October 6, 2013

Getting past the block

When I sit down to write, fingers to keyboard, ready to fill the white void, I often have a moment’s hesitation. There is something daunting about that blank space that gives me a pause, and I have a short burst of writer’s block. What if I can’t fill the space? What if my brain doesn’t want to spit out the words? What if the fact that I haven’t written anything substantial in three months finally catches up to me? What if it’s gone? What if…what if…what if…?
Then the words flow from brain to fingers, and the white void becomes something substantial – something real.
When I was invited to post to Medium, I was so excited. But I had no idea what to write – of course now that I had an opportunity to reach more people on a large platform, I felt like my brain was out of good ideas. My first (and only, save this one) post was something I had written in 2007.
I used to write all the time. In gradeschool I was the huge nerd who wrote short stories and read them aloud during Reading class in school. I started a full-length novel my first year in college, an angsty fantasy romance where the heroine dies in the end. I took many classes where writing was the focal point, finishing with a minor in creative writing. I enjoyed writing research papers (yes, you read that right). A couple years after college, I started my blog as an outlet for my words, and nine-and-a-half years later, here we are. My lifetime readers have seen the early entries, posts pulling from the past with memories swelling at the seams; they have also seen recent contributions, where the majority of my posts are daily comings and goings and full of pictures.
What do you do when the well feels like it’s drying up? I started writing a book on my journey to eliminate corn syrup from my diet back in May…I haven’t written a word in three months. Instead of pushing through and putting words to paper (so to speak), I have been pushing it aside. I used to be able to write for hours and hours, but I feel it’s such a chore lately.
Part of this I blame on a self-diagnosis of social ADD. I spend so much time checking my online presence – my work is social media, so I get to work and login to Facebook and Twitter, then go home and login to Facebook and Twitter. I have been known, on more than one occasion, to check my Facebook WHILE ON FACEBOOK. Back in the old days of 2003, I would go to work with no internet access, then come home and check my email and messageboards. Now my technological life is in my pocket at all times. I need an intervention, but when my work revolves around that from which I need to abstain, it gets a little hairy.
Another part of this is that I’m just lazy. I need to get a schedule to write and stick to it. That’s why I like NANOWRIMO so much  – it’s only a competition with myself, and only myself loses if I don’t finish. Out of the three years I attempted NANO, I beat myself two years – 2007 and 2011 (RIP 2010). It’s such a rush to have this national gathering of writers pledging to write 50,000 words in a month. And when you plug in your finished product at the end of November to find your word-count is awesome? It’s such a rush.
My sister Jane and I recently went to a convention where we encountered an unexpected guest – an hour Q&A with a writer at a horror convention (nerdism runs in the family). He was speaking specifically to horror and thriller writing, but his advice can be applied to all types of writing. Words are words, after all, scary or not.
I asked how he got past writer’s block (without actually mentioning writer’s block). He said one of his books took 15 years to write – it just had to gestate that long. Ultimately, though, you just have to write and push through the block, just like with anything that’s in the way. That’s what I have to do, that’s what you have to do, that’s what anyone has to do.
November’s fast approaching. NANOWRIMO might be the final push I need to get myself back into the writing groove. It really isn’t NANO that does it though – it’s a personal choice that has to come from a person’s own ambition; whether you win or lose in the end is really up to you. Get those fingers in shape – time to push past the block.


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