I have lost my words.

b and w the leap 2

I have lost my words and I am failing my literary idols.

Norman Mailer, whose towering work of creative nonfiction, The Executioner’s Song, made me want to write in that genre, said that “[i]f you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are . . . asking your unconscious to prepare the material.”

And Joseph Campbell, whose work changed my world vision and whose theories I taught for twelve years, said to find “a room, or a certain hour of the day” that must become your place of “creative incubation.” He promised that if you visited, “[a]t first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

The message is simple. In order to find your words you must show up. Write every day. Make a commitment. Do the work and the inspiration will come.

It’s a message I pass on to my writing students: Write regularly and the ideas will flow. You will form and shape your stories and give them life as only you can do with your authentic voice.

Perhaps I am failing my students too.

Because I have no words.

I quit my day job last April to “be a writer.” To take a leap and the universe would catch me. I even tattooed that quote on my forearm, a constant reminder that once I was brave and did brave things, and that everything would turn out all right in the end. Never one to shy away from hard work and secure in my belief that I was the smartest girl in the room, I trusted in my ability to give my dreams flight.

But I can’t find my place of creative incubation and my unconscious isn’t preparing the material and I can teach, but not do.

And so I’ve barely written. The “award-winning writer” phrase in my bio makes me cringe, as though it were spit-laughing in my face. Dust gathers in the corners of my blog, and the cobwebs overtaking the ceilings would make Miss Havisham proud.

My mind is never at rest, racing with a flight of ideas I can’t harness and hitch to the page. My archives read like a blow by blow account of the mania, anxiety, and depression that trap my bipolar mind, and they shame me. That illness holds my words locked away in a high tower, neither a length of tresses nor a shining prince in sight to rescue them.

I count as close friends the talent-filled members of my online writing group. I applaud them as they chalk up success after success: Agents, book deals, articles in influential newspapers, stories in literary journals, posts accepted by major websites. Their voices rightfully need to be heard because they are unique and valuable and resonate and capture universal emotions and change hearts and minds. Their work astonishes me and leaves me breathless and I am honored to be among writers of their caliber.

But I feel like I’ve become a silent partner.

I hate my mind. It’s taking away the one thing I thought was my purpose, and I am left here, my world shrinking to the isolation of my bed and the eight square feet of my desk and the school drop-off line and my keyboard, which stares up at me with the sad, empty eyes of rejection, begging for human contact, and daily finding its affections unrequited.

It is breaking my heart.

About Cindy Reed

I hate pants.
This entry was posted in I am the weakest link. Goodbye., These posts are not funny.. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to I have lost my words.

  1. Natalie DeYoung says:

    Cindy, I love you and hope the words come back. I am going through something very similar, and I felt every word of this to my core.

  2. Holly says:

    Stand steadfast at the ocean’s edge. The waters will lap those shores again.

  3. wcdameron says:

    Do you know why I have published things in various places? Because you gave me the courage and the confidence with your words on so many occasions. Maybe you don’t realize how powerful those words have been, but I have not. They echo through my brain every time I hit the submit button. Don’t under estimate where Cindy the award winner writer has made her impact. I laugh, because I have never actually heard your physical voice, but I have always heard your words and they are beautiful.

  4. outlawmama says:

    Feeling you on this. Wish I had no idea what you were talking about. But I do. It’s torture.

  5. Jen LC says:

    Oh but you are doing it, Cindy. With this post, you are doing it. Keep slogging. ❤️

  6. Cris says:

    You haven’t failed anyone. Some ideas take longer to incubate and even though we show up every day, we must still wait for them to hatch. Things will turn out okay in the end, but since we’re nowhere near the end and we can’t see the end, the anticipation can make us feel as if we missed our turn, when in fact we’re just making our way down the road.
    Your class was amazing. You’re a success. You helped us succeed and you’ll do it again for others.
    Don’t discount your impact in the world. Success isn’t money. It’s about lives touched and you have inspired and continue to inspire more people than you know. You’ve set ripples in motion that extend far beyond your field of vision and the world is a better place for what you set in motion.
    You were writing the entire time you taught your class. You wrote words of encouragement and some tough love about adverbs. You wrote course material that inspired and taught and made writers out of us.
    It wasn’t blog posts, but it was creative energy redirected. And with this post–this brave post–perhaps you’re redirecting your energies again.
    Until then, know that you share in the success of those you inspired. So much of mine, I owe to the tools you gave me.
    Be kind to yourself. The words will come. It looks like they have already.

  7. When I Blink says:

    You haven’t lost your words. There are 579 words right here (I counted) explaining beautifully what you’re experiencing right now. Your words are showing up!

  8. Jessie says:

    And our heart breaks with yours, Cindy. You haven’t failed anyone. This post is a testament to that.

  9. Kerstin says:

    I quit my job last year in September to be a freelance writer and have never written less than in the last year.
    I have written for my clients and I make a living, but not writing the “important” stuff I thought I would be writing…
    Your words will come back – enjoy the words of those you have inspired so far! You have always been someone I admired and I still do.

  10. I hear you. Thought it was me writing several times. But you did it. You wrote and it appears that quite a few of us are moved. Reading your feelings, oddly I feel heard.

  11. Alyce Poalillo says:

    You have been a great inspiration,teacher and cheerleader to many, perhaps this is your role for now. We all struggle with the conflict of what we feel we are meant to do and what the Universe actually has as our mission. The words will come to you when the student is there to hear them.

  12. Jenn from Canada says:

    Those of us that work with words for a living totally get it. I don’t mean to trivialize it at all…but have you tried smoking a doobie and writing some shit down? Just for funzies?

  13. Linda says:

    Words or no words, you are my hero. May those words give you strength. xo

  14. I know it’s hard right now but I also know that you will get through this. This piece is beautiful and it is proof that you are a wonderful writer. You are an inspiration and, like Bill said, you have given courage to others. That courage will come back to you, my friend, and you will write and succeed. It might be hard to believe in yourself right now, but so many of us will believe in you and lift you up until you can believe it yourself.

  15. KeAnne says:

    The words will return. I know they will. Hugs to you.

  16. It’s hard. I know how you feel, too. One time my brain was all, “i’m making connections! You should write about this!” and right now it’s “Eh.” And then it shrugs it’s shoulders which is insane because brains do not have shoulders. I’m just trying to slog through until I reach the other side, but it just seems to be getting farther away. But with your teaching, it means you’re thinking about writing, which is good. I hope you bounce back soon.

  17. Jenny says:

    You found some words and put them here, girl. Which is definitely something. Sometimes we have to wail to the heavens, air our deep fears and woes in order to get things moving again. I hope this happens to be the case here.

    You’re pretty awesome and although I am nowhere near your level of writery goodness, I too have not been able to write for the past few months. It’s awful, but I’m trying to be Pollyanna and optimistic and believe that it’s nothing more than a hiccup.

    Hang in there. The world needs your words, they’re worth waiting for.

  18. Stacie says:

    I love you! Your words will come back, better than ever! I know that doesn’t help right now, but it’s true. Slumps can’t last forever (and you wrote this post!).

  19. Jenn Berney says:

    Nothing in the world is worse for my writing than actually having time to write.

  20. I’m having a hard time responding in a way that I think will be helpful or encouraging. Much like comments during mourning or loss, everything feels like it would sound inauthentic, even if it’s not. So, I’ll just say I look forward to when you find the words that give shape to your experiences — because I do love to read them so.

  21. Christina says:

    I love you and am proud of you and believe you to be strong and brave and worthy of so much love. These things are true, and remain so, whether or not you ever write another word.

    Peace out.

  22. anne says:

    Two more words:
    Working mom.

    Give yourself a break, my friend. You have two young kids. And at least one giant dog. There is no “sacred space” to write or (if it’s my house)to even pee without someone asking you for something. The demands are constant and the expectation of sustained creativity? I can’t imagine it I can’t even find my keys most days. Be patient and Good luck.

  23. candidkay says:

    Oh, what to say. What to say. When the words won’t come. When you feel the call to write and you know it’s from your soul–but the world is not responding. Things aren’t happening. Books are materializing. I wish I had answers. I don’t. Instead, wishing you a visit from the muses. They’re so very fickle. Or maybe we’re just so very human and can’t always hear their whispers.

  24. Marcy says:

    The words come and go for the best of them. I know they’ll be back. This time of year is especially difficult, too.

  25. pmacott says:

    Dear one. Take a breath. Go outside and feel the air. You are brave beyond all measure and you have done (and will continue to do) vast amounts of wonderfulness. This is but a recognizable dip in the road that comes to us all….I know you are in the darkness of doubt, but your light still shines. Truly. It is always hard to see when you’re in the middle. So, your words decided to go on a winter vacation to the Bahamas, and forgot to leave you a note. Never mind. They will be back. I promise.

  26. It’s intriguing how words about feeling uninspired to write can be so inspiring. I started to read and said to myself, nice writing, then found out you were writing about not being able to write. We often don’t know we are having our finest hour when we are having it. I encourage you to turn around and look at all the great writing you have done this year. Leap and the net will appear. The thing is, you have to allow it to catch you.

  27. Ugh, those times. I’m truly sorry for this season and hope it passes. You have a gift with words and maybe something really beautiful will come from this dry season.

  28. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t visited the mental hotel you’re in right now, although we all stay in different rooms. My trick has been to distract myself with other activities and read something wonderful before bed and when I wake up. Sometimes teaching writing can suck the words out because I use the best to help my students, and there is none left for my voice. There has to be time to recharge. Other than that, I just remember that it always passes: the anxiety, the doubt, the inner critic, the anger, the sadness. It all goes away eventually. I have faith it will for you, too, because you’re talented and you hone your craft and that can’t stay buried forever.

  29. Erica M says:

    This was an incredibly inspiring piece. Can I fawn over you for a few minutes? I am proud to know you and count you among my small circle of friends. Your creative spot, you may find, is probably on the potty after everyone except the chihuahua has gone to bed for the night. A dog at your feet in the middle of the night could be what you need to keep going. You’re one of my favorite writers, and I mean that sincerely.

  30. I’m so sorry you have lost your words but someone as talented as you… someone who can make me laugh out loud time after time, piece after piece… i know they will not be lost for long. We all have moments, but you’re a writer through and through.

  31. Silverleaf says:

    I think it is so brave and also helpful to hear things like this from seasoned writers. We all go through some version of this and the longer it lasts, the more desperate we feel, the more pressure we put on ourselves. And you are putting lots of pressure on yourself – the weight of all the people you think you’ve failed, including yourself. But you haven’t failed anyone. Do something else. Focus on something else. It’s ok to take a conscious, purposeful break. To say “I’m not going to write right now, I’m going to take a break,” out loud. It’ll come when it has gelled in your mind.

  32. Meg says:

    You have words here…vulnerable, tender, trembling words that build a most courageous world. It is a hero’s journey — this not giving up. And you haven’t given up. I’m so honored to know you, even if it has only been a short while. Honored and humbled. <3

  33. I have been away from the blogging & facebooking world for a while, and this post reminds me of what I’ve been missing. The eloquence of your speaking silence breaks my heart too — anyone who can write this way should not doubt for an instant that she is a writer and that somewhere, on some level, words & stories & images are percolating for you. This essay is brilliant and powerful and I’m in awe.

  34. Josie says:

    Here are your words, friend. You are enough.

  35. I wish I could hug you. Or at least buy you a coffee. But please know that you have inspired me on so many occasions and continue to do so with what you have written here. Love and light to you, dear Cindy.

  36. Deb Goldman says:

    Here are a few words for you…incubation…gestation…transition…perimenopause…mental illness…motherhood…waiting in the place of the unknown…faith…courage…risk…love…passion…inspiration…brilliant…Cindy.

  37. Stacey says:

    HUGE HUG!!!! Cindy, I’m so happy to be back on FB because of people like you. I look forward to reading anything in the world you may feel like posting. Menopause has stolen my nouns. All I seem to be able to do is point (with the hand not holding a glass of wine), and say “that THING – you know what I’m talking about”. I hope that one day I will find the nouns again, and become one of your students.

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  40. erin5cents says:

    The more I read, the more I feel like you live in my head. You’re amazing.

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