve been having with most of my story ideas recently is that they didn’t feel important enough. As I put it to myself, they weren’t “the real shit”. I’ve gotten good at writing stories that are charming and interesting, but I know that I need to break through and start to write stories that are innovative and powerful. And although I have no idea how to write a powerful story, I sense that it’s not the kind of thing that happens through revision…there’s a conceptual element to it as well. Some kind of thinking needs to happen, and I’m doing that thinking right now.

For instance, I think that perhaps my inability to become interested in any books last night was a message (from myself) that no novel was really going to be able to help me out of my current predicament. This morning I woke up without a book, but I shortly started reading the back issues of Wired magazine that’ve accumulated on my iPad. That was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend the day and it also got a few story ideas bouncing around in my head.

Anyways, we’ll see. Right now, I’m feeling surprisingly serene about the whole state of affairs.