The Return of Writer’s Block — and How I’m Dealing

Any writer’s who’s a real writer will feel the pain of sitting at their desk, their brain pumping and flowing with ideas — when suddenly, to their absolute horror, they don’t remember how to get any of it out on paper.  It is the dreaded writer’s block, the scourge of the Seven Pens (heh — just thought of that), the mortifying realization that you just.  Can’t.  Write.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  The desire is more than there.  You really, really want to.  It’s just…well…there’s that thing for work I need to work on, and the laundry to fold.  And oh, if I had children, they’d need dinner — so I guess I should get started on that…

Yeah.  It’s not pretty.

Today, I have the perfect reason to sit and do nothing but write:  the inability to walk, and doctor’s orders.  And yet, all I want to do is plop myself on the floor and sort through that office closet full of junk that I’ve been wanting to clean for the last six months.  But I’m not!  I’m here, typing viciously to get this out before what little inspiration and time I have tell me to stop.  I’m also here to tell you just how I am choosing to get through this year’s current bout of writer’s block.

 

1. Writing through the Pain (aka Denial)

Okay, so, I know I used to be able to write.  I know that I could at one time sit and write for hours.  I know that I felt so satisfied doing it.  So, how in the freak do I get back to that?

Simple.  I mentally grab myself by the collar and say, “Look.  We both know what this is really about.  You don’t have writer’s block.  You never had writer’s block.  You think that just because you’re tired and stressed from other things, that gives you the right to make excuses?

“Do you want to be an award-winning novelist?  Do you want to make your own schedule and type on those beaches of Hawaii in the middle of nowhere?  Well then, stop sulking and start scribing!”  And then I shove  myself into a chair, fold my arms, and wait until I’ve nervously loaded up my laptop.  Yeah — that’ll teach me.

 

2. Stream of Consciousness Writing on Steroids

I think my biggest fear in taking the time to write again is both building up the stamina to write like I used to (my longest session was 8 glorious hours) and giving myself permission to dedicate that time to it without feeling guilty or like I should be doing something “better” with my time.  You hear it all the time:  writing is a lonely sport, and it can be easy to feel like you’re wasting time.

Anyway, I’ve decided to set aside a minimum of 30 minutes a day to write pure stream of consciousness on anything, for anything.  The bottom line is, I can’t stop writing.  This is going to be time different from writing a blog entry or in an actual story.  Hopefully, this time will allow me to “purge” all the crappy content that is blocking the real flow of dialogue and scene-setting.

 

3. Eating a Weird Meal

Tonight, my dinner consists of two sardines, a raw bell pepper, a yogurt “cheesecake” tart and a navel orange.  First course — the pepper — was about an hour ago.  Time for the main course!

 

4. Listening to James Blake Radio

About a year ago, while morphing into a basket case under the weight of being picked for jury duty, I met a young lady who introduced me to James Blake via his song “Retrograde.”  I was immediately hooked and started listening to more music of his genre: folk, indie, Douglas Dare, Corinne Bailey Rae, Citizen Cope, with a little Seal and Michael Franks here and there.  I welcomed, needed, and enjoyed the music that was inoffensive, soft, real, and simple.  The kind of music that’s equivalent to sitting on the back porch in the summer, drinking tea and watching the moon rise among the choir of crickets and owls.

Ah, I can just hear the opening chords of Michael Franks’ “Lotus Blossom” now.

 

5. Editing Something Else

Believe it or not (I’m Robert Ripley!  No, just kidding), but I actually have 90% of a rough draft of a novel that I completed in April or so of last year.  It was a 300-page, hardcore labor of love, and I felt like singing when I finished that last sentence.

Then, three weeks after that, I read it again — and wanted to cry from my perceived sheer boredom of the content.

Fast-forward to about a month ago.  While sorting through ye ol’ closet o’ junk, I found the aforementioned manuscript, beat-up and losing a few corners.  Curious, I flipped through few pages and realized — huh.  Tweren’t half bad, it weren’t.  So, I’ve decided to resurrect the poor thing and see if there is a story yet to be salvaged within.  Maybe the new-found hope will spark my currently fizzled-out muse.

 

And that, friends, is my current curriculum for beating writer’s block.  I can only hope that I’ve given the next poor, unconventional soul some pearls of wisdom (or a grain of shrewd sand) to help them defeat this cruel, unbiased beast.

And now, I must close, because my head is feeling heavy, and it’s getting hot in this room, and my eyes are crossing, and I need to finish eating before my fat-burning window closes.  Until next time!

(Durn this lack of writing stamina.)

The Power of Perception

Last Sunday, while spending the day getting things done and taking time out for myself, I had the chance to talk to two family members on the phone.  While speaking to them (separately), I noticed an interesting difference in each of the exchanges.

Exchange #1

    • Family member 1:  So, how have you been?
    • Me:  Oh, you know.  Pretty good.  My back has been hurting a little today, but I think it’s cuz—
    • FM1:  Cuz you’re old?  [laughs]
    • Me [laughs]:  Yeah, with my grey hair and my bad knees and my bad back…
    • FM1 [suddenly exasperated]:  B, I was joking!  And you got all your grey hair from worrying too much.
    • Me [starting to feel a little annoyed]:  Well, I got the grey hair from Dad.  He went prematurely, too.
    • FM1:  No, you’re a worrywart.  You worry all the time.
    • Me:  ….
    • FM2:  …Anyway! How’s everything been?

Exchange #2

    • Family member 2:  Hey, B!  How’ve you been, sweetheart?
    • Me:  Oh, I’ve been good!  Just been running errands today, taking care of things.
    • FM2:  That is great.  Your father told me how beautiful your new house is.  Are you still kicking butt at that martial arts school of yours?
    • Me [a little embarrassed]:  Well, I’m actually taking a break from taekwondo, but I’m really looking into what my next big adventure will be.
    • FM3:  Well, just look at you!  Sweetheart, I’m so proud of you!  You’re just doing everything, and it’s all just coming up aces!
    • Me:  🙂 Aw, thank you!

Since these exchanges happened so quickly, right next to each other, it really gave me the chance to compare how two people who love you can so easily affect how you feel about yourself.  It also displays how some words, though meant without any ill intent, can hurt.  I mean, they certainly don’t help.

As for me, it’s something I’m going to keep in mind the next time I have a conversation with someone I care about.  If I’m really trying to be helpful with their self-esteem…I’ve now got something of a template.  🙂

Portrait of an Involuntary Hermit

“You’re probably hypersensitive,” my counselor told me two weeks ago.  “But, I just found out several months ago that I’m a severe introvert,” I thought.  “And, I suffer from anxiety and depression.  And, I haven’t regularly been around large amounts of people my own age since, like, college.”

If it wasn’t happening to me, I probably would have rolled my eyes at this seeming hypochondriac and told her to “suck it up and stop victimizing yourself.”  But apparently, that has been on the list of items that I had also defaulted into doing — beating myself up for not being…”better” at the things that came normally to everyone else.

And now, as I sit inside and type this blog entry, I sort through the list of items I have planned today versus the list of items that are actually happening around this big city.

Me:

    • Go for a walk.
    • Wash clothes.
    • Work on work.
    • Go shopping for shoes.
    • Attend a coworker’s promotional party and escape as soon as I can do so unnoticed.

The Big City:

    • DragonCon
    • The Decatur Book Festival (one of the biggest book festivals in the country)
    • College football games
    • Festivals out the yin-yang

Yes, my list is a little bit longer in length, but the difference in impact is astounding.  I browse on Google at the details of the Decatur Book Festival — the booths and the speakers and the clubs — and I know, as someone who wants to make a living as a writer, that I should be involved in all this.  I scan the DragonCon images and tell myself, “You love science fiction and fantasy!  Why are you not trooping downtown?”

Aaaaaand then the anxiety floods in.  Dagnabbit.

It’s one of those moments where you just sit and wonder, what in the world happened in the last ten years to make you into such a recluse?  Having been involved in my taekwondo school for the last eight years, it was easy to be busy there and feel that I was active and actively making a difference.

However, since I’ve taken a sabbatical from TKD to pursue my original loves, I’ve found it very…daunting to turn the next page in my life.  Oh, I want to turn it.  I want to shed every outdated and juvenile part of me and emerge bright as a sparkling new phoenix.

But what is the recipe?  How do I find the path that conciliates me without overwhelming myself?  Do acknowledge the hustle and bustle of the city, yet pick a few items at a time and gently acclimate myself back into my interests at a nice, even pace?  Or do I plow in, 100%, into the heart of 600,000 Labor Day visitors, metaphorically electrocuting my anxiety into maximum overdrive or supreme meltdown?

This requires more pondering.

But it’s also stuffy in my house.  So I think I’ll keep pondering out in the sun.