Tag: writer’s block (page 1 of 7)

Breaking The Ice

Courtesy West Orlando News

You might think, from the title, that this is going to be another post about Netrunner. As much as I could ramble about cyberpunk card games until the post-apocalyptic cows come home, I want to talk more about the weather. No, not the weather in Night Vale, that’s yet another post. Lately the weather where I live has been cold. The winds have teeth. Snow is everywhere. And slowly but surely, almost every surface has languished under a coat of ice.

We’ve had to dig ourselves out of weather like this, situations like this, before. Even if you haven’t (in which case, consider yourself very fortunate), I’ll enumerate to facilitate better understanding. We have a bit of a hibernation instinct, the impulse to withdraw from the biting winds and damaging cold, to retain all the warmth we can by staying as huddled and insulated as possible. Whatever we leave behind, whatever escaped our notice in our withdrawal, becomes encased in that ice we’re desperate to avoid.

So it is with projects we leave behind. It could be for any number of reasons – fatigue, stress, more pressing projects, mere distraction – but whatever the cause, we put our ideas on a shelf in the freezer of the mind, to preserve it for later. Thankfully, ideas do not themselves suffer from freezer burn; the only real danger is that time may have made the idea too hip or too passé to be completely actionable. But no idea is completely without merit. All you have to do is break the ice around it and see what you have to work with.

This goes back to reinterpreting the entire concept of writer’s block. I maintain that it doesn’t really exist, at least not in the form of some ineffable construct that simply appears in the path of the writer. What does exist is this reshuffling of priorities in our heads. If you feel like something is preventing you from doing what you want to do, all it takes is some time to recharge, rethink your approach, and maybe break the ice covering something in your mind that hasn’t had attention in a while. I’m sure, in some case, there are truly daunting things in the way that can mess up one’s personal productivity, so I don’t mean to generalize. However, for the most part, if you’re wondering what’s happened to that idea you once had, if it’s any good or if there’s something fresh about it you can use elsewhere, I encourage you to dig it out from the back of that mental freezer, chip off that ice around it, and see what you can do.

Block Breaking Redux

Courtesy West Orlando News

I originally wrote this post over a year ago. However, it feels more relevant now than it did then. Maybe because I’m still struggling to carve out time to write, maybe because I know I’m not the only one writing less than I’d like, maybe because it’s close to the end of the year. Who knows, maybe me from the past wrote out this post as a reminder to my future self that writer’s block is something of a fallacy and needs to be dealt with head-on rather than worried about in a quiet, hands-wringing fashion. Anyway, here’s what I had to say about it, and I feel it’s still true:

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Writers Have Attention Deficit… Ooh, Shiny!

Courtesy Terribleminds

So I’ve been reading Double Dead, which you should be doing if you’re a fan of vampires, zombies or the writing styles of Chuck Wendig. I noticed it was part of something called “Tomes of the Dead”. Flipping to the back of the book, as I bought a physical copy instead of the perfectly viable e-version, I beheld quite a few promises of other novels with zombies in. What happened next was a bit unexpected: I got inspired to write one of my own.

I mean, there are quite a few zombie stories and games and films and memes out there, but few of the narratives tackle how a zombie apocalypse might start and if such a thing could be prevented. It could make for a good story, especially if elements of the supernatural exist throughout and one isn’t trying to make concessions for science.

Before that thought train even left the station, though, I put the brakes on. I thought back to several lessons from my would-be writing mentor and told myself that starting a new novel is a stupid idea when I already have two in need of rewriting. One’s been through the wringer several times, sure, and the other one is a bit shot at the moment but we can fix that in post, right?

That’s when the counter-argument appeared on my opposite shoulder and reminded me that Chuck also tells us his first couple novels may never see the light of day. He mines them for ideas and holds onto them because they’re still words he’s written, they just aren’t very good. They don’t cut the mustard. What’s to say my first couple stabs at long-form genre fiction aren’t similar? Maybe I’m not cut out for the young adult market and I should stop agonizing over nailing the opening. After all, don’t I already have enough headaches? Dayjob, bills, chores, planning for trips to Canada, Chicago and PAX East…

The counter-counter-argument is that when the writing is hard is when I need to write the most. It feels little drill-sergeant like, a bit of the no-pain-no-gain mentality of hardcore gym folk, but there’s also an element of truth to it. We don’t get anywhere or achieve anything without sacrifice. Writing when it isn’t one’s career involves investments of time and energy away from things one would rather be doing, and that includes writing other works. “Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing,” right Mr. Durden?

I’m glad I can at least slow down my thoughts to examine them in this way, even if I struggle to resolve them on my own. I don’t want indecision to keep me idle creatively for long. That way leads stagnation and the heat death of my brain. I do have one more short project to finish this week, but after that? There be dragons. I wonder how much of this indecision I can chalk up to attention deficit disorder or something similar. I’d like to think I’m not alone in moments like this, as the aforementioned Terribleminds post would indicate, but at times like these I prefer to voice my doubts and thoughts just to be sure.

Any advice, Internet? I welcome all comers.

Anybody Seen My Motivation?

Dunes of the Namib Desert, taken by Simon Collins

About a year and a half ago I wrote up a post that differentiated between writer’s block and a dry spell. The former’s defined by a lack of ideas, the latter by outside influences draining the writer’s energy and free time. I’d chalk up my current mental state to a dry spell if it weren’t for the fact that I kind of hate everything I write right now. Especially that last sentence. No, wait, that one was pretty bad, too.

In all likelihood it’s some form of post-holiday depression brought on by diminished energy reserves following the exhaustive spending and binges endemic of this time of year. The best way to deal with it will probably end up being just writing through it. It’s like sitting in a traffic jam on the way to an important or exciting event; you can’t just abandon your car, so you sit and wait it out. Unless of course you see an explosion or the shambling hordes of the undead in your rearview. In that case, by all means, abandon that would-be mobile coffin and run like hell.

I find it difficult to motivate myself, however, when I hate everything I write or even think of writing. I think it’s rubbing off from others, as well. This may sound familiar: I want to improve what and how I write, but the possibility of what and how I write right now is not very good, so I don’t do it. Again, the solution is probably to write through it. And if I weren’t me I’d be encouraging me to do just that. Bear down and write through it. Get the bad words out and scuff them from the edges of the good words later. Write for the sake of writing, not necessarily for the approval of others. Just goddamn do it. Right? Right.

I can see why people hate it when I talk like that. Or like this, for that matter.

I have to say I’m glad I’m not a poet. If I were to agonize over every single word I wrote in the interest of meter and pace, I’d probably be even crazier than I already am. I’d dabble in more journalism but in all likelihood, in this state of mind, I’d write the word “fuckers” five thousand times and call it a column on the supporters of SOPA and Protect IP. I mean even in this obscure little blog I can’t keep myself from referencing more brilliant writers, in whose shadows I stand and weep a little bit.

Jon Stewart once said that comedians always know somebody out there with less talent than they have is making more money than they are. I think writers are similar. I also know that people with more talent than I have are struggling for the same eyeballs I want to put my words in front of. I can’t say I’ve ever not known this, but lately it’s been difficult for me to get around that notion, and the hatred of my own writing, and this general feeling of ennui that’s passing through me, hopefully on its way to someone else’s brain.

So, hey, if you’re one of the few dozen people who actually reads this stuff and you’ve had a similar experience, feel free to drop me a comment. Misery loves company, after all, and it would be good to know I’m not alone when it comes to self-loathing and enervation teaming up to hold one’s motivation to ransom.

Breaking That Damn Block

Courtesy West Orlando News

I know for a fact that writer’s block doesn’t exist.

It’s a phantasmal construct, a conjuration of minds desperate to make words appear on pages but struggling with an inability to do so. Every writer, from the best-selling novelist to the mommy blogger to the spinner of rhetoric deals with it now and again. The desire to write is there, hungry and unplacated, but the words are not. They simply do not appear.

Those are the times when a writer is tempted to reach for the “writer’s block” excuse.

The fact of the matter is that many factors can contribute to a lack of words. Too many distractions. Not enough rest. Too much caffiene. Or not enough. Hunger, frustration, despair and doubt. Tangled emotions can wad up in the neurons of the writer and, yes, block the flow of creativity.

It’s the closest writer’s block ever comes to being real.

But along with the term comes the notion that it’s wished into being by malevolent forces. A writer can believe that if writer’s block is indeed the cause for a lack of productivity, there’s little that can be done about it. Here’s proof that you couldn’t be more wrong.

That’s another thing that can cause a writer to believe in the so-called “block”. A sense of futility. It can seem like there’s no new stories to tell. An article on politics or gaming or frighteningly effective sex toys can appear redundant. This very post on writer’s block feels a bit like repetition.

So what?

Just because a particular story has been told doesn’t mean you can’t tell it differently. Maybe even better. You won’t know until you try, and the alternative is making nothing happen at all.

In the words of XKCD, fuck that shit.

We all have bad days. Everybody struggles. Not every moment is going to be full of the creative juices flowing freely from your brainpan through the dream-tubes in your arms to the paper or keyboard or tablet or paint-stained wall.

And you know what? That’s okay.

What’s not okay is letting it stop you from doing something about it.

Maybe you won’t write today. Maybe you feel your drawings suck. Maybe you think you suck hard at something you enjoy or want to excel in doing. Welcome to the human race, now stop beating yourself up over not being perfect.

Let the issue drop. Stop worrying about it. Gnaw no more on your fingernails and insides. Take a break. Grab some food. Make yourself a drink. Find something pleasurable to do. Go the fuck outside.

When you get back, the work will still be waiting for you. But you will no longer feel ill-equipped to deal with it.

You will, instead, kick its ass.

If writer’s block did exist, consider sentiments like this your sledgehammer. I’ll happily help you swing it.

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