My imagination has died. "Use it or lose it" is the brain's well known way of functioning. And not functioning. Well, some time ago I stopped using my imagination and filled my writing brain with non-fiction; and now I've lost it. I used, years ago, to write fiction and non-fiction happily in tandem, bobbing from one to the other constructively and profitably. But a few years ago the non-fiction took over. It took over because I loved doing it, because it was (for me) easier, because it was successful, because it was bringing me in royalties, because it led to lots of wellpaid events (generating more non-fiction writing as I prepared myriad handouts and presentations and blogposts), because it gave me self-esteem and reputation, my niche, self-actualisation.
I thought that was enough for Heartsong. I should never have forgotten that for me it wasn't. Imagination was the lifeblood of my heartsong and I'd accidentally left the tourniquet on too long.
So, when I tried to write fiction, without which I don't feel whole, I found that the fiction muscle, my imagination, was dead.
At first, I thought, as you are thinking, that it was temporary. Dormant, not dead. All I had to do was all those things we know about, the things you're all wanting to say in support:
- Just do it - apply butt to seat and fingers to keyboard and write
- Give yourself time - don't worry
- Get outside and walk
- Stop thinking about it - it will come back
- Try a new environment
- Try another new environment
- Do some creative napping
- Listen to your dreams
- Read lots of fiction
- Read poetry
- Allow yourself to write rubbish
- Make yourself write rubbish
- Set yourself targets; don't set yourself targets
- Read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
I did them all to one degree or another. In fact, Writing Down the Bones nailed the problem in such a way that it created a new block by identifying the block: "If all of you does not believe that the elephant and the ant are one at the moment you write it, it will sound false. If all of you does believe it, there are some who might consider you crazy; but it's better to be crazy than false. But how do you make your mind believe it and write [it]?"
And that is the problem. I don't believe. Because of that dead imagination.
You see I'm trying to write a novel in which the central idea - invisibility - is a physical impossibility. You need your imagination to write or to read about it. And when I come to write it, to create it, all the time I'm thinking, "Don't be stupid: that can't happen." There's a disconnect between what I know stories do - the suspension of disbelief - and my ability to suspend disbelief for long enough to create belief.
I can't make anyone else believe it because I don't believe in it - what I'm trying to write or my ability to write it - any more.
I don't expect an answer. And I don't want to sound self-pitying. As I say, no one died. There are really only two answers: give up or carry on trying to force life into a dead thing, charging up those chest paddles.
Or give my imagination a name: maybe Lazarus. No, I never believed that story either. Actually, I probably did once, before.
[Edited to add: funnily, someone crashed into me as I was walking along the street just now and he looked completely shocked and confused, as though I had been temporarily invisible and he was trying to work out how that could be. Then he just carried on walking as though he was thinking, "Yeah, so, she was invisible. So what? Get over it."]