Writer’s block mixed with a general apathetic feeling about life have led to no posting. I have a lot of starts, but no ends. So, in the meantime, I am posting a “how-to” that I had to write for the class I have talked about a few times. It’s one of my favorite things that I wrote that semester, so I polished it up a bit and will leave it there in the hopes that you enjoy reading it.
As a writer, I dream of days spent loitering at my local coffee store. The green mermaid would smile at me from her paper cup as my fingers fly over the keyboard of my laptop—another brilliant idea brought to life courtesy of yours truly. At night I’d grab a notebook and my favorite pen and sit outside on a wide porch, watching the sun set over the ocean as I record the greatest of advice for future generations to base their lives on.
And then reality hits.
This version consists of a blank screen with a wicked little cursor blinking in my face, every blip another giggle at my ineptness. That green mermaid who was so friendly before is sneering at me with a look of disgust, knowing I won’t complete my task. And to top it off, the barista keeps coming over, asking me to please order something else or leave.
If I were a more positive person, I would write on how to get over a case of writer’s block. Joke’s on you though if that’s what you’re looking for; I have been called many things—my two favorite are “bitch” and “real”, but “positive” is not an adjective that describes your’s truly—so instead, I will write on how to live with constant writer’s block. This is a far more realistic adventure.
Write every day. I know you have heard this from probably every how-to on writing, but it is true. Even if you just write a paragraph, get something onto paper. When I am really stuck, I google “writing prompts” and go from there. While most cause me to roll my eyes, some really do get my brain revved up. There are people who say to choose a certain time of day and make it a routine; this doesn’t work for me, but if you are the type that needs a schedule, go for it. (Whenever I try and force myself to do something it is guaranteed to end with the viewing of a rerun of The Golden Girlsand not a damn word written.) You can edit it tomorrow, or throw it away, or maybe it will be the beginning of your next great novel. The really important thing is that you simply pick up a pen and scribble the words down.See, we really do need those journals we keep buying!
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t worry, this is not some hippie “love yourself” nonsense. And for me, this is the hardest on the list. As you can probably guess, I am my own worst judge. Being hard on myself is engrained, and when I read something I write, my inner critic comes out and all hell breaks loose. If it helps, picture that critic as an actual person—mine is named Stanley, and he is a middle-aged, balding man with dirty glasses who wears a suit with the tie always partially undone at the top. How do I tell Stanley to shut up? There’s no magic—I literally tell him to do just that. I say it out loud, and sometimes it even works. The point is, I can almost guarantee that whatever you have written is not as bad as you think it is.
Use everyday experiences. Here’s an example: As I write this, I am shoveling green curry down my gullet. This in itself does not a story make. But maybe it could be a detail in a story—does my main character meet someone in a Thai restaurant? Does she spill curry down her shirt as a waiter who is running from a masked robber bumps into her? Pay attention to the mundane details in your everyday life—that’s where great stories start. Your day job is probably full of these details; people who cross your path every day, whether they are amazing or amazingly stupid, are great inspiration if you use them in that way. Keep your eyes tuned in and remember to jot down notes!
Don’t give up. Sometimes, being a writer just plain sucks. Deadlines loom, computers crash, ideas fly away—all of these things happen way too frequently. But you call yourself a writer for a reason, so own it! Something made you choose this over being an athlete or a circus clown. You have a great imagination, you can’t help buying new notebooks, you have a story to tell, you’re no good at making those little balloon giraffes. Whatever the reason, there is a passion there that shouldn’t, and more importantly can’t be ignored.
The sad truth is, most of us are not lucky enough to live in an episode of Friends. As much as we’d like to sit in that local coffee shop all day, socializing and writing, it isn’t to be. Writers are a diverse group of people, with many different stories to tell, but the one thing we have in common is that fire that can’t be extinguished. It burns in our guts and ignoring it only makes the blaze brighter. Having writer’s block as often as I do is the pits, but I don’t let it stop me. I trash 99% of what I compose, but that 1%…that’s why I continue the daily battle against that bastard inner critic. Stanley will always be there wandering around my brain, but instead of letting him break me down, I use him to make me work harder. While most of us will not become the next JK Rowling or James Patterson, we need to keep our dreams alive. I will end this with one other personal hope: having someone come up to me at a book signing with an old, worn copy of my novel, the binding cracked, the cover torn, and the pages dog-eared. Once you write a book that is so loved, that’s when you know you’ve really made it.