The Creative Void and Why it is Different to Writers Block

I’ve been wracking my brain for two weeks trying to come up with blog topics for next month and it hasn’t gone well.

For those that don’t know, I put 1-2 days aside every month to write and film my blogs and videos for the coming month, but for the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt as though I’ve got nothing to say.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of issues I could and will blog about, but that doesn’t discount the fact that everything feels a little bit shit and oh so heavy.

Motivation and inspiration are cheap tricks when it comes to writing. Habit and discipline are much more effective if the goal is to get things done, tick the box, hit publish, and get the cheque.

Can we take a step back for a minute?

I published my first book in November, 2019 (feels like five years ago, right?). It took a lot of work, and I don’t just mean the actual writing, I’m also talking about the publishing and marketing of the book.

The physical preparation – editing, proofreading, formatting, organising the cover design – was intense, but it had nothing on the marketing campaign which included creating teaser images for Instagram, reaching out to 150 book reviewers, local media (newspaper, magazines, TV, and radio), and running multiple competitions including a pre-order giveaway.

Did I mention that my confirmation of candidature also took place in November last year?

For those who don’t know, confirmation is when you present your research project to a panel of academic experts who then determine the quality of your investigation and whether or not you should continue. This usually takes place 10-18 months into your doctorate/PhD and needless to say, it’s a bit of a deal, and a lot of effort is spent preparing for this presentation.

I also moved house.

As you can imagine, it was a big end to a big year.

Then 2020 happened.

Yeah.

On a personal level, I continued with the revisions of my next novel, accepted a sessional contract for my first ever teaching gig (which moved online three weeks later), completed coursework (including three assignments), and wrote and filmed weekly blogs/vlogs that went up every Thursday morning without fail. (Including today).

Why am I telling you this?

Cos I got nothing.

I am in a creative void.

The tank is empty.

The well is dry.

I’m bored. I’m restless. I’m frustrated. I’m concerned. I want to want to make stuff. I’m worried about how long this will go on for, and then I stop caring and start Googling things that have nothing to do with academia or writing.

I’m still getting the things done that absolutely have to get done because a) I’m getting paid to do these things and b) people are depending on me to do these things.

But when I’m done, I’m done, and I’m back to mindless Googling. A desperate, grabbing, grasping search for something that is propelled by the idea that there is an article or a YouTube video out there containing the exact information I need to hear right now.

What am I looking for? I have no idea.

A glance at my internet history reveals the following:

How to cook without using oil. What is human design? Neuroplasticity. Racial biases in the publishing industry. Intergenerational trauma. Beached whales. Should you quit your PhD during COVID-19? Virtual book tours. Rachel Hollis divorce. Indigenous Australians dying in police custody. Indigenous Australian authors. Nature-centric stories. Is it a good time to invest in Australian property?

Email. Instagram. Email. Instagram.

I’m struggling to create right now, and it’s not due to a lack of motivation, inspiration, habit, or discipline. I’m just … empty.

I’m in a creative void which feels very different to writers block.

Writers block is when you’re working on a story and then the story stops flowing. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • You don’t know what should happen next
  • You’re physically tired
  • You’ve painted yourself into a corner.

In a creative void, there are no ideas. There is no story. You sit down and open a word document and every word is hard won and not very good. There’s no PASSION. There’s no HEAT. It’s cold, banal, repetitive.

If this were a concert, the conversation in the front row would go a little something like this …

“I don’t know, it just sounds kinda, meh.”

“Yeah, I like her last album better.”

In order to create we must consume. We want our art to grow and develop with us. Our first book should be our worst book because ideally, we’re growing and improving with time.

I want to do better. I want to be more informed, more aware of my prejudices, have something to say.

Until then, I’m going to get comfy in this void; I’m going to sit back in this here magic dark until someone flicks the switch and the lights come on.

Maybe you can relate; maybe you’re also experiencing a creative void. If that’s the case, go easy on yourself.

If your work is flexible, focus first on the tasks that are fun or appealing. If you don’t have that luxury, do whatever you can to make completing those tasks enjoyable (as much as possible, anyway).

Restrictions following the shutdown are lifting, while somethings won’t go back to normal, many things will.

And then there’s some things that will hopefully never go back to ‘normal.’ Erasing systemic racism won’t happen overnight, but by continuing to educate ourselves, making better decisions, speaking up, and donating, we make change possible.

And this is what we must cling to, a single thread that can only be called hope.

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