Today I sat down and tried to write an article. It didn’t happen. This seems to be a regular occurrence of late, and while I can easily justify any number of reasons for it, the reality is, right now, I just have no desire to write an article.
There are many factors behind creative burnout – pressure, deadlines, expectation, exhaustion, perfectionism, the need to create with purpose rather than with joy, just to name a few. And while I can relate to all of these on some level, my current burnout can be summed up with one thing: I have simply lost heart.
I’ve considered the reasons for this of late as I’ve been journeying through this parched creative desert. For a brief moment, I contemplated the idea that staying up too late watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy and drinking cheap red wine may be a factor but soon dissed this idea. Was it the busy demands of life with four children and a farm that has left little time and energy to write? Possibly. And yet, even with that I’ve always managed to carve out sacred and much-loved moments of creativity.
I made a cup of tea this afternoon and scrolled through various news feeds in search of well written, beautifully crafted articles that would inspire me. Instead, I was assailed with articles such as these: Want to Know His Penis Size? Look at His Fingers! 7 Best BDSM Sex Positions To Make Submissive Women Orgasm, What A Woman’s Chin Says About Her Sex Drive, 2 HELLA-HOT Sex Tips That’ll Make Your Man Crave Your Vagina, 10 Harsh Truths Your Husband’s Prostitute Wants You To Know, Is Anal The New Black?, 7 Ways To Make Him Want You For More Than Just Sex, Foods Your Man Should Avoid If He Wants A Blowjob Tonight – not to mention countless articles that informed me of how I will die, the type of man I should marry, how much sex I should be having, the type of orgasm I should be having, and what I should eat for dinner tonight, all based on my zodiac. Which, thank God for those or I might well have not had enough or too much sex this week and mistakenly eaten fish instead of steak tonight. Whew.
I sat and read the titles of these articles, and even dared to open a few of them hoping I was being all super Judgey McJudgerson and they actually contained quality writing. But the more I read, the more despair heaved itself upon me. That’s when I felt it. This is why I have lost heart. These are articles with hundreds of thousands of likes, comments, shares. These are articles I am forced to compete with, that I will never be able to. I don’t even want to.
Recently a well reputed magazine put a call out for two sex diaries that could be written about the fact that (a) you’re cheating, or (b) you’re into something kinky, with a note saying they want to know ALL the sordid, juicy details. What astounded me most about this call out was the rate of pay. It’s difficult for a freelance writer to be offered compensation in anything other than exposure, which, while all writers love trying to pay their weekly bills and child’s education in exposure, just doesn’t quite cut it all the time. At best, most writers are lucky to receive $20, $50, $100 per article that may have a required word length of 800-1500 words.
Yet here is a magazine offering $420 for 600 words. At that rate of pay, even I was tempted. In fact, I began to mentally compose some make-believe trash tale about doing something kinky while cheating in the hope that they’d offer to pay me $840 for covering both bases at once. I could even write it anonymously if I wanted to – oh what a delicious sell-out I could be just for once to make a decent income from an article.
This is what we as writers’ face when we sit at our desk. To want to write with meaning, with heart, with integrity; yet to do so means our voices will rarely be heard above the clatter and clang of garbage that is being dumped upon the busy superhighway of information where there is little interest to pick through our integrity with so much other unsavoury trash on the ground.
Part of my requirement as a writer is to spend numerous hours each week creating, building and nurturing my social media platform. And while I understand and agree with the necessity of this in our social media driven world, it’s time spent replying to comments, messages and emails at the expense of time I would rather use to write. I love my social media tribe and am thankful for their love and support, without them I wouldn’t be here, but lately I struggle with the motivation to spend time building numbers when I can’t help but wonder if all the numbers in the world even matter when they are unlikely to amount to actual readers because the titles of my articles don’t mention Sex, Orgasm, Blowjob, Vibrator, or How to Make Your Man Go Down on You in Three Easy Steps. As useful as that information may be. And while I believe good writing should confront and challenge the reader, there’s a difference between being prodded a little outside your comfort zone and having to double check that you didn’t just click a link to some amateur how-to porn site.
Last year I spoke at our local school during Literacy Week. My talk was based around this quote from the movie, Dead Poets Society, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” I told those students these things: write about what matters, write with passion, and make your words count. That every word we write, we send into the world like a stone cast upon water; we have the power to create ripples that can either harm or heal, mend or break, sow love or sow hate. We have the power to change. To change minds, to change hearts. To change future generations. This is not just our privilege, this is our responsibility, and yet we prostitute ourselves for the sake of goddamn clickbait and our perverted, narcissistic fetish for numbers.
Maybe I sound like a jaded writer. Maybe I am one. Or maybe I’m just burnt out. Maybe I’m just tired of being part of a minority of writers who care. Who bust themselves to write with integrity and to maintain a standard of literature in our society. Who write with passion, with meaning, with desire for words to connect, for words to be music to the silent soul, to be the balm that heals the wounded, to pour light and warmth into the darkest corners, to bring change, to make a difference, to matter, only for those words to remain unseen, unheard, unnoticed.
Maybe I’ll just stop caring and stay off social media and go back to writing in journals that are kept in shoe boxes under the bed and hope one day when I’m no longer of this world someone will read those journals and think, huh, she had some good shit to say.
Or maybe I’ll just begin to speak a little louder from now on and pray one day my words will create a ripple strong enough that it will somehow change the world.