I’m sad to inform you that I now suffer from what is known as EHS, or “Empty Head Syndrome.” I am a writer who finds herself incapable of writing. Should I feel guilty about my newly developed mental condition? According to my writers’ group, no; they’re happy to point out that I finished writing a novel a month ago, and my mind deserves a break. However, here’s the catch: although my rapidly typing fingers might be taking a break, my nightmares are not.
That’s right; when I do not exercise my mind creatively during the day, my subconscious tortures me at night. I mean, all night long. It’s not that the dreams wake me up necessarily; they are merely disorienting. These dreams usually feature friends I haven’t seen in years. They feature tornados and sharks. In my dreams, friends tell me they are pregnant, and I wake up wondering if friends are really pregnant. Without an outlet for my overly imaginative mind, my dreams have become vivid, horrifying, and downright inappropriate, and I want this to stop.
And yet. And yet. I have nary a tale to tell. Nadda. Zilch.
I am an addicted daydreamer. Usually, when I daydream, I set up elaborate fantasy stories that don’t have good plotlines, but hey, they’re fun for me, and they send me into a state of blissful relaxation. I can’t even do that anymore! What is a daydreamer incapable of a simple daydream? A crazy person, that’s what! A sufferer of EHS, Empty Head Syndrome.
I’ve been doing my best to therapeutically heal my condition by reading. I’ve finished four books in the past two weeks: The Language Police, Felix Palma’s newest release Map of the Sky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (heart-wrenching), and All Quiet on the Western Front (even more heart-wrenching). Instead of my morning routine of writing, I read. I read and I read and I read, hoping that the creative inspirations of others might inspire something in me. So far, we’re still at zero.
Does this happen to all authors? Does the process of writing a full-length novel so exhaust the psyche that all creative thought is removed for, say, the length of time it took to write the novel? Somebody tell me I’m not alone here, because I’m losing my mind. I think it’s because it has been years since I haven’t had a story in my head. Before I began the recently completed Life without Harry (which is floating around with first readers as I type), I spent two years working on a novel I ended up trashing. Before that, I spent about a year writing short stories. Before that … who knows? I’m getting too old to remember.
What I’m getting at is that it’s been years since I’ve been without a story in my brain, and without my creative outlet, I’m having trouble remembering how to relax—how to fade out when real life gets a little too intense. Because that’s what I’ve realized: writing is and always will be an escape for me. If I am unable to write, where is my escape? Where can my mind go to rest? Sure, reading other people’s work will help for a while. Watching Law and Order has a way of lulling me into a hypnotic trance of TV zombie-land. But how long will my subconscious be sated by these silly distractions? How long before I wake up in a cold sweat, haunted by never ending dreams?
Usually, stories have a way of falling into my lap, so I’m playing the waiting game—waiting for my first readers to have feedback on Life without Harry and waiting to wake up with something new to work on. Jake wants me to write something fantastical with a Halloween theme, and let’s face it—wouldn’t that be fun? Certain songs bring to mind scenes that have no relevance, and yet there are scenes already floating in my head, scenes from some mysterious story as yet undiscovered. But I still have no actual story, and folks, a writer needs a story like a surfer needs the sea. Until the images make sense, until inspiration strikes, I will wallow in this Empty Head Syndrome, waiting for the Fiction Fairy to bop me on the head.