white noise

There have been periods when stress, anxiety or the general chaos of things has made it tough to write. Even if I have the time, I may not have the emotional bandwidth.

Non-writers don’t know this, but writing takes a toll. It drains you and fulfills you at the same time. Sometimes more one than the other. On average I’d say it’s considerably more fulfilling than draining, but you’re always putting something into it. There is never a time when you go to the blank page, and, like a gambler trying to saddle up to a table without a single chip, risk nothing and somehow walk away a winner. That doesn’t happen.

Nope, you always have to give something to your work, like a sacrifice made to the muses.

But when stress is running high, I find it much harder to ante up. I don’t have the emotional currency in my account. I’m stretched thin, in the words of Bilbo, “like butter scraped over too much bread.” There’s a buzzing in my head all the time. White noise. It pops and sizzles and zings, an electric bedlam that serves as the backdrop to anything else I might be thinking.

Not the best mental state for writing.

And here’s the damnable part. It doesn’t produce writer’s block, at least not for me. It merely slows me down. A paragraph that should have taken two minutes will take 20. I can still work, but the work is tediously slow and so much more draining than at other times. Whatever fulfillment I might normally find is almost completely missing. It’s like climbing a mountain every day only to be swept up in an avalanche each night, unharmed but always delivered back to base camp as if I’d made no progress at all.

So what do you do when your head’s full of white noise? When everyday stresses, both great and small, pull and pick at you, making it hard to get anything done in your stories? It’s not like other emotional states, this mental chaos. Anger you could funnel into your writing. Jealousy or hurt, too. But this, this is like a black hole sucking away your fiction and even your desire to produce it.

I can only tell you what I do. I turn on music, something that soothes me, make a strong cup of coffee, and keep at it. Not with nose-to-the-grind-stone intensity, but at a steady pace. Something I can maintain without getting out of breath. I try to hear past the white noise, listening for Vye’s voice, and I take what joy I can in whatever I manage to produce on such days.

Far from a magic bullet, I know, but that’s why writing is work.

What about you? How do you carry on writing when the interior of your mind feels overwhelmed with the white noise of life?


  1. Finally, my inability to write as effortlessly as you serves me well. It has *never* taken me 2 minutes to write anything, like ever, so I am blissfully unaware that my white noise, dry well and/or depression could be having any kind of thwarting effect on what I deem to be.my typical writing technique!

    Teasing aside, I hear you.

    White noise is not actually my friend and for some time now, I’ve been living with the dial stuck between crappy stations. Consequently, you may have heard the bullfrogs chortling their throaty “what the fucks” into the stillness that is my blog.

    I wish you serenity, Adam.

    1. AR Martin Author

      Thanks, Hazy. I think most writers who’ve been at it for a while–say, at least a few months–know of this phenomenon. It sucks.

      As for your teasing, two things: one, effortless or not, you’re an amazing writer. And two, rarely do I write a paragraph in 2 minutes. It’s happened. Like, once or twice. You know, a one sentence paragraph.

      Like this one.


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