Build Your Own Writer’s Block

Anyone who has been a writer for more than a hot second has experienced writer’s block. It’s one of those strange, shape-shifting creatures that can last for any length of time, comes and goes as it pleases, and can be a minor annoyance or an awful, ever-growing, monstrous presence over which you feel you have no control.

I had experienced one form of writer’s block for my entire life, until recently, and it was the kind that made me question whether writer’s block actually existed at all, or if it was just a fancy term for lazy. It’s that state of mind where you feel like you can’t write until inspiration hits. Or: “Well, I want to get some writing done, but there’s an Indiana Jones marathon on tv…”

Over this past year, I’ve had a more troublesome version of the dreaded affliction. The best way I can describe the feeling is having lost my way with words. I had new ideas, and built on some old ideas, but when it came to writing attempts, the entire English language escaped me. There were blog posts that were deleted before I finished them because they were flat and boring and didn’t seem to say anything worth sharing. It was frustrating to say the least, disheartening, and led me to wonder once in a while if I should really keep trying to be a writer. Existential crisis much?!

Most often, though, it seems that writer’s block is just a series of excuses given to justify why you’re not writing. It’s pretty much fabricated due to anxiety, laziness, or some other underlying reason you’ve decided you’re not “in the mood” to write. The following are a few of the excuses I have been using:

  • I can’t write this thing until I’ve written this other thing! Unless you have actual deadlines for specific pieces, the order in which they’re written is not usually relevant. Certain stories, characters, ideas, etc. push their way to the front. Creative ideas do not stay in a single file line, waiting their turn. They’re more like cattle, and you have to wrangle them, chase after the ones that run off, and occasionally one gets eaten by coyotes, wolves, tigers, boa constrictors…
  • I don’t have a good place to submit or share that piece! This is a legitimate consideration when it comes to publishing pieces, but that part can’t be done until after they’re written! You’re definitely getting ahead of yourself if you’re giving the publishing and marketing aspects of things this much attention before you do the writing itself. Or, to look at it another way, it may mean that you’re not a writer at all, but just someone who wants to sell your ideas. There is a big difference. Focus on the writing part. Create your content. Then worry about finding the right platform for it.
  • The idea isn’t ready yet! There is sense and silliness to this thought. There are times when a story needs time to percolate in your mind, to form a clearer picture, before you can grasp it enough to put it on paper (physical or virtual). If that’s the case, sure, hold off on that idea, and write something else. However, if you’re waiting until you have the whole thing crafted so that you can write a mind-blowing first draft, you’re wasting time. Getting the story perfect, or right, or whatever you’re aiming for, is better left to the realm of editing. Your first draft will not be a masterpiece. Accept this, and get down to business.

The truth is that sometimes writer’s block gets the best of you for a little while, but the best way to push through it, no matter what variety you have, is to just keep writing. This is the type of advice that doesn’t seem entirely helpful when you feel like you need an extra push, but it is a fact that all writers eventually learn. I didn’t follow this advice much this past year, I’ll admit. With the writing goals I’ve set for 2015, I can’t allow writer’s block to slow me down. I thought I’d debunk the condition before starting this new journey, as a way to remind myself that writer’s block only has power if you let it.

This post is raw, unedited, just barely proofread. In the near future I might be writing more carefully crafted posts, but this is mostly another stream of consciousness offering from someone who sometimes has interesting thoughts.  

…but really.

Do me a favor. Look through the last five or so posts before this one. That spans, what, two or three months? And how many times in those posts did I say that I was planning to post more often and try to get a writing schedule happening?

Not that it was a promise or anything like that, but I have not been true to my word.

I can’t honestly say I know why. It’s one of those spiraling lacks of productivity wherein you’ve climbed down into a hole of Netflix and have to force yourself to get any real work done. There are many reasons why I haven’t been writing very much, and yet there is no reason at all. The truth is, the last time I was regularly writing was probably ten or so years ago. To explain why I’ve neglected the one thing I would say I NEED to do with my life, I would have to take you on a long and winding journey and I can’t guarantee we would get to the end. Perhaps, later, I will try to give the full explanation. For now, I’ll simplify:

Life.

I suppose I was not actually prepared to handle how hard life actually is. And, maybe, how hard writing actually is. Continue reading

Is There A Pill for This? Or an App?

So what have I been doing? Nothing.

My bedroom is a mess. So is my mind. And probably every other part of me.

I’m sure I’ve done something wrong in my life to get here. I don’t believe in fate, but it doesn’t feel like I am where I’m supposed to be. I can’t go into more detail, because I really don’t know how to explain it.

~~~

 

I come up with anywhere from one to five blog post topics a day, split between this site and The No-Recipe Life, my lifestyle/food/everything else platform. I’m sure some of them are not really worth the time, but I’ve never said I wanted either blog to be perfect, and anyway, that would be a fruitless endeavor. Other posts seem like excellent ideas and I feel that I have thoughts in that area that are worth sharing. If only one other person appreciates my words–or even if no one but me appreciates them–it’s enough to be worth my time.

Lately, I have sat down and typed out none of these ideas. I’m sure many of them are now gone forever. I will never have that idea again. Out of all the possible posts that might have happened, only a few would have really contributed anything notable. But now they never will, and that should make the world just the slightest bit sad.

I’ve been really busy lately. Ok, not really busy. Really stressed. Blogging fell by the wayside, as they say (they being people who use cliches a lot, and me, apparently), because my creative impulses were very low for a while. I can barely feel them even now, but there are times when you have to decide to do something regardless. I have a lot of things to get in order before I can come back to blogging with any regularity, and I’m only starting to make a plan to get things figured out. Not that I ever expect to figure things out… but at least I can attempt to bring some organization to my life.

 

Even though I’m not feeling optimistic about anything, I still have to try. It’s definitely not ideal. It makes motivation very hard to find, for anything.

Wow, I wish this post didn’t sound so depressing. If I’m lucky this will purge some of these feelings from my mind and I will start to do better…

Five Things Friday: December 20, 2013

Things I’ve lost in the last month:

1. Any real motivation to write. It’s still what I want to do all day, if I could, and I have lots of ideas and stuff, but during any free time I have I really, really don’t want to.

2. An unfortunate amount of the Christmas spirit that started showing up in November. Even before Thanksgiving this year, I was feeling excited about Christmas and even listened to Christmas music a little bit. I’m not sure what happened exactly. Got too stressed out? Mood ruined by the fact that buses all lose their damn minds when there’s weather? Either way… bah humbug.

I’m still listening to Christmas music and wearing lots of sparkly things and red things (pretty much like always…) in an attempt to feel more Christmas-y. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t go anywhere that actually has Christmas decorations.

3. Healthy habits. I have only wanted to eat things that are smothered in cheese lately. Sandwiches with cheese, pizza, mac and cheese, cheeseburgers… etc. It doesn’t help that all the vegetables I really like have become ridiculously expensive lately (although that’s my fault, because I go to Whole Foods a lot. It’s not my fault it’s the only grocery store that I actually pass on the way home from work.) I also haven’t been working out as much. Why? Because I’m lazy, or some other reason that I don’t really feel like explaining. So let’s just go with lazy.

4. One of my gloves. But then I found it.

5. My ability to sing. Granted, I don’t know how long it’s been gone because I don’t really sing anymore. But I tried to sing some Christmas carols last week, and I sounded like–well, someone who can’t sing. Basically. This is the result of ten years of voice lessons, then four years without them.

Holy Shit, November’s Over…

I officially bombed my unofficial NaNoWriMo. I had not expected to actually write 50,000 words, but I figured I’d at least get a little momentum. I literally worked on my novel ONE DAY this month. It’s really a good thing that I did not actually participate in National Novel Writing Month. Then my failure would be more than hypothetical.

It doesn’t matter much now, if I think about it… November’s over. However much writing I did not do in the past 30 (let’s just say the month is actually over) days is still left to do in the time coming up. So I’d better get fucking moving. If I don’t keep writing I feel like my head might explode.

I’m extremely unmotivated. Nothing inspires me anymore. I used to have this constant urge to write, but now my stories are like late births, huddled up in their wombs, going “It’s really warm in here. I think I’ll stay in a while longer.” It’s going to be a long labor, I think.

Sorry about that image. For some reason, I just watched What To Expect When You’re Expecting. It wasn’t that bad, actually, although I don’t think you could possibly enjoy it if you’re a man.

I have had a few sparks for flash pieces, my little micros that certain people are always saying are the beginning of a story… they’re the story. If you don’t like it, why are you reading micros? Unfortunately, those sparks are too personal, to fresh, and I don’t have the courage to put them out into the world. Most of the time. (Like, what if someone actually understands what I’m saying, and all hell breaks loose? What am I supposed to do then? Am I supposed to say “Hey, it’s just fiction, calm down“? Yeah, okay. Good luck with that…)

 

Here’s to a better month in December. I am all out of optimism but somehow I can actually still hope. Yeah, I don’t understand it either.

Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It

A while ago, I had the artist’s equivalent of a crisis of faith. I thought about my efforts as a writer and wondered WHY. My work seemed so unnecessary compared to that of teachers and engineers. I wished I had decided to be a computer programmer, since the constant development of technology means there will always be something for them to do.

And being constantly reminded that there are no new stories (which, in a very basic sense, is true) did not help.

I just thought about things that were wrong with the world, and the different types of suffering that afflicts people, hunger, diseases, overcrowding, trauma… and I wished I were someone who visibly helped alleviate it. I felt guilty for having a life’s calling that connected more to luxury than survival.

I no longer question that there is a purpose to literature. The value of writing is undeniable, although it seems less and less appreciated by the world at large as the internet continues to create ever more misinformed and illiterate generations…

But I have been wondering what the point of ME is. I haven’t worked on writing at all in weeks now. I can’t even take the time to come out with a miniscule little one-sentence microfiction. I could blame it on my malfunctioning “m” key, but that really isn’t the main problem. And whatever happened to those full days of writing I was going to have? I was so excited about them.

And the thing is, when I do look back over certain projects, like the first two chapters of the Helen of Troy novel I have posted on the tab entitled “Helen” (go read if you haven’t) or the Another Life series, I know they’re good. If I could get off my ass (not literally, as I usually sit while writing) and just translate the ideas in my head onto the screen of the computer, I would be so much closer. I have some ideas for how to get my motivation back, but those methods lie beyond my control. So, anyone have any ideas – OTHER than just sitting down and writing every day, which does not work for me for very long – I might use to get my creative juices flowing?

How Else Could It Be

July is now almost over. I know, I don’t have to tell you that. You already know.

Once again, it seems that time is moving on while I stand still. And yet, I’ve been running around the city like crazy, seeing apartments and going to work and, thankfully, spending some time with friends.

And as usual, what I haven’t been doing is writing. It’s been at least two weeks since I got much writing of any sort done. Mostly, it’s my fault, as I allow myself to be distracted by other things in life, instead of setting time aside to get writing done. Mostly, people understand and say things like “I would probably do the same thing if I was trying to find a place to live.” Of course, that doesn’t help me be more productive, or make me feel better about neglecting my life’s purpose.

Do you ever question the one thing you usually are sure you were meant to do, and then wonder why you exist at all if it is not, in fact, your purpose?

Sometimes I spend an entire day feeling as if everyone is judging me, and always unfairly…

Bag Blogger! No Cookie!

When I created this space for sharing my writing, I was sure that I would NEVER have a lapse in posting, maybe a little more than a week at the most. I would push myself when I needed to and gain tons of faithful readers and blog posts would just fly from my keyboard without effort. I know, that whole idea seems very, very unrealistic.

Not least because, in order to get that many people to read your blog, you have to be famous already or just have that easily visible je ne sais quoi. (Mine is harder to notice – probably because I never post anymore…) But who wants an obvious je ne sais quoi?

Now I seem to have become one of those neglectful bloggers who leaves my lovely little blog all alone, its spirit drooping as time goes on…

Of course, I notice that people haven’t been checking back every so often to see if I’ve posted anything new. If they were I would have a few more site views.

Ah well, I sigh and move on.

I thought I would make myself write something today, because June is almost over. That’s right, we’re almost in July! It’s crazy, right? Somehow time always flies… And why have I only posted a few times in early June? Lack of time and inspiration, I guess. I’ve been working six days a week, usually, and although I wish I were writing more, I just don’t hear that voice of my muse much these days. I believe that if I had more time, then it would be easier to get into the habit, and it would come more easily, but who knows? Maybe it’s actually something I’m doing wrong…

I might write another Another Life later today. Get some actual creative posts up. Check later!

Hopefully, Inspiration

So many goings-on lately, I’ve had a hard time sitting down and writing. There was some moving in my house – the beginning of the shifting living arrangements, which will be going on until June (and then I have to find somewhere to live in the fall…), and there was my computer breaking…

I’ve fixed it, but I still haven’t written much lately. I feel that I should post something, but since I don’t have any new writing to share, I can relate my news.

I have a second job! The first has still not gotten around to giving me a reasonable number of hours each week, so I needed the second one. Even better – it’s in a bookstore! Working with books can refresh my writing motivation. I get ideas that way, or sometimes just being around books makes me feel like writing. I’m hoping that will hold true for this job and it will help me to be more productive than I have been lately.

This job is a temporary position, with the possibility of it turning into a permanent one. If you, the readers, seem interested, I’ll let you know what happens.

In the meantime, I’m keeping the first job, but the temp job is 32 hours a week, so I probably won’t be trekking out to Somerville all that often. It’s something of a relief, because it takes over an hour to get there on the T…

In writing news: I have plans for this Another Life series I’ve started. Plans that I’m sure will take quite a long time to implement, particularly considering my other projects. Plans that can be simplified by saying “a book of microfiction.”

Just an Update.

Well then. One full week of November later, and I’m thus far supremely undedicated in my N0-NaNoWriMo exploits. I’ve written a single short story – very short, in fact, it was flash fiction – and haven’t worked on any of my outstanding projects that were on the list. I feel, once again, like a bad writer —

not because the writing I do is bad

because I just fail to actually do the writing. I intend to gather my concentration and write more this week than one could reasonably expect. Then I can say I’m a good writer again.

The story I did write was a horror story, written to submit to a site called MicroHorror, which published horror stories under 666 words. It’s not exactly a typical subject for me, nor is it really my best writing, but it’s still relatively well-written, interesting, and creepy. I am 99% positive that there were no grammar mistakes, at least.  I have submitted it and should know fairly soon whether they will put my story on the site.

When I finally manage to do the work I’ve been meaning to do for weeks, I’ll have a nice list of submissions to wait to hear back from. (I’ve been trying to work the end of that sentence so that it both makes sense and doesn’t end in a preposition, but somehow it just didn’t happen. Suggestion, without rewriting the entire sentence?)

 

For those of you who are interested in aspects of my life: I now have a job! Not officially yet, until I do the orientation tomorrow and Wednesday. Then they’ll have me in their system and I can get paid money. This job has nothing to do with writing, but that’s all right. It’s money, and it won’t sap all my creative energy – always a danger in the type of job I truly want. Some days, I might even be free to work on writing (mentally developing, that is, not the actual writing). Either way, I’m certainly looking forward to making money again. I’ve been unemployed – aside from the one, glorious freelance job completed in August, paid in October – for 5 months.