Sunday, August 4, 2013

Writer's Block

Writer's Block: the root of procrastination, and where all of my other blogs have gone to die.  Usually it happens in my local coffee shop- I walk in with the highest of hopes for productivity, order myself an iced coffee with just cream, turn on my laptop, take a sip of coffee, and wait for the words to come. And wait. And wait.




About half way through my coffee, I take a bathroom break, hoping the graffitti and "J hearts M 4 EVA!" scratched into the walls will inspire a poem or a short story.  When it doesn't, I go back to the blank page, drum on the keys, and get distracted by everyone else around me who is probably writing a second novel.

According to Wikipedia, my source for all things true, writer's block is a "condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which the author loses the ability to produce new work."  Well, I am not a professional writer, so having writer's block is like tearing your ACL on the bunny trail.  Pathetic.  But I do take some solace in the "fact" that writer's block is a "condition."  It's not my fault I haven't written a novel- I have a condition.

Under the heading "Coping Strategies," Wikipedia suggests free, "non-judgmental writing" as a possible way to overcome writer's block.  In later journals, I did plenty of free-writing, but never without judgment.  I always feel the need to justify (to my journal? my future self?) the horrifyingly bad writing that would come out of my subconscious, with:

And now, an attempt at a free write 
 and
Okay, I realize this is complete crap.

Sandwiched between are phrases like:   
 Alice thrust her hand toward him in a bold manner
and
It was the feminine, 'wife-material' Alice that lay, like a scared, unnurtured rabbit within her. (April 5, 2011)

Needless to say, Alice's issues with becoming a housewife never get resolved, and the "him" is never actually named.  That free-write lives and dies on April 5, 2011.

When I was little, writer's block just wasn't a thing.  My journals are flowing with poems, stories, and even outlines for stories- so many, in fact, that I didn't end up writing many of them.  (Well, yet anyway.  The "Evil King of Nibblesquich" WILL find its way into the blogosphere.)  My sister Ellina finds the same type of uninhibited creativity in the pictures that she receives as gifts from her first grade students.  Flying mermaid? Sure. Heart with a party hat? Why not.  Horse with six legs? Who's to say that that doesn't exist?  The written equivalent of these pictures is one of my earliest works, a two-line poem called "Dancing Flowers:"


Photo by TheArches, Creative Commons
One day I saw the flowers dance, they were wearing purple stretch pants.

BOOM! Couplet. Done.  There is a whole page in my notebook dedicated to that poem.  No "WARNING: This poem may be the dumbest thing I've ever written."  No "Okay, let me just explain the above poetic monstrosity."  I sat down, opened to a blank page, and wrote.  This journal in particular, circa 1996, is full of equally wonderful titles such as "The Fairyland," "A Conversation with a Tree," and my personal favorite, "It Only Takes A Little Accident to Kill Somebody." Yeah, life wasn't all fairylands and dancing flowers back then.  Shit got real.

I recently came across a website that gives daily prompts for free-writing as a way to open up the mind and find out what lies in the subconscious.  So as I sit in that coffee shop, about to order a second cup of iced coffee with just cream and wait for inspiration to come, I'm going to go ahead and use one of their prompts to do a free-write; free of warnings, free of edits, free of self-judgment:

Prompt: Glasses

I always wanted glasses.  That or braces.  NOt because they were particularly cool, but becuase the day you showed up to fourth grade with someting different, you were the most popular kid in the class.  Once, i stared into a light for 30 seconds to try to weaken my eyes, but year after year, I would pass the eye exam at school with flying colors. It just wasn't fair.  I had two cousins that got braces at the same time and one day, they spent an entire afternoon planning what color rubber bands they were going to get for the rest of the year. Matching, of course.  I sat on the bed with them, my teeth perfectly aligned, cursing my parents for not letting me suck my thumb when I was little and-

Well I meant for that to sound ironic but it just makes sound like a conceited bitch.  My teeth aren't even perfectly aligned. And my right eye gets kind of squinty sometimes.  Probably damage from the Great Light-bulb Stare of '96. I'll try another one.

Prompt: Customer service...

Kevin drummed his fingers on the front counter, impatiently.  He'd been standing there for 3 and a half minutes, and not a single person had come over to help him.  Well, this is the last time he'd buy his running shoes from this store.  What was it with customer service these days? Did't the young kid restocking socks know that he was more important than the-

I don't know who Kevin thinks he is, but I'm already bored with him.  Let's see what else we've got:

Prompt: Sofa

The sofa had 9.36 cents wedged between the cushions-

Okay, you know what? I'm just going to stop myself right there. How do you get 9 dollars and 36 cents of change wedged between the cushions?  Who's not noticing the rolls of nickels falling out of their pockets?

Well so much for overcoming writer's block with non-judgmental writing.  I'm going to go see if the bathroom has anything interesting to say.

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