The Writer’s Life of Insanity

I received the kindest text from a dear friend the other day. One of those texts that you wish you could frame and hang on a wall to read over and over again.

“I’ve been meaning to tell you for MONTHS how proud I am of you and your awesome book-ness and being an Author. Capital A, Author. Like Emily Dickinson, or Charlotte Bronte, or Mary Wollenstonecraft. Minus the crippling insanity, of course. Or maybe with a touch of insanity…it’s all good.”

This text came through at a moment of true insanity, of which I will spare you all the details. I’ll just say that it involved a toddler, an exposed diaper, and flinging excrement.

If that doesn’t define insanity, then…


That well-timed text brought encouragement in more ways than one. Besides simply making me smile after a harrowing mothering experience, it also boosted my confidence at a time when I feel like I’m wavering under the strain of this writerly life.

No one tells you that after you finish a book, all the words flee from your brain for a time. Since I turned my second manuscript in to the publisher in September, I’ve felt completely wordless. Everything I type feels silly, boring, and stale. I’m just out of words.

After speaking with a number of writer friends, however, I’ve come to the realization that this is totally normal. I’m not alone in my word fatigue – it’s a real thing.

I’ve wondered in the last few months what it must have been like to be an author back in the days before social media dictated the industry. Writers were always a bit mysterious back then, weren’t they?

By nature, most writers are introverted and reclusive, so the anonymity of writing works to their benefit. Only nowadays, one can  no longer be reclusive as a writer, and even the introverted has to push herself beyond the boundaries of comfort and engage with the masses.

Social media demands that writers stay out there, constantly reminding the people that they can write. There’s no time for any of us to become insane because we can’t hide behind the walls of our cabins in the woods long enough to give in to insanity.

Okay, so most writers don’t have cabins in the woods. Except for maybe Stephen King, but he’s always been a touch insane, so he doesn’t count.

In this digital age, with an emphasis on “platform building”, however, one can feel quite insane in her efforts to stay current and fresh, and to keep writing. So what is to be done? Here are a three quick tips:

1.) Simply refuse to give in

I decided some time ago, after spending several years making myself blog every day even when I had nothing to say, that I wouldn’t write unless it was authentic. At least not publicly.

Behind the scenes, I do write most every day. But writing for public consumption has changed for me. Pushing content out into the world just so people remember me as a writer isn’t really to my benefit, especially if I end up pushing bad writing out.

I’d rather keep it locked up, and retreat into my metaphorical cabin in the woods, than shoot meaningless words out into an already oversaturated market.

2.) Give yourself some space to breath

Writing is an intense practice. It demands all you have mentally, and sometimes physically. It’s emotionally draining, sending you up and down a roller coaster of euphoria and despair as you try to finish your project. Sometimes, you just need to take a break and breath a little.

And you need to know that’s okay.

3.) You don’t suck

I’ve watched this (poor quality) clip from the show Mike and Molly several times, and I cannot stop laughing, because there’s so much truth behind the humor.

What you do, writer, is hard. You don’t suck, and neither does your writing. You’re just wrestling with words, and it’s an esoteric battle that you’re forced to fight in front of the world. So keep swinging, and cut yourself some slack. Don’t set the manuscript on fire just yet.

If the words aren’t flowing, it’s okay. They’ll come again. New stories will flood your mind. A new message will begin to take shape again when you allow yourself a little time to escape.

There’s a reason most writers are reclusive. It’s easier to write in the silence. But there’s also a reason that writers of old were known to be insane – all that alone time fighting battles with words, and riding the emotional roller coaster in seclusion, is bound to make you a tiny bit crazy.

But then so are children, so the truth is I’m probably destined to end up going insane at some point, no matter what.



As I sit here at the computer, my fingers hovered over the keys, I feel the weight of the silence pushing me from all sides. In a house full of children, silence is golden, right? Maybe. Or maybe not.

Those golden moments are precious, and I soak them up. But in the soaking, I want also to be productive. I’ve found that I better serve my family in the bustle. Cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, straightening up rooms here and there – all of these tasks are more enjoyable to me as I float them in with the every day noise.

But the silence? I want to bottle it up.

I long to use these whispered minutes of my day to create, to feed the writerly part of my soul. And yet recently, when the quiet comes I find myself paralyzed, all the words bottling up instead of spilling out.

It feels forced right now. I’m pushing out the stories because I need to, and yes I want to, but the inspiration is lacking. I watch the clock tick away the silence, and I know the noise is coming back, and I want to make my fingers dance so that I can capture the words before they thunder through me.

But there is no thunder, and that is the problem.

Some call this writer’s block, and maybe it’s a touch of what I have. But more than that, it’s a paralysis of creative power. Because I’m so hell bent on writing words that matter, stories that resonate, characters that sing, and blog posts that people want to read that I’ve stripped myself of all inspiration.

And so I stare at a blank screen and will the words to come. The good words. Meaningful words that people could share. Instead, my eyes get tired, and I shut it down and stare into the silence until a baby’s cry slices through it.

I don’t quite know anymore how to write a book that will sell. I can’t figure out what publishers want, and I scratch ideas onto a pad of paper, then scribble through them because they sound contrived. Nothing is fresh, but rather my muddled mind screams IT’S ALL BEEN WRITTEN!

It’s true. The publishing industry acknowledges that “there’s nothing new under the sun,” and so we writers simply try to give a new spin on an old tale.

And the blogging. Oh, the blogging. So many words already written, and so many of them are good. They’re really, really good. I read the words and I wonder what else there is to say. So my fingers keep hovering.


But then there’s a little spark. Yesterday I passed a man on the side of the road. I pass him frequently, because he’s always in the same place. Sloan sat beside me and pointed him out. “I wonder why he’s always there,” he said. “What’s his story? He’s always standing in that same spot with his bicycle, just watching the cars go by.”

Just like that, a character was born, and my imagination felt a jolt. It was a small buzz, the kind that zaps you for a moment, then immediately stops. But it was enough to make my heart flutter, because it means there are still stories in there.

And in the fluttering, I remember that this time three years ago I was preparing to board a plane to Tanzania where I would tell, perhaps, some of the most meaningful stories of my career. I typed words that mattered, and I know that there are still stories waiting to be told.

Maybe I just need to be patient.

So I’ll keep hovering in the silence, waiting for the inspiration. And sometimes I’ll force the words, because deadlines dictate that I do so, but I’ll also keep watching in the noisy moments. There are words that want to be written. It’s just a matter of waiting.

So, writer friends, tell me: Do you ever feel a similar paralysis? How do you move past that feeling so that you can catch the waiting words?

A Prayer for a Day when the Words Won’t Come

Character quote


I’ve been sitting at my computer for an hour, willing the words to come. I feel dry today, a bit discouraged, and frustrated that I cannot find the right words to convey the thoughts in my head.

Then I decided to quit trying to force something that simply wasn’t there. Sometimes it’s better to just be quiet anyway, isn’t it?

I’m praying for those of you who, like me, have walked through the fire of trials recently, and who simply need to take some time to be quiet. In your quiet, may your soul be strengthened, your vision cleared, and your ambition for the next step inspired.

This is my Wednesday prayer for you.

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