We’ve all been there. The place even non-creative people fall into from time to time: The Funk. The place where things feel sluggish and uninspired. Like a car stuck in neutral. You want to go forward, but your gears seem to be stuck. It drains me of the desire to be creative and I hate that state.
This particular funk started in February. I had just come off of doing a great play and was energized and pumped and full of creative energy during the run, and then, it was gone. No more shows, no more laughter, no more connecting with the audience; it was just me and the cat again three nights a week while the kids were at their dad’s. Not that Bilbo isn’t wonderful company, he’s just not, well, human.
No matter, I would dive back into writing! I had neglected my writing days in order to learn lines in January so it was time to play some serious catch-up. And for a few weeks, that did the trick. New words went down one day, old words edited another. The train was back on track. Or so I thought.
Then, in early April, I started binge-watching a show on Netflix: 13 Reason’s Why. It was angsty and suspenseful. Right up my alley. As soon as the series was over, I ordered the book it was based on and then proceeded to spend the entire weekend reading it.
Reading a book in two days is not normal for me. I may read a chapter or two of a book in a week, but I don’t often sit on my couch and forget to eat when reading. Books like that are few and far in between. Those moments are rare. It was the type of book that I know, even as I was reading it, that I needed to slow down, to savour those moments because I wouldn’t ever be able to read it for the first time again. Slow down, woman!
I couldn’t. Even though I knew how the book ended based on the series, I couldn’t stop reading. The writing pulled me in. The second I was done with the book, however, I knew I wouldn’t be able to write for a few days, maybe even weeks. There would be no point in even trying. My head would still be lingering in that world, digesting how the author laid out the story, how he captured the voice and mood so well. That level of craft can be crippling to another author.
For readers, when they finish a book like this, it’s called a Book-hangover…when a book is so good they don’t want to read another one, or the ones they do read feel lacklustre by comparison. For some authors, (okay, me) the Book-hangover morphs into something pretty dark: self-loathing. (Not that we authors aren’t already experts there.) The struggle to fight away the demons that try to convince you that your work sucks in comparison, that you suck, that the reason your books don’t sell or that you’re alone on a Saturday night with nothing but a cat you are allergic to and a bottle of wine that will never fill you up is all because you have nothing original to offer the world…woah. See? Slippery slope that self-loathing.
Not to fear, however, the funk will pass. It always does. In the meantime, all I can do is open my manuscript each day and try to write, hoping today will be the day that The Muse will return. I can’t be mad at her for not being there. I know she isn’t slacking; she’s busy contemplating, mulling and marinating thoughts from this current funk and turning them into stories for me to write and, like it or not, that takes time.
All I can do is wait for her to be ready.
Danielle Bannister, Author and funk defier