Let me tell you something true: there is nothing worse than being a writer who consistently suffers through writer’s block.
Honestly. It makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Or turn on sad music and cry. Or think seriously about Donald Trump’s presidency and begin to cry. Or set myself on fire. Or think about those ASPCA commercials. Or, even, launch myself into space.
As a writer, it’s like your brain decided to use its vacation days (of which it should actually have none, because let’s face it—all those times you zoned out in class when you should’ve been paying attention were basically like vacation days for your brain) and go on a trip not only out of town, state, or country, but rather out of this world. It waves, “Sayonara!” and you don’t see it until much later, after you’ve begged for an extension or fruitlessly tried distracting yourself from writing with other things that don’t have anything to do with what you’re trying to write about. It comes back for a moment, sticks its head in through your door and waves before running off again.
(Sorry for the bad analogy. I have writer’s block.)
2017 is the year I decided I’d start to write a book. I’ve had an idea sitting in the back of my head for the past couple of years, so it’s not a decision I came to lightly. I know that writing a book is difficult and time-consuming, and as an English major, I already have so much other writing to do that at first I was deterred.
Did I really want to spend my free from writing actually writing some more?
The answer: yeah.
Stephen King, a delightful man and an even more delightful writer, once said something about writing that stuck with me in the last couple of days of The-Year-That-Will-Not-Be-Named. He said, “Write 300 words a day, and in a year you’ve got a novel.”
So on January 1st, 2017, at 2:11am, I grabbed up my little portfolio of notes and ideas that I’d made over the years and opened up a Word document. My fingers were poised above the keys, ready for the words to fly from my head onto the paper.
Instead, I got the theme song of Parks and Recreation.
While the Parks and Rec theme song sounds oddly like the inside of a golden retriever’s head (which one should always enjoy), it wasn’t what I wanted. I frowned, closed the document, waited a moment, and then opened again.
This time, I wrote one word. "The."
(To be honest, I felt a little like Spongebob starting his essay. Except I maybe had a little less enthusiasm than he did.)
I groaned and tossed my laptop to the side, and my brain laughed at me.
Why wouldn’t the words come? I only needed 300.
I fell asleep frustrated.
16 hours and 7 episodes of Parks and Rec later, I tried again. This time, I got out "The beginning," before my brain decided to promptly remind me of all the lyrics of Billy Joel’s "We Didn't Start the Fire," and thus proceeded to sing all of them ON REPEAT for another hour.
It wasn’t until one AM the next morning that I suddenly bolted upright in my bed, having perhaps watched one too many episodes of Sense8. My muse was going for absolutely no reason, and I could barely stop my fingers from flying across the keyboard.
In fact, I was typing so fast and fervently that I didn’t manage to notice the clock. When I finished the first chapter and looked up, it was 4am, and my fingers ached.
Being a writer who is so reliant on the times when their muse is present and their mind is focused, ready to write, is absolutely terrible. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I have found a way that seems to stimulate function and bring my mind back to Earth.
It’s pretty easy, actually: don’t write when you have the urge to write. Write anyway.
Inspiration is something I think I’ve always taken for granted, but still steadily remains my downfall. I know I can produce something good when it’s there, but I find myself consistently saying, “Oh, I’ll write that 10-page paper on the Panopticon and its relevance to society when inspiration strikes!”
Nah. Write through it. Write through your brain doing the Cha-Cha Slide and through the powerpoint of every single time you’ve mistakenly waved at someone who was waving at the person behind you. Write through your brain’s rendition of "American Pie," or "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."
Because even though it’s crap, it’s still 300 important words.
Editing, of course, is another beast entirely, but that’s not my point.
My point is that, if you’re a writer, you’re a writer, and you’ve got to do your job. Writers create the world we live in, so yeah, it’s important that you write. Who cares if it sucks at first? As a writer, you can change it all with a pen and paper (or a Word document). Just do it.
Just make sure you write.