Last time I posted, I believe I told you I’d been in the Grumps. Now it’s time for an explanation. But before we get to the Grumps, we have to go through the Doldrums. Which, interestingly enough, I’ve arrived at for again. And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I write this to you from that deepest of dark holes in the Middle Hundred… the Doldrums.Yes, the Doldrums, that place where the wind is literally (since this is about writing, it’s always literal) taken out of your sails.The manuscript is dry docked in port, while the editors tinker with it and ponder ways to make it sail better.And the writer (your humble servant) sits and waits.And waits.There are several stages to the Doldrums:
1.The Night Anxieties – these, unfortunately, don’t just happen at night, but they prefer it.This is the stage right after you’ve hit SEND on your emailed mani.When you fret about shoulda/coulda/woulda, and wonder if one more day and one more spellcheck would have fixed EVERYTHING. (It wouldn’t.) Eventually this NAs fade (well named, NAH!That wouldn’t help!And NAH! Why did I hit send?!) into…
2.The Doldrums – this is the place proper, where you are bored, bored, bored.If you are lucky, you have a trip planned to Hawaii, or a nation to rebuild, or something that is equal to the task of writing a novel and ready to take on your efforts, or conversely, the exact opposite of such labor and therefore infinitely relaxing.If not, then you sit and read everything you can get your hands on, including MAXIM and the back of the toilet paper packaging.You read until you are convinced there are no more books in the entire world until some poor writer like you hurries up and finishes the next one.You read bad books, terrible books.You rail at them—”Ha! I’D NEVER WRITE THAT.”Or more likely, “Huh, my editor never let me get away with that.”And eventually, when the words run out, you hit…
3.The Grumps.This is where I am right now.The grumps.How do you know when you are here?Well, the day you come home and take out the fish you so nicely defrosted for dinner overnight in the refrigerator the proper way, and discover that it is still BAD.And you are so upset that eating out won’t do because you HAVE TO HAVE THAT FISH NOW!And you drive to the grocery store and buy MORE fish while the oven is still preheating and you get back home and sit in your car watching a hippie you have never seen before, a man with a white pony tail wearing socks (!) with his sandals and a tie dye shirt, lean against a blue van you have also never seen, and smoke a cigarette, it makes you ANGRY because who the heck is he, and why is he looking so retro in front of your neighbor’s house?And that is when you realize you are in the Grumps.So it’s no surprise that you don’t want to play chase the ball chain on a stick with the Cat That Cannot Be Trusted, or when your dinner is finally ready, you yell at your husband to come eat it, get furious when he says “in a minute” and decide you don’t want to eat with him at all because you are moving to a desert island in the morning where they don’t have cats or husbands or ball chain or hippies in socks.All they have is chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, and maybe, just maybe a “well done” letter from your editor and a check that says “here, we are ready to go with this book.You can now pay your bills.”
4.The Sighs.When you remember that island doesn’t exist.Then you return to the Doldrums, the Anxieties, or the Grumps.
Yes, dear readers, this is the ugly stuff.This is the part when you decide if you are a writer or not.One of my dearest friends, after listening to a Grumps rant said, “You’ve been here before in this inbetween place.What do other writers do?”
Well, some of them drink. Some of them put rocks in their pockets and walk into a handy river (RIP, Ms. Woolf!), and some… well, we pick our selves up, shake it off, have a good cry maybe, and start to write again.
Writing is the cure for all that ails you. Especially the Doldrums and the Grumps.