When Music Returns

This compulsion called writing is a strange thing. The last few months working on book three has been very difficult. I was beginning to think the story had escaped me, had moved on to someone who might be able to tell it better. But I’ve been doing this long enough now to recognize that fear.

It’s not writer’s block because if I do sit down to write, the words are there; I just can’t put fingers to pen or keyboard. Maybe it’s a lack of trust in the story and the characters. Maybe it’s a lack of trust in myself. I’ve only had this problem the last six years, which makes me wonder if sometimes my brain goes back to its radiation days, moving away from the creativity. Because this feels like a weight. I wouldn’t call that weight sadness but I suppose it could be that. It’s a sense of just not having the energy to start, exhaustion.

I’ve learned however, that if I just keep pretending, if I talk like I know what I’m talking about, if I go through the motions without actually working on the story, eventually that weight goes away.

I used to try and force the story during these time periods, but then learned the only thing that came from that was throwing away a lot of words. The story knows when you’re faking or trying too hard. And that will also show up in the writing. I can read a draft and point right to the spot when the weight descended and I started trying to force the words. The voice changes, everything becomes stilted, unfamiliar. I know now instead of forcing the story, I leave it, and just pretend to others I’m still working.

So this evening, finally, the weight went away and the words came back. Why? I have no idea other than that this time, I put music back on. The familiar tunes I used to write to. Before radiation I always wrote to specific music. It gave me that restless melancholy, that ache that’s needed to write. After radiation, when I was learning to be me again, music was a distraction and I needed silence to be able to hear the characters.

Now I’m wondering if finally, finally, I’ve returned to who I was before lymphoma. Because tonight the music was there, the weight was gone, and the characters took me by the hand and showed me the story that’s been patiently waiting.

This may not be the final fix, the last cure. I’m sure that struggle will come back. Maybe it has nothing to do with the past few years. Maybe this weight is actually a waiting space I need to inhabit during each story, in order for it to grow. We’ll see. No matter how long one writes, the process is always evolving.

Or maybe it’s simply the return of music.

9 thoughts on “When Music Returns

  1. This is so beautiful, and so moving. I love the way you write, and the openness and honesty and lack of frills is so engaging. It’s so peppered with questions, and that makes me chuckle because I think more than half my thoughts…are questions, which give rise to further questions… Thanks for sharing this and…enjoy the music:-) Hugs, Harula xxx


    • And then all those questions give rise to stories! I don’t think you can be a storyteller without all those questions ricocheting around in our brains. I’m listening to the Aran Boat Song right now – it’s always been one of my favorites for writing to as it’s so haunting. Thank you for the kind words.


  2. You commented on a remark I made on Facebook to Marianne In Thurso, Scotland. I don’t know what prompted me to track you down…I don’t usually do that…but I’m glad I did. This entry of yours is lovely. I’m a writer, too, working on my second book and often searching for the words I know are there somewhere. It’s nice to we’re not alone. Thank you.


    • Well, I’m glad you tracked me down. I’d love to hear more about what you write. Mariane has been my best friend since we were nine; a lot of years now. She was my first audience for stories, too. I’d write them in pencil on lined paper, they always starred Mariane and I and boys we had crushes on, and she always laughed at the right spots. And nope, you’re not alone.


  3. I appreciate the search for why. And the brain is not a hardwired computer with connections that run in the same paths. Maybe we just have to get recharged with fresh ideas from our experiences – hearing a sole birdsong in a quiet wood, feeling frustrations when cleaning up dog throw-up, entertaining when your husband;s relatives are visiting, or playing a new song on the guitar.(Or reading a new book!) I am glad that you are back in your groove, and sorry about your sickness, but we are all thankful for your recovery.


    • Thanks. I’m beginning to think this slump is part of the writing process. The more I think about it the more I believe each book has had those weeks where it was just too much effort. I think you’re right that it’s a recharging moment.


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