Judgment and Change

There is a man that comes into my gym on a regular basis, and I enjoy judging him.

To those who don’t know me personally, I’m a bit of a Meat Head. I lift often and heavy, and enjoy imagining I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger as I smash and growl my way through my deeply sweaty workout. You can deduce, by the fact that I don’t show people pictures of myself with my shirt off, that I do not, in fact, look like Arnold, but this is one of my favorite lies to tell myself, among many others.

Anyway, there is a man who often comes into my gym; at least as often as me, because I see him every time I’m in there. Each time he comes he does the exact same thing: Shrugs and Bicep Curls. Endless sets of the bloody things. His workout, which is already silly and ineffective, has not changed in the last year, and so his body does not change. He does not grow. He accomplishes nothing.

And I, as I look at myself in the mirror, checking carefully to see if anyone else is around to catch me in my self-adoration, enjoy judging his lack of growth. I shake my head as I think poorly of his routine and roll about in my free-floating feeling of supremacy, much like a pig rolling in its own shit.

This feeling was shattered several days ago, however, when I realized that, much like my bicep curling friend, I was getting nowhere. I walked past my office on my way to the couch – that’s right, I didn’t even sit down at my desk and stare at the cruelly blinking cursor, I just glanced at the bastard as I walked by – and I recognized that my writing life had stalled. I was not growing. I was accomplishing nothing.

People in glass houses shouldn’t take their shirts off and pose in the mirror…or something.

November was a dismal, disappointing, ridiculous month for me. Freshly armed with a bucket-full of new knowledge from the Surrey Writer’s Conference (www.siwc.ca), I approached November with a heap of swagger, intending to take on NaNoWriMo and kick its ass. Instead of kicking anything, I wrote three thousand words in a story I didn’t particularly like, then spent a significant period of time picking my nose and flexing at myself in the mirror. A couple of times I wrote blog posts, talking about how I’d found some inspiration and I was back on the track to awesomeness, only to find myself once again examining the contents of my nasal cavity while I watched You-Tube videos of CT Fletcher and thought about making tacos for dinner. November, largely, was a wasted month, and I feel like the momentum I gained from SiWC was pissed up against the wall like a belly-full of beer after closing time at the pub.

Once I had some self-realization – and put my shirt back on – I thought about why it was that I was doing nothing. Why had all my momentum dried up? I wrote a blog post a couple weeks ago about Making an Impact with your writing, and doing absolutely nothing makes even less of an impact than something that sucks. So what should I be doing?

In the gym, when your progress has stalled, you have to make a change; change your routine, your diet, your schedule, anything. You have to change things up and keep your body guessing so that it responds to the stimulus and is forced to grow.

Perhaps, I thought as I slunk back into my office and sat down at the computer that I’d so often neglected in recent weeks, that your writing muscles are the same as your gym muscles: you have to change things to make them grow.

With these thoughts in mind I’ve been doing some different things. None of them in itself is Earth moving, but I hope that several small shifts will equal one medium sized step, and be just enough to get me going again.

I’ve started reading a book that I wouldn’t normally give much attention to: JK Rowling’s “A Casual Vacancy”. There is no magic, no swords, no hard-bitten detective who pistol-whips people, nothing that would generally catch my attention. It was a certainly a departure from the established norm for Rowling, so perhaps reading it will affect some kind of change on me.

After a good piece of tutelage from Jack Whyte, I’ve started drinking scotch (single malt). I’ve never had much of a taste for it before, but people who drink scotch consistently always swear by it and insist it tastes wonderful. I’ve not gotten to that point yet, but the building of my palette feels like a progression, and right now any kind of progress is good.

I’ve also set aside the story I was working on, that I felt so frustrated by. It is another urban fantasty/horror, based in policing, which is exactly the kind of story I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. And because it’s so similar, perhaps its familiarity is killing my progress. Instead I started re-reading/editing a partially completed piece that I worked on a number of months ago. I have no idea why I abandoned it then, because when I look back on it I find that some of it was actually good and it is certainly a line worth pursuing. I can’t say that I’ve got any real work done on it yet, because I’ve not finished the read-through and put any new copy down, but I think I might get there.

Another thing I’ve decided, as I sit here writing this, is that there’ll be no new blog posts until the New Year. I’m relatively certain the dozen or so people who actually read my blog can probably get by without my foolish rants for the next four weeks, so I’m going to turn my energy away from here for now and try to get some new words down. Hopefully when I return I’ll have some story done, and perhaps something intelligent to say.

There are a lot of reasons why we might get stalled in our writing, or anywhere else in our lives. It happens to everyone. The important thing, I think, is to realize that you are stalled, and then do something about it. I’ve got some things going to affect my own change, and plans for a few more. I hope they work.

At any rate, I’ll let you know how it goes after the New Year hits.

Merry Christmas (Happy Yuletide), and as always, thanks for reading.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Judgment and Change

  1. Deborah Small

    Tyner…

    Sometimes, what you think is a stall, or lull in progress is actually a rest period prior to huge growth. It’s the same in all growth, whether writing, transitioning from crawling to walking, from 5’6 to 6’1 over a summer…prior to the Enormous Change, we slow, sleep more, eat more, are more easily irritated and frustrated; it’s normal. We need the rest/irritation to infuse/motivate us to the next level. I’ve gone through what you’re experiencing…stopped writing for months/years at different times, but in the interim did a lot of reading. When I found my groove again, it was with different knowledge, improved skills, and a realization that I could avoid the computer, but I could not stop being a writer. It was in me whether I let it out or not. When not writing hurt more than avoiding it, I went back, hauled out all the rejections and reread them; reread the critiques, looked for what I could work on, tried to “see” what the agents/editors/friends/readers tried to show me, and dove back in. It’s a process. Sometimes you need a break to grow. Patience. It will come. The words, the story, the drive…they’re there, under the surface, waiting to burst through. When you’re ready. Until the New Year. Stay safe. And Happy Holidays.

  2. I think Deb made some really good points–you may be on the cusp of a big leap and not know it.

    I’ve experienced periods of no motivation, no energy, no writing. I think we all go through it. I wish I had magic words to fix this, but what I can tell you is that beating myself up over _not_ working was not as helpful as you might think. Maybe you’ve fallen into a negative feedback loop that’s keeping you down?

    I hope you have a great holiday season!

  3. Vicki B

    My Tyner, you do have a way with words. Let me start by saying, as have other folks here, that you are not alone. Several of us that attended SiWC starting having a check in on Sundays, we aren’t turning out reams of material either. Life happens and sometimes you have to hibernate for a while to come out raring to go again.
    I’ve been lucky enough to read one of your ms, sure it needs some work, but after reading what you wrote in Surrey for the contest, (congratulations again for that well deserved win!), I know that if you put that emotion into the story that I read, that you’ll have grown and flexed your talent as a writer.
    As for the whisky, some tastes like ant poison to me, while others are, oh my, so delightful! Personal tastes vary so much, some swear by adding a splash of water, some use ice, personally, I like it without any of that. Find some other scotch drinkers, get together and do a whisky tasting with each of you bringing a bottle. That is how I discovered Glenmorangie (aged in sherry casks) and Abelur. Hmmmm, maybe Quinn can try this with his squad after work. *G*
    In the meantime, don’t be so hard on yourself, enjoy the Season however you celebrate it and the muse will come swack you upside the head when you least expect it.
    VickiB

  4. I may not comment often, but I like your rants. Keep ranting. 🙂

  5. Sorry to hear November was so un-fun for you. I like to think of times like that as “wilderness times” (which I suppose comes from the idea of the Biblical Israelites wandering about in the wilderness until the time was right to enter the Promised Land). It can feel pointless and frustrating, but the cool thing is, there’s awesome stuff lurking in the wilderness! Stuff that can inspire and rejuvenate us, if we take steps to see it and let it in… not unlike realizing we’re stalled and being intentional about doing something about it! Wishing you the very best as you move through this time of change.

  6. Life journeys are merely mountains to climb and like most mountains, they are rarely uniform; most are both shear cliffs and inglorious plateaus. Occasionally we hit a serene pasture or flower filled meadow but mostly we trudge. The whole point is to keep walking. It is only when we stop that we get nowhere. I like your rants and the occasional view of your world that you allow us. For everyone walks up their own mountains and often a different vista is refreshing. Don’t beat yourself up… keep sharing and have a wonderful Christmas!

  7. Hey Tyner,
    Remember the half way ‘get together’ at Depot. Much of mine was a blur but I do remember after the hangover passed, coming away thinking I was king of the parade square. Our Troop was no longer junior scum and we strutted about accordingly. Unfortunately we were only just half way in the journey. The instructors soon had us grounded and back on the straight and narrow.

    From the comments posted above you have a solid bunch of followers. Keep plugging and the mental muscle memory will kick in. We will be patient…

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