Lost & Found: The Writer's Mojo

We all lose our creative mojo from time to time. These days, it’s so damned easy due to the internet, jobs, family… this list goes on. But let’s face it. There are still just as many hours in the day as there were for Helen Keller, Mark Twain, Henry Miller, and Jane Austen, and when you consider all of the time-saving inventions we take for granted that they never had, we actually have more hours available to us. For me, the every day demands aren’t reasons, they’re excuses. The real reason is more personal, more honest, and more revealing of who I am as a writer and a person.

Many years ago when I was in college, earning my degrees in musical composition and conducting, one of my professors said something to me after I’d taken her performance final. I’d already begun exhibiting symptoms of the health issues which would later broadside me, and I’d been home with pneumonia the final two weeks of classes. Nevertheless, I showed up for my finals with a fairly high fever and did a good job. Afterward, she took me aside and told me, “You have your A, and I understand why you’ve been out a lot this semester, but I want to tell you, for future reference, chronic illness is only an excuse, not a reason. Don’t give in to it.”

In the state of fevered mind I was in at the time, her words just hit me wrong. I thought she was overly critical and terribly unsympathetic, singling me out because of the unfair expectations all of my professors had placed on me since I’d enrolled. Not to be conceited, I was, after all, a prodigy and expected to accomplish miraculous things. As she spoke, I kind of glared at her. I’d aced her final, hadn’t I? What did she want from me?

It wasn’t until only recently that her words finally came home to me. I don’t like to talk about it on this blog, but I have a number of health issues: Hashimoto’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, Degenerative Disc Disease, and Asperger’s Syndrome, each of which brings up a slew of their own side-issues. It all hit me later, in 2005 and since then I’ve been forced to learn other ways of living, of creating, and of not giving into self-pity and, wait for it… not making excuses.

Excuses laid neatly aside, what are my reasons for my occasional mojo loss? Well, let me preface this by telling you that, for myself, I don’t believe in writers block. I believe my mojo takes a powder when I try to cram something wholly artistic and metaphysical into a Birchbox labeled Career, Money Maker, or Attention Getter, i.e., Fame Monger.

Writing is one of the arts, or it used to be before people started treating it like a career choice. When I find myself suddenly without my mojo, I mentally backtrack until I find where I lost it. Nine times out of ten, it’s waiting right at the point when I began to think instead of feel. Art is how the soul expresses the intangible. It is the soul as well as the intellect that writes, and, let me repeat, writing is an art as much as making music, dancing, or painting. Through the written word we express our feelings, our ideas, all of those intangibles that make up our personal human experience.

There are no shortcuts for the artistic writer. For me, it’s not about allowing my thoughts to gush onto the page, but my feelings. Not easy for me since I’m the kind who holds in so much. But when I find where I left off feeling and began thinking about word count, rules, what people are going to like, etc., that’s where I find my mojo.

If we constantly blather excuses to ourselves, we get nowhere, but if we face them and quit thinking of them as reasons, we can accomplish so much more. This takes self-accountability, it takes putting on our big girl panties and growing the hell up. It’s not impossible, it’s just work, and a little hard work never killed any writer’s creativity.

Try this. Make a list of reasons why you’re not writing, why you’re blocked, then go through it and divide it into two lists, one labeled Reasons and one labeled Excuses. I guarantee it’ll free you!

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”
George Washington Carver