If you didn’t know this about me, I’m a writer. Not just blogging, but fiction and some poetry as well. Growing up, I had a lot more time on my hands, and saw creative writing as my only career path. Of course, we grow up – life gets busy, passions expand, and there seems to be a lot less time for the outlet and skill I’ve always admired most about myself: my ability to evoke emotion in words.
Since I began college three years ago, my writing has shifted from my creative imagination in prose to a utilitarian mind catered to writing essays on politics and history. I’m trying to be truer to myself this semester – that includes setting goals to myself to read “for fun,” and also pushing myself to write – even if I’m tired or think I can’t put pen to paper.
Writer’s block is the hardest thing I’ve encountered in trying to make the switch back from the left to right side of the brain in writing. Often times, it feels defeating – like I’ve just lost a knack for narration, or that all my ideas are silly. The worst thought that pops into my mind is this: maybe I’ve just ignored writing too long. But I’m realizing you don’t just “lose” talent, or something you were disciplined in or passionate about. The key is to simply reinvest yourself. While my dreams of being a best-selling author working for Random House publishing at the age of 25 seems a little more distant than I once believed, I can’t stop believing that I’ll be an author someday, when the time is right. It’s really hard to overcome the overwhelmingly defeating thoughts, or simply a blank canvas mind, but I’ve come up with (and am still working on) a constructive list of exercises that have helped to overcome writer’s block (usually!):
1. Use what you know. Are you learning about a particular moment in history, or a historical thinker/activist/leader? Think about what they went through, think about the social climate during their time period, and write a short personal narrative based on it
2. Binge write first, edit down the bad stuff later. This tip is a classic – and for good reason. Sometimes, after a weird dream, or negative interaction, I push out all the words, feelings, and thoughts that I can. More often than not, 90% of it is absolute crap, but there are hidden phrases or ideas that aren’t crap – and just may be a jumping off point for further writing.
3. If you’re hurting, write at what is causing you pain. TMI, but my heart has been through a lot of brokenness this semester. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed, let alone set aside time to write about things that won’t fix my problems. And projecting may be bad to do in relationships, but it can be a huge outlet in developing a tone, plot, or character in writing. Vent, say what you wanted to say, what you couldn’t say, what you feel entitled to say. Sometimes, this exercise makes me feel empty afterwards, but it’s like the numb you feel after a good cry: an equilibrium is reached.
4. Read the last chapter of a favorite work. I have a bookshelf of the works I just couldn’t bear to part with for the school year, and it’s because they are the most inspiring to me. I can feel Ernest Hemingway’s passion and angst in A Moveable Feast, my heart breaks with Levin’s in Anna Karenina, and I feel recklessly romantic with Oscar in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Reconnect with the things that made you feel inspired, and capable as a writer. Rekindle the relationship you had with your favorite protagonists and supporting characters. Let them break your heart, and sweep you up again. A love for a book is one that never goes away, and the potential one can stir is always there.
I would love to know what my fellow writer’s do when they have writer’s block – this is by no means an exhaustive list, even for myself. I so easily become pessimistic or nonchalant about my writing – but I’m trying to remember more consistently that I love it for a good reason, and the methods above have been so good for me in helping to overcome the obstacles I face when developing my craft.
-till next time! Niara