Writer’s block? Try a mental laxative!
What is writer's block? Isn't it, in it's most honest terms, a lack of confidence in our ability (at the moment) to produce a decent piece of literature? Maybe you don't believe in yourself... maybe you don't believe in the message. Maybe you're just not sure how to convey the message in a way that's entertaining/gripping/believable.
What we have here is a self esteem problem, and the best way to get past that is to prove yourself wrong. Pick the simplest topic you can find-- something that you know so well you can write about it without even being fully awake. It's commonplace, it's relatable, it's undeniable. I give you... human excrement.
I took a crap the other day the size of Sudan. It was of a phenomenal-- dare I say, biblical-- proportion. I've often considered, mid-crap, investing in some kind of respirator for occasions such as these, and this particular episode got me to break out my phone right there on the john.
I was playing Mozart. Don't be gross. I mean I had Mozart playing on the Bluetooth speaker that's part of the overhead fart fan. (Awesome invention.) Lots of times, I'll play something grandiose, like the theme to Superman the Movie, and pretend I'm crapping for the fate of the free world! That's going to help you get through those unripe banana movements. I'll play Primus if things get weird-- you know when it's going to be weird-- and the baseline in "My Name is Mud" will make those hot-curry/Tapatio/why-did-I-eat-the-whole-bunch-of-grapes situations seem actually kind of enjoyable.
But, as I was saying, I was playing Mozart-- not the Marriage of Figaro-- that wouldn't inspire a Tootsie Roll. I'm talking about Sonata number 17... in C. Now that's going to get things moving! Sometimes I wonder if Amadeus was thinking about times like these when he composed #17. Maybe. By the time I emerged from the old W.C., my pants fit better, my step was lighter, my future seemed brighter.
Ok, I've made my point. If you're experiencing blockage, try writing about... experiencing blockage. There are so many different euphemisms for poop! Revel in them! Write about them. You'll be surprised at how easily you can crap out a masterpiece without really even trying. Then, all you have to do is change topics.
... and wash your hands.
so you want to be a writer?
so you want to be a writer?
by Charles Bukowski
if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or fame,
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.
if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.
don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.
when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.
there is no other way.
and there never was.
Tapping the Sap [repost]
I tried something new this past Friday [in December 2020]. I dedicated a day off work to writing. To my relief, I did so successfully.
Examining my paystub recently, I observed an unintentional accumulation of personal days, as it turns out that I hadn’t taken one in three years. The times being what they are, a day off seemed in order, so when my lessons could aligned so classes could reasonably run without me and my principal indicated the substitute situation was manageable, I put in for my day. I’ve been making an effort to take my writing seriously, and this day constituted something of a test.
Dedicating a calendar block to writing had never worked for me. I’ve often felt at my most creative when there’s some menial task to which I should attend: dishwashing, cleaning, grading papers… My spirit chafes at the work and flies away from it toward creativity. But when I have declared that the writing is the work, my perverse little spirit has flown from it, too.
I think my difficulty has had something to do with the nature of literature. Writing, I think, requires an extraordinary degree of self-presence. Our lyric poems, our vignettes, and our characters all feed on little pieces of us and our impressions; they can feed on nothing else. If I feel divorced from my own being and experience, if I am blocked from feeling wholly present, then I am blocked from writing creatively.
Zanlexus wrote a piece for this challenge suggesting that writer’s block might be the psychic or emotional equivalent of the injury that prevents a construction worker from building, which led me to follow this thread of writing and the self. The comparison of Zanlexus holds true, I think. I do not lose my skills as a writer when experiencing blockage. I can still crank out a sample analysis of a text for my class or edit a letter for a colleague: what I think of as “yeoman writing,” which I’ve trained for extensively and do not need to draw from my own experiences to do. Creative writing, though, is a different animal. It feeds not only on my technical skills or logical analysis, but on my capability to express to someone else how I think and feel, with the center squarely on the “I.”
When I understand writing creativity as an output of the core, internal self, it does make sense for it to come more easily when I should be doing something else. The tension between what I must do and what I want to do fuels my imaginative fancy. Stuck in a cage of sorts, I dream about life beyond the bars. This drifting from task is my self trying to exert its authority. There is, obviously, a limitation to the utility of external demands: if there’s not only a cage but an electrified one, or if the walls are closing in, anxiety can overwhelm any sense of creativity. Awful and draining experiences have inspired many a work of literature, but I think for the most part Wordsworth pegged it in his intro to Lyrical Ballads: “All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion, recollected in tranquility.” I write not when I feel the powerful emotions, but once they’ve become part of me and my life experiences, when I can recollect them and access them.
That introspection is necessary to writing creatively, if the work is to resonate emotionally, and introspection tends to result from stimuli more than appointment. One does not frequently say, “At 3:00 PM on Wednesday, I will reflect on my life and my psycho-emotional state.” And down-time often passes in a series of actions intended to bring relaxation through distraction; someone exhausted and looking to forget about life for a while will probably not do much soul-searching. Introspection might happen in response to someone’s questions, though, or in response to a place or a song or a poem.
I nearly let my day of writing slip away on Friday. I was tired. I had devoted a lot of energy to teaching and parenting and household chores, and with those demands temporarily at bay, I automatically leaned toward pleasant distractions to “unwind.” I had been awake at 6:30 (though I caught another nap), and by 10:30, I had still written nothing.
So I pulled up recent Prose posts. Reading the writing of others is the surest way for me to feel inspired. Experiencing the creations of others, also striving to self-express, fills me with the desire to offer my own efforts to the world. On this particular morning, I read pieces by deathbyaudio, KMCassidy, and paintingskies, but if you’re reading this post, then chances are at some point I’ve turned to your work, too. I value this community, and I want to remain connected to it. I’ve promised myself to post something at least once per week, even if other projects consume most of my time, and to continue actively reading. Prose can keep me going.
I also found the right music. Music equals mindset, and the right song at the right time can unlock a profusion of feeling. I needed Patty Smith’s Horses on Friday (particularly “Gloria”), and later a Brahms symphony. Other frequent writing music includes Lana del Rey, Beethoven’s symphonies, Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible, and Wilco’s Being There (playing presently). Nearly everything I write has a soundtrack, and once I find what it is, I get the mood I need for the mode I need.
At some point you’ve felt “on” if you’re a writer; otherwise, you probably wouldn’t want to write. There’s a direct conduit from the mind through the fingers onto the page. There’s a flow. Creativity has many times been likened to a well or a spring, but that seems inaccurate to me because the water, the self, isn’t just sitting there to be drawn up and used. Maple syrup is a more apt metaphor. There’s sap flowing inside the wood. It must be tapped, drawn, and boiled, and if you harvest fifty gallons of rawness, you can finish with one gallon of sweet, finished syrup. You live a lot, and you lock it away, and if you can get at enough of it and distill it enough, you can yield something beautiful.
Whether syrup or water, it’s no accident that our metaphors for literary inspiration are liquid. Solids cause blocks. It’s the flow we seek.
Insisting on the perfection of that flow held me back for a long time. A piece felt so good to write, but the morning light revealed all the flaws and doubts. Without realizing it, I was subscribing to that water model, as though I needed only to pour and realize perfection. But writing needs to be worked at, and I let myself do it, now. I have an outline of my novel: I know where the characters are going and what moments carry them there. A chapter represents my effort to fill in the humanity of it all, making the journey authentic and felt, but on a first try, I will get it wrong. I have learned not to stop when I doubt that it holds together because I know, with certainty, that it doesn’t. It will not read with smoothness, clarity and verisimilitude until I return a day or a week later and fix it. I am following the advice I have given high school students for years: get something down and then revise, because revision is easier and blank pages are terrifying. I am trusting my ability to find the missing pieces. Each chapter and each draft is a problem to be solved.
Having a skilled and trusted editor doesn’t hurt, either.
I should say, clearly, that I’ve never actually finished a novel, and that I abandoned my only prior attempt after thirteen chapters when I concluded it was bad. (Trust me, it was… though I did later post a rejiggered chapter to Prose under the title “Mass.”) EDIT: I finished! I’m proud; it’s not published; I’m at work on the next. But I’m trying, and I’m confident this time. I wrote about 1300 unpolished words that Friday. I was curious, so I looked it up, and Stephen King goes for 2,000 a day, so in that sense I fell short. But Hemingway and Graham Green only tried for 500 words a day. That didn’t seem so bad, and I’ve read more of their stuff than King’s, anyway.
All told, my experiment was a success: I did write. I got 1300 words, and I finished the last 400 of the chapter the next day, and I’m working on the editing. It would have been easier on my day off to lull myself into relaxation with something readily on demand, like John Mulaney on Netflix, or a half hour of beating on cartoon characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. But I passed my test. I applied what I had learned about my process and inspiration and I wrote, and it was better than relaxing. I felt rejuvenated. I was myself, intensely.
I'm often plagued by writer's block and my remedy to it is to stop. I don't force myself to write; instead I go and do things, go about my day or days, which might lead into weeks and I experience life as it passes and sometimes small moments or conversations catch my attention and they inspire me to write and others, feelings and emotions erupt that need to be released. I don't agonize or fret, I just continue living because to me life is what feeds my need to write and somethings just can't be put into words until they've had time to steep and marinate in the gumbo'ed mess that is sometimes my life.
It’s Really a Myth
There is no such thing as writer's block although there is a street in Baltimore, Maryland where several well know writers of their era did stay and pen some outstanding works, William Shakespeare being one of them.
When you feel you have the "block" that's when it is time to read other writers. Especially those in whatever genre you are writing. It's like getting a second opinion
My so-called inspiration comes from real events that happen either around me or based on real-life events. That alone is enough to keep feeding me the information to write down and create the next paragraph or chapter.
When you stop to think about it, nothing we write is new but what we write we give a different "spin". Beef it up or tone it down, the idea is bringing something to the table you will be content to write and for readers to read One of the oldest characters written about is Dracula and over two hundred films. The same thing applies to Frankenstein The plot is always the same, but the "spin" is what sets it apart.
Have your main character enthralling, vibrant. At the same time, you also be enthralling and vibrant.
Yet, for all I put here, there will be times when you have to walk away from the page and give your brain a rest. We all need to eat. We all need to sleep. Without both, we wither and fade but eat a decent meal, get a good sleep in, and the next day you are right as rain. Without the two, you become nervous and frustrated. And that's a no -no.
Stay on the path you've chosen for yourself. Have small discission groups with other writer's such as with this challenge to get feedback.
But it boils down to one thing only.
When I hit a block, I go on the web. The vast amount of ideas, Its sure to fill my head. The funny videos and Interesting articles. They all allow me to fill my head. The wonders which I get after watching allow me to think. What if I wrote about this or even that? The motivation comes to me. Then I pick up my sketchpad and draw. I draw the ideas which fill my head. I draw dogs, cats, shapes, sports, and even my bud named Ted. Sketching allows me to review the things I love most. Everyone around me gives me ideas. Ideas, They come in flocks, if you look you'll never run out. Now I am ready, ready to write. I pick up my pen and write what excites me. I write until no more ideas fill my head, Then I restart the process and do it all again.
Add it up,
|The self expressed|=
[What I do] /over
[What is to be]+
[ what I've been Through]}
Thus to write my self expression all I need is to possess a value for these variables and I merely have to check them against the others and factor in English to scrawl the proof of it all to paper or a screen. This makes me function as it is my functioning, and no block can stop the absolute value of this equation.
Should a block crush like a rock my creative flows stream; you would then see me writing about it. The weight of that rock being there, and what I feel like having nothing to write at all. Then I'd go about, in detail, depicting the details of the feeling of being crushed by that huge Boulder. So; like a resulting trickled rivulette escaping around a barrier, that writers block wouldn't stop anything.
My creative flow like water
I'm drenched in it and floating.
Blocks dont make good damns.
Though they're for building.
So build you a boat out of "would" and ride the rapid rushing well spring from the depths
of the you that pours out
And needs expressing.
There's always some variable
You can Solve for
to write down.
You always have
When the Character Mute Button is Pressed…
Have you ever had those moments of pure bookdrenaline? You know…the times where you aren‘t simply a “writer” but rather the literary vessel forged from the fire of creativity and as such a marvel. It is your soul purpose to deliver the stories swelling inside you to the world and there is nothing and no one who can stop you. Then…nothing….
Your cerebral planes have become a ghost town of thoughts. All the characters talking over each other, desperate to be heard hours before, have suddenly vanished.
Whenever this happens I acknowledge that I am simply not ready to hear and accept the next part of their story. I feel like I am, what author doesn’t? However, it is their story after-all.
Not every writer crafts like this, but I have always felt as though these stories are real and have been lost in the shuffle of the progression of the world. Only those with a heart and mind sensitive enough to listen can put them to paper.
I step away. I may even go through previous scenes in the story and find clues there. But more often than not, my characters will voice their story when I‘m in the snack aisle at the store, nowhere near my computer. *insert face palm emoji here.*
As they say, “inspiration can strike anywhere,” but what “they” didn’t say was the inconvenience that ”anywhere” may entail.
My process depends on the story I am working on, however one thing I recommend for all writers is don‘t let the outside noise filled with doubt and intimidation influence the voices of your story.
Never lose the awe and wonder this craft provides, not everyone can and not everyone wants to write. You got this!
Champagne for Writer’s Block
In April 2020 my roommate opened our fridge and said, "Do you really only have champagne and eggs in here?" The answer was yes, as I was celebrating the world's end.
I sat down in April 2020 and started writing. Our apartment had a little rickety wooden table that sat two people generously, and I sat there with my laptop and wine at 1PM. I wrote pieces that were clunky, awkward, and sometimes just incoherent. Even at the time I knew they weren't very good. But then I got a "like", and I became addicted to the thrill - I could be the girl who got drunk at noon and cracked eggs, missing the stove entirely, or I could be the girl that people wanted to read more of.
I eventually chose the latter.
Writer's block didn't really hit me during Covid. I turned out dozens of pieces. Looking back, again, they weren't very good. But I wanted to keep trying, to keep getting better.
Nowadays, I hit writer's block frequently. I feel like I've already said everything I have to say. "My trauma" "my self-hatred" blah blah blah blah blah. Nobody wants to hear that anymore. It echos in one ear and comes out the other, readers everywhere scrolling past my sob-story posts. Perhaps, so it goes.
I come back to one instance, and perhaps that inspires me. My ex-boyfriend once called me "the most uninteresting person he knew." That I was "boring" and "had no interests." At the time, I was horribly depressed that he was sleeping with other women, and sank back in my seat, agreeing with everything he was saying.
I don't agree, not anymore.
I don't think writing has made me "interesting" per say, but that moment hit me hard, and I still remember it vividly. When I sit down to write now, I think of his words, and I pour my heart out on the page.
Writer's block be damned. I am interesting dammit. And I have more than champagne and eggs now, I have a plethora of pieces that define me as a writer, person, and human being. I am better for having a voice, and I will continue to share my story.