The difference between typing and writing

Four months after the first Zoloft

Four months after the first Zoloft

I have told this before. And I think I will repeat it until the end of my life, until it stops haunting me. In grad school, I lost my writing. I felt it drain out of me one idea after another.

I wrote a story, something about police and cats, and I couldn’t feel the next one there behind it. It wasn’t writer’s block. I wasn’t stuck. I had loads of words floating around in my tank. But I had no more stories at all. For four years, I stopped being a writer.

I’m good at the butt-in-chair thing. Always have been. When my teen peers were going to Friday dances and listening to teeny-bopper boy bands, I was scrunched into my half of a shared bedroom, typing. When my college classmates were out dating and dancing, I was writing. I did a few activities, theater and volunteer stuff, but mostly, I wrote.

So when I say that I couldn’t feel the next story behind the one I’d just finished, I don’t mean that I ran out of words to type. I mean that I ran out of writing. Again and again, I dove into myself, and again and again, there was nothing to tell. Scott gave me a gem by accident, about a couple trying to save a dying marriage. And I lingered over that thing. I wrote it and rewrote it until I thought it was perfect, and then I started over and wrote it again from scratch. Because, my God. It was my only story.

And when that was done, I sat down at my computer, and I typed some more. I banged out letters to the editor; I drew up analytical papers; I composed tirades to the graduate school; and I complained to the apartment manager. And none of it amounted to telling stories. I sent the whole family detailed e-mails about weekly nothings. I furthered a friendship with a woman in Great Britain who shared a fondness for one of my favorite authors. And none of it counted for writing.  I finished two master’s degrees, and Scott and I got married and had a baby. And I was not a writer.

The baby broke me. I cried because she cried; I cried because she ate; and I cried because she sometimes stank really badly. I cried because I lived surrounded by words that I owned, even though none of them were mine. I cried so much that the doctor gave me Zoloft.

A week after I took the first pill, I felt the stopper fall into that internal drain hole; I felt the ideas stop leaking out. At first, I just had images to describe, phrases whose sounds pleased me. Then one day, the baby burped me a story. And when I’d finished it, when I’d typed the last letter and printed the final page, I felt the next story easing into place behind it, waiting to be written.


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About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


The difference between typing and writing — 38 Comments

  1. I think that we can just lose that spark (whatever our creative media) and I think that our mental health can play a huge part in it too, the chemicals need to be in alignment for the words to flow. I’m glad you got it back though! And I’m sure you are too. 🙂

    • Yeah, the chemicals mess with the creativity. I have people ask me if bipolar causes my creativity. Other way around .It hampers things.

  2. Jessie, for as long as I’ve ‘known’ you, I’ve admired how you fought for your gift. So many people would’ve stopped and thought it too monumental a mountain to scale. You clawed your way back, and the fear of that void made you better.

    • I don’t think I had a choice. I don’t know if that makes sense. But when it was gone, I was frantically searching for it, and when I felt it come back, it was like my soul clicking back into place and my life moving forward again.

    • Amen. Medication can be awesome. I think it gets a stigma and people forget what true good it can do. I really resent the attitude that I’ve gotten from some people that the medicine is a crutch. I want to tell those people that if they had met the crazy, they wouldn’t think so.

  3. ~~~You were always a writer, dear…..even if you NEVER wrote another word.

    Inside your
    head, your true self was screaming to release, flow, and explode into the universe.

    Thank God, You’re OUT! X

  4. I stopped writing for a long time, too, and didn’t realize how much I had missed it until I started again. I not only lost my stories, I forgot there was anything to write about at all!

  5. Sometimes I think we need to get broke before we can piece our world back together. Sometimes I think we need to follow different paths, different ideas, different stories. As writers we may not always put them down on paper, but they are filed away for safe keeping. I’m glad that zoloft let the words come out. I’m glad you can write again because you clearly have talent. Such beauty in your words.

  6. You have more words and writing in you than I could ever dream. But I DO understand the dryness. It has happened recently for me and for not only one reason. It just happened and I was frustrated because I had so much to say. I have read a bit of your past before so I knew this, sort of, but I needed to hear this now. Today. I’m so glad you burst through because I love reading what you have to write.

  7. Awesome post! Let’s hear it for Zoloft, stinking babies and ideas coming up and out of us! I love this. I would like to see some of those letters to the editor. Sounds spicy!

  8. I loved this. I know that if I’m feeling sad, depressed, overwhelmed, or unfulfilled, I have trouble writing anything good, anything that doesn’t come off as wooden to me. Do I write anyways? Yes–I have to for my job, but it’s very hard. I’m a perfectionist and want my work to have soul, not just voice (or, as you put it, to be writing rather than just typing), but there are some weeks when I just can’t pull it off. That’s why there have been a few significant hiatuses in my blog’s history. Part of it was busy-ness and part of it was that I just didn’t have the heart.

    But would you expect it to be any different? After all, writers are every bit as much artists as are painters, sculptors, and the like. We wouldn’t look askance at a painter if she couldn’t find a way to express her feelings for a while, but as writers we hold ourselves to different standards–and perhaps we shouldn’t. Sometimes I think we’re a bit harder on ourselves because we’re insecure about our place in the art world.

    And with that novel, I think I’ve made it clear that I’m in a writing mood tonight.. Sorry for being so long-winded!

  9. What a frustrating time! I have my own frustration. I have stories, but trouble seeing them through. I’ll get 30,000 words in and just quit caring about the story. Ugh. Which is worse?

  10. Writing flushes the gamut of emotions, doesn’t it? Sometimes, the emotions get in the way of writing, and others, the writing influences our emotions. It is so hard to keep it all balanced! I’m glad you found your way back to writing!

  11. I thought for the longest time that I was not a writer, but an actress. I had the misconception that if I blew all of my creativity on writing, I wouldn’t be able to act. And then I grew up and decided (just four years ago) that I absolutely could write and be a part of theatre and that creativity breeds creativity — it doesn’t siphon it from one place to another.

  12. I married bipolar and I know what a jumble that is without the proper medication. It’s great you found the right medication and got your writing groove back. You have the gift, that’s for sure.

  13. I’m so glad your stories came back to you, Jessie, and I’m glad that when you spoke to me, I wasn’t too stupid, scared, or shy at the time to speak back.

  14. It’s so frustrating when you want to write but you can’t translate feelings into stories. When it finally happens for me, it feels like it was channelled through me and not from me. Not sure if that makes sense but you’ve described your feelings beautifully!

  15. Thank you for addressing the ideas leaking out issue, and how sometimes medication can make that stop. My best creativity has come as a result of getting good sleep most nights and proper medication. I’m grateful to hear part of your story and the different times and ways that the ideas stopped, too. Nice to get to know you better!

  16. That must have been very lonely without your stories. I’m glad you found them again and have shared them with us.

  17. What a perfect post about process! I can’t believe I missed this earlier in the week. This is a feeling I can relate to, but said in a way I’ve never heard before — that you couldn’t feel the next story behind it. I can’t tell you how inspiring this post was for me – I’m going to write down a few new ideas now!

  18. I really related to this because I have been feeling that law school has just drained me of my words. Sometimes I sit down to write and I produce nothing but drivel. To get by, I also have a habit of writing long emails to friends, nasty letters to various organizations that have wronged people I love, or, most recently, nerd-based romance vignettes. Nothing that I would want to post for the blogging world to see.

    I’m glad you were able to get help. There is a fine line between harnessing artistic demons and being overwhelmed by them.

    • Yes – the letters at least evoke passion, and my GOD school sucked me dry of that. It wasn’t just school, but it played such a huge role. I’m kind of grateful now that I’ve mentioned it that others are speaking up to say ‘school drained me that way, too’, because I had begun to wonder if it was ALL the bipolar and not the school at all. It’s comforting to know that, yeah, school had its role to play.

  19. Not having a problem with putting a butt in a chair is something to celebrate. That’s exactly what I lack. But that’s another issue altogether. I’m just glad you figured it out and got back into the groove.

  20. Life drained me of writing for such a long time. I did other things that fulfilled me, but not completely. I like how you captured all of that and I’m glad the stories are coming more freely now.

  21. Very well-stated, Jessie. I’ve always loved writing. Not necessarily fiction, just putting words onto paper. I think I love words as much as writing them.

    This was a great post about finding the words, pulling them together coherently, and voicing them. Loved your honest.

    As far as medication goes, much of brain chemistry issues are very hereditary as I found out later in life.

  22. Pingback: Jessie Powell: The Way the Keys Sound on Paper | Erin Margolin