General · Word Wednesday · Writing

Writer’s Emptiness

Hey Guys,

So today’s daily prompt (Empty) made me think about the life of a writer, what it involves and how that fits into everything else we do. And I have to admit, there are times when life can feel that little empty as a writer.

Times when all you see are characters and scenes. When you analyse every person around you and all you think is ‘did I catch that emotion correctly’ or ‘why cant I capture that feeling for my character’. You become pre-occupied with how your writing is, that you forget the rest of the world.

We have all done it, hauled ourselves up in an area (mine’s my room, barricading the door and surrounding myself with bottles of varying fluids, and enough sweety snacks to keep a play-school stocked for a few months) and not interacted with anyone for- well- until its done.

With Camp around the corner and many starting to prepare the toll of this, I think it is important to consider the empty-factor. As humans, introvert or extrovert, we crave interaction. Loneliness is a killer. We see it most prevalent in the retired, going from being surrounded by work colleagues and friends, to only seeing people on the special occasion; with many believing that this is a top contributor to early death after retirement.

Yes. Getting that scene done is important. But so is your mental health.

My piece of advice: Spend some time away from your writing during camp. You do not want to experience writer’s emptiness.

Story Time:

Last November (NaNoWriMo 2015) is wrote 133,000 words in less than 30 days. On top of my final exams for the semester for my Masters level degree.

I woke up at 5:30 am everyday, and I left the house before any other person even began to stir. I walked the 2.5 miles to my uni and signed myself into the library by half 6- I learnt early on that the security staff don’t arrive until 6:15 so you cant get into the actual building till then. I found the quietest floor (the 3rd out of 4) and found an individual study room (a 2′ by 5′ room, with dimmed lights, a desk and a chair).

I bought a huge flask of coffee with me and of course snacks. I didn’t leave that room unless I had to. Class. Bathroom. The University Security telling me I have to leave because it was almost 11pm and the doors would be locking- and students were not allowed to stay on premises overnight. Then I walked home, mumbled a hello to the family as I walked up to my room, closed the door and continued to write until I fell asleep.

The first week went really well, my productivity levels were sky high. I had already surpassed my target of 25,000 words and my story had developed from a small fantasy to an epic covering nine different points of view, converging plot lines and so many deaths I created a wall chart of who dies, when, where, how and why.

The second week hit, exam were every other working day (they were 3hrs each, so I faked an out-of-order sign and blocked off my room while I was away) and I was more focused on what was happening in my plot than what was in the exams. I still got firsts on the exams, although one marker commented why I mentioned a few characters in my answer on case deconstruction in domestic violence example.


By the third week I realised that my family no longer tried to talk to me when I entered the house late, my mom usually went to bed before I got back and I just received concerned glances. On a few nights I was forced to stop before 9pm because my eyes were hurting so much they were crying from exhaustion. Going from waking in the night to write a scene, I came home and slept in my desk chair; my body felt numb because that was the position it was in for over 12 hours every day.

It hurt to stand. Keeping myself walking to and from the library was harder than any of the fitness tests I had taken before. Lugging my laptop felt like I was dislocating my shoulder. Texts from my friends stopped after the second week. My replies had stopped long before that. The only person I replied to was my boyfriend, and that was only after I had completed 1000 words, thankfully he didn’t stop. He would call me while I walked home, annoyed, concerned, scared that I wasn’t being healthy. I hadn’t eaten a vegetable since the beginning of the month.

burnoutHe asked me once to stop. To take a break. I did, I caught the bus to his house and fell asleep on his sofa. I woke up four hours later and carried on writing. He told me I looked empty. Like the only thing I could think about in the world were the words on the page. He drove me home and I slept in the car. This was at the end of week three.

I got in the house to find he had taken my laptop out of my bag. I called him and begged him to bring it back because my story wasn’t finished. He told me he didn’t care. He told me to go to sleep because I looked like death incarnate. I went to his house to get it back, he had hidden it (I later found out that he had gone to work and put it in his locker where there was no chance I would get to it).

I wrote 133,000 words in almost 30 days. I lost 12lb. I damaged my eyes to the point that they still hurt when I look at a screen for more than 2 hours, hence why I struggle with Ebooks. I am still deficient in several key nutrients, from only eating sweets and chocolate for almost a month (yes almost 7 months later). My loved ones still ask how much work I have done when they think I have spent the day on my computer, they get a glassy look in their eyes when I tell them that I am taking part in a wrimo because they are scared that I will become a writer zombie. Only able to write words on a page.

I once became an empty writer.

I have vowed never to become that way again. I know that there will be times when I spend longer writing during the day than I do now, but I also know that I can feel when I have written too much. When I feel disjointed and numb, when I feel disconnected from everything that isn’t in my plot.

I tell you this because writing is addictive. You get into the throws and you are scared to call time out, because you don’t want to interrupt the rhythm. But you don’t realise, that like any addiction, it draws the life out of you. It pulls at everything else that should be filling your mind until you shrivel up to a shell.

Please, take some time away from your writing. Whether you are doing a wrimo project or trying to reach a deadline. You have to take care of your mind, because trust me, unless you can stop writing- the plot will never stop.

Take care my friend

Helen x


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