Hi Calliopeople! I’m Hanna, your publicity manager for the 2018-2019 year, and I foolishly signed up to write a post about writer’s block thinking my agonizing uselessness streak would be over by the time this deadline rolled around. Without further ado, here are six things that didn’t fix my writer’s block and one that did.
It’ll come, I told myself. I’m a hotshot with a whopping three previous publications that are all in one format, on one specific theme. If I play hard-to-get and don’t open my Google Drive for months on end, the ideas will come to me.
In practice, this doesn’t work very well. When I stopped writing, I wasn’t doing so with an end date in mind. I wasn’t giving myself a break from a hobby that had become a frustrating obligation, I was taking an indefinite vacation with no intention to get back on the wagon. Without a deadline somewhere in my future, I didn’t have any motivation to write. So I made one.
Writing A Lot.
Over summer, I set a goal for myself. Every day, I’d write seven hundred and fifty words and then stop. If I was in the middle of a sentence, I’d save and exit. That way, the next day I wouldn’t have to waste time worrying about what to write, because I’d have a built-in starting point. I didn’t confine myself to one document when breaking the 750 up felt easier, and I did my best not to let editing slow me down.
But even my best was not enough. Occasionally, I overshot the 750 mark and then coasted on that advance progress for more days than I was strictly entitled to. Other days, I did nothing and didn’t bother rationalizing it to myself. More frequently, I’d write a few paragraphs and then get caught up in tinkering with them, decide they were garbage, and scrap the whole thing. I’m not cut out to write effortlessly, without judging myself. Not now, at least.
So I tried to return to a simpler time, perhaps the tail end of high school when I was okay with writing works I now think are ridiculously terrible or the summer after my freshman year, when I wrote three unpublishable horrible short stories that were later pared down into passable flash. I immersed myself in old favorites to see whether or not I could recapture the spark, but…
… People grow and change, and I don’t relate to the same books, shows, and movies in the same way. Not liking my old favorites just depressed the heck out of me. This was a bust.
Digging Through Works In Progress
I keep a hefty folder of works in progress, ideas that I feel have merit, half-baked outlines I swear Ill come back to eventually. They have descriptive titles like “bhfgbfhbfghfg” and “mkfmbkmkhnhmkhn,” which help me play fun games with my future self, like “Where was that idea I wanted to expand on?” and “Oh God I’ll never find anything in here, I should give up now.”
I donned my figurative headlamp and went dumpster-diving through my abandoned ideas, which grasped pathetically at my pant legs as I stalked through the slum where I had left them to rot. I’ve heard from vastly more successful writers that I should periodically cull my works in progress, which affords me more brain space with which to focus on current work.
This strikes me as ridiculous, not least because I didn’t remember creating the vast majority of these. And also because I don’t have any brains, so I can’t be any worse off than I already am.
In order to work out my brain muscles, I dug through all the writing blogs I could to find all the meaningless busy-work people assign their creative writing students. In retrospect, I could have asked an actual creative writing student, but this was before I had any brains.
Unfortunately, prompted writing can be difficult to adapt into larger original pieces, which were really the kind of thing I was going for. Either the content is so inextricably linked to a weird prompt that it becomes obvious this was for an exercise, or it’s such a weak piece that it doesn’t seem prompted because it doesn’t seem like much of anything. Plus, writing prompts are boring. I was slipping. See my failure to maintain a daily word count and double it.
In a stroke of genius, I asked a couple of friends whether they were interested in sharing work on a regular basis. The idea was we’d share our progress at the end of each day and spur each other to write more if one of us was particularly unproductive.
This was probably my worst idea. The Venn diagram of people I’m willing to share unpolished work with and people removed enough from me that they’d be willing to yell at me for not having enough of it is an empty set. When I didn’t write, we streamed movies together. On the rare occasions that I did, they hadn’t, and we streamed movies anyway. It turned into a long-distance social club more than a writer’s group. Alas.
Change of Format
I downloaded an application called Twine early this fall. It’s meant for making choose-your-own-adventure click-through games, and runs on a programming language I didn’t intuitively grasp for the first few days. It’s straightforward and uncomplicated, and the branching narratives gave me room to explore a side storyline for as long as I felt like it and meander back to the main plot whenever I wanted.
I’m not advocating for everyone to switch to sprawling text games when they’re trying to write flash. But a change of style can be as refreshing as a change of scenery, and being able to play in a more experimental environment took me out of my own head long enough to write and enjoy writing for the first time in nearly a year.
So go write a poem, or a screenplay, or a game, or a ridiculous incomprehensible experimental work you’re never going to be able to publish because no one but you can read it. Better than sitting around reading clickbait.
Written by Hanna Rosenheimer, Publicity Manager