Tag Archives: Writer’s Block

Where’s my muse hiding?

3 Aug

In his book On Writing Stephen King said, “There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”

I’ve never been the kind of writer who relies on a muse. However, I do believe that another name for a muse is something or someone who re-lights the writing spark that you already have within you. As I just explained though, a muse doesn’t have to be a person. It can be a random object, something someone says to you in passing, or a memory that triggers your need to get the words out. If I told you that I’ve spent the last few months “stuck” in terms of my writing, I’d be lying. Not because secretly I have been cranking out pages of my memoir every night (I wish!), but because I still seem to be able to sit down and write these blog posts. That counts, right? …I definitely think so. Someone very dear to me gave me the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten: “Write every day.” It seems simple, and sometimes it is. However, at other times, it can be really hard. Either way, I’ve come to realize that writing something (anything) every day (even if it’s not part of my memoir or another writing project) is necessary. Without it, my mind feels clogged, hazy, and let’s face it, I’d probably be pretty cranky or just plain bummed. I think another piece to the puzzle though is the simple realization that writing is a creative action. It’s a way to get your creative juices flowing. A few days ago, I opened a Word Document and wrote, “I have nothing to say” at the very top, only to end up writing a paragraph about how those who say they have nothing to say are often the people who have the ability to impact people with their words. Funny how that works, huh?

Therefore, in terms of my muse, maybe it’s hiding….or maybe it’s staring me right in the face. Either way, it’s not a necessity. It’s merely a writing “aide.” The only necessity seems to be the fact that not writing every day isn’t even an option anymore. Despite the fact that I have a life outside my own writing and this blog, whether it’s one paragraph or seven, I’ve got to write something every day, muse or no muse.

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When in Ireland, don’t let the joy get knocked out of you.

5 Jul

I just got out of my Literature and Film class in which Mary O’Malley, one of Ireland’s leading poets, came to speak. She read some of her work and then asked if there were any aspiring writers in the room. I shyly raised my hand, along with three other people.

She then went around the room and asked each of the aspiring writers what they prefer to write. When she came to me, I said that I’m working on a memoir and memoir-related articles, since that has been my recent focus. Her first question, “How old are you?” is one I get a lot in reference to the fact that I’m writing a memoir. However, when I said “19” she was surprised, but didn’t make any negative remark. She just said, “Good girl,” and all I could do was smile. She then asked what the memoir would be focused on, and I just said my childhood. Her next question caught me off guard. She asked, “When do you think that ended?” (referring to my childhood). I was stunned. I couldn’t answer, much less put together any coherent sentence. She then told me that she didn’t think she knew when her childhood ended either. However, our conversation, though very short, has kicked me out of my writing rut that I’ve been moaning and groaning about for weeks. Her final piece of advice to the aspiring writers was this: “Don’t let the joy get knocked out of you,” and I think that’s what really kicked me into writing gear. It’s something that I sometimes forget: the joy. The pure, simple, and yet strong joy that I get from just writing how I feel. It’s an amazing, amazing feeling. It’s the reason I began writing in the first place….because it was my refuge, my security, the happiness that overpowered the pain.

I think as writers we all need a kick in the pants sometimes, and I got mine today. I’ve opened the Word document of my memoir, and for the first time in weeks, I’m not at a loss for words. They’re there, clear as day, waiting to be written, waiting to come alive on the page as only words can do.

When in Ireland, travel to push through writer’s block.

3 Jul

After yesterday’s post (When in Ireland, write through the uncertainty) I have been really introspective. Introspective about my writing, my life, my current experiences. Though I normally get introspective when I talk about my writing, I was especially introspective last night.

I’ve been told that travel is great for writers because being in a new place with new people can help boost creativity and the writer’s spark that most writers can understand on some level. I agree that travel is a great way to broaden one’s perspective in order to create a writing style with more variety. However, what about those times when you’re traveling and you’re just blocked? Completely and utterly blocked.

Other than the uncertainty post I wrote yesterday, I’m pretty much stuck in a rut. I know I need to write. I need it like every single person on Earth needs water. However, I just can’t seem to grab hold of something that takes more than a day to write. I’m writing daily blog posts, and those are hard enough to get out these days. I’m used to my blog posts being pretty easy to write out. Even the posts that tend to be pretty emotionally heavy, the looming thought that I’ll feel better once I get the words out is what pushes me forward, what pushes me to keep typing until the only thing that I feel is relief, relaxation, and maybe happiness. Recently though, writing my blog posts has been hard. I love it. I do. I’ve felt so much happier since beginning this blog last November, and it’s never been something that I’ve had to force. I’ve always wanted to write my daily posts. I still do want to write them, even now. I guess it’s just not quite as easy right now.

As writers, I know we all get stuck though. And those of us who are true writers push through the writer’s block and keep on going. And that’s what I’m doing. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not faced with moments where I’m staring at my computer screen waiting for the words to come to me. Waiting for them, all the while knowing that they will come eventually. They will. They have to. They are what I know, who I am, and what makes me feel alive.

Tuesday’s Tunes: A Closer Look At The Art Of Missing.

29 May

 

Yesterday I listened to this song on repeat for over an hour, letting the lyrics sink in and waiting for the painful memories that I knew would surface in time. That’s the special thing about music. Each song is unique in its power to allow all kinds of memories to rise up, ranging from childhood moments to moments that only lasted a split second in the scheme of your life, yet moments that seemed to have a stronger hold on you than you seem to have on the current life that you’re living.

While listening to this song, I thought of the art of missing. It’s been an idea that has rolled around in my head for the past few days. However, I’ve been unsure as to how to bring life to it through my words. However, putting off writing just because we are stuck is not what true writers do. We move forward, muddling through the words that we know we yearn to say, waiting for the moment when they decide to allow themselves to be seen by someone other than ourselves. Anyway, the art of missing has been on my mind lately. Isn’t it a bit of a funny concept? It’s almost like a hunger for something that can only be satisfied by some kind of contact. Often times, I find myself missing people who I’ve just talked to or just seen. I think that’s probably because I
have had a habit of getting attached to people and then I have always hated any kind of goodbye. Whether it’s goodbye for a few days or a few months or even a year, it’s never any easier. However, by some miraculous twist of fate, we move forward. We place one foot in front of the other, knowing that walking ahead is our only option.

I believe that one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the art of missing is when you miss someone who may not be missing you in return. Not because they have told you that they don’t miss you, but because you no longer have the kind of relationship where it would be okay to ask that kind of question. In that instance, I’m missing someone who I used to know. Though that person is still around, they are not the same person that is etched into my childhood memories so precisely. Maybe, deep down, that person is still there. The person that I put so much trust in and looked up to for so long. The person who taught me to believe in myself and reminded me to never stop smiling. But truthfully, I probably will never know if that person from my memories still exists. That’s the tricky thing about time and the art of missing. Even though people say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, is time factored into that equation? To me, it seems like time is often the polar opposite of distance, causing the heart to ever so slowly forget the faces in one’s mind that were etched there so many years ago.

Through some recent introspection, I’ve realized that missing someone is like a hunger, but in another sense, it’s also like a sickness. A sickness that fills you internally, causing you to stop and wonder if there was ever a time that was spent not missing someone. Even though the art of missing does reflect the strong amount of love that people are able to show to one another, it’s almost as if the love is just never quite enough. The love is present, it has taken your hand. However, instead of simply having it take your hand, you want it to surround you, fill you up…and not leave you standing at a window looking out into a world that you are part of and yet isolated from. Even though missing someone shows that you care about someone and that you love them, it can also pull you under its current, leaving you to wave your hands frantically, waiting for someone to realize that you are, in fact, struggling to simply stay above water.

How Do You Deal With Criticism, Writer’s Block And Burnout?

2 May

This past Friday, I met up with one of my writing mentors, Mike, that I hadn’t seen in over 2 years. It was great to see him, and we had a great hour and a half conversation about writing, life, struggles, etc. Since Mike is one of those people who is a writer himself and will tell me the honest truth, sometimes I’m a bit hesitant to share what I’ve written with him.

I have yet to share any part of my book with him because I feel like I’m still in the early stage of writing my memoir. I only started writing at the end of January, and I’ve only written about 12 pages (which I’m not exactly proud of. However, I was dealing with schoolwork up until a little less than a week ago, so what can you do?). Though I’ve only written 12 pages, at this point, I’m still very close to those 12 pages of my life, my heart, and ultimately, my soul. Those 12 pages are memories that I’ve pulled directly from my heart and written down. They aren’t changed in any way. They are as close to the actual truth that I have been able to get (since I’ve realized that I’ve blocked out a good chunk of memories due to their degree of pain). Deep down, I’m not ready to share anything yet. I still feel so emotionally close to what I’ve written so far. I mean, it’s my life. It’s what I felt, not just physically, but emotionally too. How can I turn it over to someone to critique just yet? I understand that dealing with criticism is a huge part of being a writer. I also understand that I’m going to get good and bad criticism, and it’s important to focus on the good criticism since that is the advice that will propel me forward. However, I just feel like it’s too soon. Does that make sense?

Now that I’m done with academics until the fall semester (or until I study abroad in Ireland in June), I have the time to sit down with my memoir and try to sort through as many memories as I can that I have yet to write down. However, at this point, I’m just not sure where to go. I sit down to write, and nothing comes out. I think it’s primarily because I’m not in the right mindset for the memories to surface. The things that I want to share aren’t particularly happy, so sitting down to write when I’m in a relatively cheerful mood doesn’t get me anywhere. Though I understand that the writing process isn’t something that occurs overnight, it’s hard to wait when I just want to finally get all the painful memories out. They’ve been buried inside for so long. We all have to face our demons eventually. I may as well start now.

When I talked with Mike on Friday, he made the comment that my memoir is something that I shouldn’t force, and since it is such a delicate topic for me, it’s something that I should try to not get too frustrated over. However, since the process of writing is frustrating anyway, some frustration is normal. I think the best advice Mike gave me was to start another writing project (as well as working on my memoir). He pointed out that since my memoir is such an emotionally heavy project, it’d be good to work on something light on the side. Whether it’s poetry or a short story, working on another project is good when I’m stuck on my memoir. Mike said “Even if you write a short story about bunnies, you’re writing. That’s all that matters.” Mike has made a point to tell me that writing every day is an important part of writing. Even though I’ve seen the benefits of that (through this blog, mainly), I guess I didn’t consider starting another writing project.

I didn’t consider starting to write something other than my memoir because my memoir was taking up so much of my emotional energy. However, now that I take a second look at it, I guess that’s why people take on multiple writing projects….to give their mind a break from focusing on the same writing project day in and day out. I know that since I’ve started my memoir, there have been days that I just don’t feel like working on it. However, in the back of my mind, I know that I’ve got to work on something if I want my writing spark to stay alive. There have been previous times in my life when I’ve taken breaks from writing, but not just a break from a particular writing project, but a break from writing altogether. Even though in those instances I’ve eventually returned to writing, the breaks from writing have made it even harder to get back into the swing of things.

So, moral of the story: Write every day (no matter what), don’t let a certain writing project burn you out (start something else to keep your writing juices flowing, while also allowing yourself to have a break from the first writing project), and don’t give up (I know writing is frustrating, but for the few of us who love it, writing is our passion, our love, and the only way we can accurately portray ourselves).

Are you ever hesitant to share something you’ve written because you’re too emotionally close to it? How do you deal with criticism? Would you rather focus on one writing project at a time or split your time between two different writing projects and why? I’d love feedback from you fellow writers! 

Middle Of The Night Writing.

19 Apr

Sometimes I feel stuck in my writing. There are so many aspects of my past that I want to let out, but then I sit down to type, and nothing comes out…which just seems ridiculous when I know of so many things inside me that need to be released.

I’ve been told for as long as I’ve been writing that I have a way with words. I take pride in that compliment. I take pride in it because writing is the one thing that I never, ever feel limited by…and that is a truly awesome feeling. However, the fact that I have a way with words can be damaging at times because it leads to me wanting to have things sound just right, and when they don’t, I’m not satisfied. However, I’ve learned to write through the dissatisfaction. That writing usually isn’t my best, but it gets me out of my writing slumps. But you know, sometimes a slump is a slump, and there’s not really much you can do but wait for a new day.

There’s a quote I read somewhere that goes something like this: “Writers never have to change the things they got up in the middle of the night to write.” I used to not really understand this phrase, but as I’ve delved deeper into writing my book, I see the connection. Before writing my memoir, I didn’t understand the concept of literally being woken up by something that’s so vivid in your mind that you’ve just got to write it. However, over the past few months, I’ve had many nights where I’ve gotten in bed to go to sleep, and about 15 minutes later, memories pop into my head. But not just random, vague memories. Strong, vivid emotional memories that have on more than one occasion caused me to sit up in bed to take a breath in order to let some of the emotional shock wear off. However, not once have I gotten up to write those thoughts and memories. Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I knew that if I did I probably wouldn’t be up the next morning in time to go to class.

That’s what’s hard about choosing to start this book when I have. Not only do I have my book on my mind, but I’m 19, I’m a sophomore in college, and I’m still trying to piece together who I truly am. Granted, I’ve discovered a few key pieces over the last year: like my love of writing and photography (and psychology…definitely can’t forget that one!), the realization that I am and will always be the biggest book nerd that I know (HA. No…really), and the understanding that every person I have met in my life thus far is here to teach me something about myself, whether it be good or bad. The last part is an understanding that I haven’t come to lightly. I like to think that I can hypothetically have a genuinely good relationship/friendship with the majority of people who I come into contact with. However, we all know from life experiences that that is not always the case….which is sad, but it also can be a learning experience (especially in connection with those people who we may not see eye to eye with). Then again, there are some people that we’ll just never be able to win against, but that’s okay. We can just keep walking…because there will always be other people further on down the road that we’ll feel glad we crossed paths with.

Once I’m done with this semester, I’ll be happy to have a little bit more time for the middle of the night writing. The writing that wakes you up…and forces you to get out of bed and start typing. I haven’t fully experienced it yet, but I can’t wait to see what it’s like. Even now, when I’m woken up by things that I know I want to write down, I tell myself that I’ll remember in the morning. I talk myself into staying under the covers…and eventually I do drift back to sleep. However, all of you writers know as well as I do that things that wake you up in the middle of the night are never as vivid the next morning. Even if the memories are vaguely still there, you rack your brain wondering what it was that had you itching to write it all down at such a precise moment. I find it fascinating that something can seem so vivid and clear in your head one moment, and then the next moment it can be covered in haze and doubt….reaching the point where you are unsure whether you should try to write it down or not. My theory, though I haven’t tried it yet, is that if something you want to write wakes you up in the middle of the night, it’s got to be good. After all, despite what we say about living and breathing words every day, even writers need sleep.

Tuesday’s Tunes: Does Music Help Your Writing?

13 Mar

When I think of the typical writer, I imagine someone in a book-filled “study” that’s dead quiet except for the sound of the writer’s typing. Though I’m sure there are some people out there who write better when a room is dead quiet so that they can hear themselves think through what they’re writing, I myself have found that I write much better with music. Nothing too loud or distracting. Something just loud enough to counteract the silence that has the power to envelope a room like a blanket.

Like many books, music evokes so many emotions within me. That is a wonderful tool while writing because often the challenge for me is retrieving the emotions. Once they’ve surfaced, I just write and write and write until everything that I’ve felt from those particular emotions is down on the page. It’s an incredible freeing feeling, which is something that I didn’t really pick up on until starting this blog. Since then, I’ve realized just how disconnected I feel when I have yet to write my daily blog post. It’s like an itch that doesn’t go away until I decide to scratch it. It took me a while to realize how good it is that I’ve made myself blog everyday. Even on days when I feel like there’s not much to say, it’s still a ritual that is very therapeutic to me. I write what I feel…and then those feelings are available for all of you to read. As well as it being a freeing process, I also am so thankful for all of the wonderful feedback that I’ve received from my wonderful followers. You all are the reason I have continued on this journey. Though we are each following our own path, this connection we all have is real, raw, and true.

Recently, I’ve gravitated toward artists like Natalie Merchant while writing. Her voice is soft and calming, and it’s the perfect background music to compliment the fact that there are thousands of thoughts and memories begging to be released onto the page. With the calming music as comfort, I remind myself that the memories will show themselves when I’m ready to see them again. Though it’d be easy to get frustrated (and I have), I’ve also been reminded that there is no deadline on this book. I don’t have to have everything written down by a certain date. Though I’ve been advised to not rush the creative process, I guess things didn’t really stick until I embarked on the journey of writing my book. I began writing and had the mentality that I just wanted to get it all out. All my emotions were on the verge of breaking free, and I needed to let them out. However, I’ve recently realized that bombarding my mind and heart with all sorts of memories isn’t necessarily the best approach. For one, I get overwhelmed quickly…which leads to feelings of defeat. Secondly, if I bombard myself with all sorts of emotions, there is the possibility that I may miss something…something that’s an important piece to the puzzle.

So, here I sit…writing. Writing to all of you to hear your thoughts on all of this. Over my Spring Break, I took a break from working on my book. Even though I technically didn’t write anything for the entire break, that didn’t mean that my mind wasn’t racing with ideas, memories, emotions, and questions. So even when I want to take a break from it, I don’t think I will fully be able to. Unfortunately, we aren’t born with a switch to turn off our brains. If we were, I bet that writers would be the first people to jump on that bandwagon.