I lost my mojo.
I’ve tried looking under the sofa cushions, everything ends up there eventually. No luck. It’s not in the rubbish bin that I’ve been too weak to cart out for more than a week. And it’s not on top of the ‘fridge hiding in a cereal box. It sometimes makes a crackling, fizzing noise, but this time it was only the Rice Krispies.
Freud would say this is all my own fault. He’d say that I’ve worked so hard for so long that getting the ‘flu was my subconscious’s way of making me slow down.
I have to admit I have been going at it full tilt for a very long time now. In the past 3 years, I’ve completed two novels and have first drafts of two others; I have a play that’s very nearly finished; I’ve written and published half-a-dozen short stories and articles, and I’ve posted on this blog once a week (at least) for the past year.
So, OK, I was bound to hit the skids eventually.
I’m not convinced by Freud, though. Bacteria and viruses don’t know from my mental state. You go to an art show, you breathe in the wrong little microbe, et voila –40-degree fever and a distinct lack of mojo.
But despite my scepticism, I have to admit I probably needed the rest. Even listing my work for the past year makes me want to take a nap.
In one of those weirdly perverse types of mojo hunting exercises, I’ve been re-reading Stephen King’s description of his near-fatal accident. Multiple fractures, a collapsed lung, repeated surgeries, excruciating pain, yet just five weeks later the man is back at his desk, writing. I find this inspirational because, despite my scarily-high temperatures and other symptoms too nasty to relate in a nice clean environment like the internet (!) I’m not nearly so badly off as the King-meister.
‘Real’ writers will tell you that nothing gets in their way and they’ll write every day under any circumstances.
‘Real’ writers lie.
Of course you can’t always write every day. I mean, you can plan to. You can set yourself a goal and keep it more often than not, but let’s get real: there will be times when you just can’t.
You just had a heart attack: The Universe will understand if you can’t write today.
You’re in labour? OK, you get a pass too.
Hit by a bus, felled by flu, evicted from your home: all good reasons not to write today.
But here’s the acid test: how do you feel about not writing?
If you feel relieved, like the Universe just handed you a grade-A excuse not to work, maybe you’re not really meant to be a writer. Because, and I hate to be the one to break it to you, the Universe doesn’t give a flying monkey’s arse whether your write or not.
On the other hand, if you feel squirrilly because writing is so much a part of your psyche you feel bereft without it, then perhaps a writer is your destiny.
Yeah, destiny. I said it.
Last week, when I was sleeping 20-hours a day and my temperature was so high it threatened to blow the mercury out of the thermometer, I still fretted about the work. I didn’t get much done on my novel but I managed some revisions. And I still managed to post my blog. Now, I’m not going to claim for the quality of these accomplishments, but the fact that I managed to write anything at all; more to the point, the fact that I wanted to write told me a lot about my level of compulsion.
On Sunday, still not 100% and struggling to find my rhythm, I received an e-mail from an editor. I had promised him a short story and was half-way through writing it before I was stricken and… I forgot. I mean, I forgot all of it: the previous conversations with said editor, the pretty nifty idea I had for a story, the fact that I was half-way through writing it: all of it just burned up in the brain cells that my fever zapped. Now I’m trying to get back… on track if only I can remember what I was doing.
Maybe my memory is hiding in the same dark, dank cupboard as my mojo?
There is a compulsion we creative types have in common. It’s not something we go looking for (present mojo-hunt notwithstanding), and it’s not always comfortable, either for us or for the people in our lives, but it’s so much a part of who we are we cannot escape it. We are driven to create. Note, I didn’t say we’re driven to publish. That, as I’m sure you know, is a horse of an entirely different hue. But no matter what our circumstances are, we don’t let them stop us. We may slow down a little; there may be an interruption in the flow, but the work will reassert itself.
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist. She suffered polio as a child. Then she was in a terrible bus accident that shattered her spine. She had repeated surgeries and was in constant pain. She spent whole years confined to bed. Despite this, she produced art that continues to reveal her inner self long after her death.
Did Frida ever lose her mojo? I’m sure she did from time to time, but then I bet she remembered the words of one of my literary heroes, Ray Bradbury:
“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”
Ray knew what it was all about. He made it seem easy. It isn’t of course. It starts with that fire burning inside you. It starts with refusing to take ‘no’ as an answer from the Universe, your family, your publisher. It starts with finding your mojo. And guess what happened while I was writing this blog? Yes, I found it. Right here in the work.