everything and nothing

How To Conquer Writer’s Block In Five Easy Steps

(note: I am drafting this here because I assume it won’t see the light of day on the school newspaper. enjoy my frustration!)

HOW TO CONQUER WRITER’S BLOCK IN FIVE EASY STEPS,
an article by a student with writer’s block

So your writing teacher wants you to write an article for the school newspaper. That sounds like it should be easy enough! You could write about an event going on at the school, or one of the clubs that meets on campus, or maybe address an issue that has a lot of resonance with your peers, or you could even write a movie review for a movie that’s come out recently. But what if you are like me, someone who is Very Old, lives off-campus, has crippling social anxiety, and doesn’t have enough money to go to the movie theatre? Well, I happen to be very much like me, and I’m here to help you!

FIVE EASY STEPS!!

1. PROCRASTINATE by doing all your other homework first.
Hey! A lot of your other homework is writing, right? So if you do a bunch of writing, you’ll prime those writing muscles for action and your writer’s block will be solved! Or maybe not. But hey, you got all your other homework done! That’s not a bad thing!

2. ASK someone else for an idea.
Your first stop will be your teacher, the one who gave you the assignment. She will tell you that’s not her problem, and she is right, but that doesn’t solve your issue unfortunately. Start asking the (person/people/animal(s)/ghost(s)) you live with for suggestions. Most of them will be unhelpful, especially if you are asking your pets, since you’re fairly certain your fellow students don’t want to hear about how delicious chicken is or how fascinating cardboard boxes are.

3. MAKE A LIST of all possible topics for your article.
This is another tip along the lines of the first, but gets you thinking more creatively. Start writing down every single possible article topic you can think of, whether or not you think they’re a good idea to follow through on. What’s the deal with 90’s nostalgia anyway? Why my cat likes vanilla ice cream more than cat food. Why my cats are so cute. Pros and cons of being an Old and Married student. Should people get married? Should anyone get married? I like my marriage a lot but is it an outdated tradition? Would my cats still get the benefits of a stable & loving home if we weren’t married? Penguin dust, penguin dust!* So what if your list starts sounding like stream of consciousness Beat poetry that happens to mostly be about your cats! Maybe the Beat poets were really just trying to cure their writer’s block after all! Maybe Allen Ginsberg had a cat! Maybe you should write an article about it!

4. Get up and DANCE!
This is around the point where the (person/people/animal(s)/ghost(s)) you live with will start to notice that you are frustrated. After asking if there is anything they can do to help (“probably not, Biscuit, since you wanted me to write about cat food and how cute you are”), they will turn on an upbeat song from the late 1960s and bid you to dance with them. This is actually a good idea: getting your blood flowing and dancing as silly as you can with someone (ghosts included) that makes you laugh will help to loosen up your writer’s block. To go back to the muscle metaphor: a muscle that’s all tensed up and knotted can’t work, so getting it loose will help you to be able to use it properly again!

And if all else fails…
5. WRITE about your writer’s block.
Well, it worked for me.

*Penguin dust credit to Gregory Corso and his poem “Marriage”

everything and nothing

if you’re so smart, tell me why are you still so afraid?

My husband thinks that I am too hard on myself. Or rather, he likes to say “you are good at everything except recognizing how good you are.” I think this is maybe an exaggeration. When I press him on it (“everything??”), he admits that I’m probably not any good at basketball, considering I am about five-foot-one and not super coordinated. But he points out that this is what he’s talking about: I’ll focus on something that I can’t do to the exclusion of things I can, up to and including focusing on the things I have no interest in trying to do.

(“You don’t know my secret dreams of winning all the basketballs. Putting all the balls in all the baskets.”
“…that’s…not how it works…”
“Oh yeah, how does it work?”
“…Space Jam?”
We are not Sports People.)

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, this is not the way I see it. (I suppose if I did, it would be easy to say “well, maybe I should just stop being so hard on myself then!” and do it.) I feel like I have very realistic expectations of myself. I am not particularly critical of my own skills at drawing or painting, for example. I don’t think that I am particularly good, but I don’t think that I need to be, either. Or the aforementioned basketball: I am not super-critical of myself there because I don’t think I need to be an excellent basketball player, nor have I put any effort into becoming one.

It’s things that I do think are important that I don’t think I am very good at because I know I could be better, or that I’ve tried to be better. Many people have told me – and I have read all the advice anyone else has, too – that berating myself over my faults or failings isn’t going to help me be better at the things I want to be better at. That accepting oneself is the way to progress. To me that’s always felt like giving up and allowing myself off the hook.

But to be honest, my way hasn’t worked so well either.