coming back after two years

I’m edging close to two years since my last post on this blog, A.R. Stanley’s Musings. That feels almost unbelievable to me. If I’m honest, when I looked up the last date, I thought it had been close to 1 year, then I remembered it is 2021. We’ve made it past 2020, which means it has been almost 2 years. I had no idea when I posted last that the next few months would begin to tank my creativity, completely zapping it in September of 2019. I had no idea I would stop writing fiction altogether that fall. Never in a million years would I have imagined the turns my life would take and what I would leave behind for a season.

I didn’t walk away from creativity altogether. I continued to art journal, bullet journal, which I find creative, crafts with kids. I started my garden, which felt like an all-new creative outlet. There were new and different ways I expressed myself. I picked myself up from the brokenness, with a lot of help from my family, friends, God, and began to rebuild a new and beautiful life. Still, I’ve missed my fiction writing. In the midst of all the changes, even my reading patterns changed. I began consuming more nonfiction, listening to podcasts, sermons, I filled my mind with relevant voices for my situation, but I left behind the fiction.

Believe me, I tried to write. I read over Dandelion countless times. I picked up my WIP Alfie on many occasions. I even dabbled with my first novel that I’ve considered rewriting for years. Each time I’d come up stuck. Then in June 2020, I started blogging about my pain. Whoosh. It wouldn’t stop, and it couldn’t come fast enough. I began blogging each morning for months on end. It poured out of me. It was almost a compulsion to rise early each morning and blog. Cathartic. Again, nonfiction seemed to permeate my life. I allowed myself space and even considered writing a memoir. The more I pushed into nonfiction, the less inspired I became, though. I could feel myself drying up. It felt confusing and frustrating. I found myself unable to blog. I’d come up with ideas and feel myself chasing metaphorical cats around a room, never leading to a cohesive thought. I gave up.

I’ve found that art and pain don’t exactly go well together. It’s harder to create the more we hurt. I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and a line that stuck out to me was, “I can either live a drama or I can write a drama.” I’ve been living in a hard drama for a long time now. I want to move past it, but not all of that is within my control. I keep trying to create; I keep showing up, opening up, reading, sitting, thinking. I know creativity can’t be rushed or forced.

I texted my best friend, my friend who edited all of Dandelion, pushed me, drug me through that entire process. “What if I start something new?” “Yes. Start something new!” Ok. I’m listening. I’m open. I’m excited. I’ll start a new story. New characters. New world. New words. Then… Nothing. I sat for two hours trying, looking, pushing, pulling; I came up dryer than I have ever felt. I left the cafe I had sat in in tears. I cried the entire drive home. What if creativity has left me? What if my stories are gone? What if I had all those ideas, characters, feelings, and they’ve dried up for good? What if the creative life has left me in the dust while I white-knuckled through the last few years? I felt tired. More tired than I had felt in a very long time, perhaps ever. I texted my friend and told her I thought I’d forgotten how to write, it wasn’t coming, something was wrong. She told me to stop with the pressure. To go back to where I always began. To make it simple. In other words, lighten up.

So, I showed up again today. I’m going to try and take her advice. I’m going to start as simple as I can. I’m going to try my best not to get lost in planning, folders, plots, themes, the high-minded writing brain. I’m going to find that character, that person, that needs their story told and are willing to tell it to me. I’m hoping for success and more to tell tomorrow.