I’ve been having this problem. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. From what I understand, it is pretty common, especially when people are expected to perform, and I mean it when I assure you that this doesn’t always happen. This rarely happens to me. I don’t always fall flat.
But apparently I’m in a dryspell.
There I said it! I admit that I am in a writer’s block. I hope you’re happy what with your cool kicks and new puppy. I hope you find comfort in your Brooklyn loft apartment with your iPhone 72 S and hologram Siri played by fun interfaces like the cast of Sherlock. I dislike the imagined, hip lifestyle I just gave you, so I dislike you as a result.
I figured that this not-writing was just a phase. Before I had fanfiction, flash fiction, short stories, and essays. I had this constant barrage of ideas and thoughts and lines I just had to get down. I had to text it in my phone or scramble for a pen on the subway. I sometimes recorded it, talking into my phone and pretending I wasn’t crazy as I listed out plot points. To do this, you phrase your plot ideas as half a phone conversation, thusly:
You: I can’t believe that the 1930’s detective had to walk through the snow storm to stop the murder from striking again! (Pause as if the person on the other end has an opinion.) What? He got there? And it was a trap set by his ex-wife?
It was like I was getting lucky every weekend, when I was really just huddled under two comforters with my laptop, banging out a story. Maybe not a good story, but it was magic nonetheless.
Fine, fine. I’ll stop it with the sexy talk because I too am uncomfortable.
Suddenly, though, everything just went away. I stopped reading good things. I stopped writing anything. Frankly, I didn’t notice. The holidays distracted me. I had resumes to send out. I had interviews to worry over. Who had time for writing when my cover letter skills needed work?
Eventually, I realized that I spent more time napping, which I loathe*, than writing or reading. I started books but gave up on them. I figured that wanting to write would hit me again, and I’d have something to keep me busy soon. I waited, but that’s just not how it works. Not doing anything is possibly the worst thing to do.
Yeah, yeah, I’m just late to the party. In reality, you have to write crap. You accept that you’re crap and you accept that there is no rhyme or reason to what you’re writing because your writing might be crap. You just have to do it until it isn’t.
Or until you get so used to it that you think you’re wonderful**.
Writing is a psychological practice. Over and over again, we hear that it’s a muscle! It’s a muscle you need to exercise! I hear my ex-Zumba instructor trying to egg me on, when I just want to clap my hands in the back of the room.
And I hate that. One, I’m terrible at exercise of any kind, ask my Zumba instructor. Scratch that I’m kick-ass at jump rope. Just let me do it ten times and stop when I lose my breath or get the least bit sweaty. Two, I hate it when people tell me I need exercise. I don’t tell them to bake me a cake.
Man, if only writing was cake. Sadly it’s not. In the same way that cake tester is not a viable career path (says my mother).
Writing is work, and like Imani said, it’s a discipline that needs honing. In that way, I think we should approach writing in the same way the Bride approaches defense techniques in Kill Bill. When she got trapped in that coffin (or in our case, writer’s block), she knew what to do.
Moral of the story: you’re going to write crap. You have to accept that. Look at the Bride. She didn’t just smash her way out of the coffin. She had to reset her hand over and over until she bloodied her knuckles and broke the wood. You get out of your rut when you try and get hurt. You get out of the coffin because you taught yourself how to get out of the coffin, ya dig?
It’s going to be painful and bloody and dirty, but you’ll get out of it. You just have to want to.
*Yes, I hate napping. Get over it. **I’m sorry. You’re always wonderful.