Tag Archives: writer’s block

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The Zen of Landing Badly

I recently had a reminder that asphalt ain’t good eatin’.

I can’t play the victim card here. I fucked up. All my fault, 100% dumb-ass coming your way. I knew I was cutting it close between an intersection curb and a truck waiting for the light, and foolishly tried to ride through anyhow. Handlebar whacks mirror, down goes me. Mashed my face, my knee, my thigh, my hands, everything. I was so bruise-spotted, I looked like a human-leopard hybrid.

Oddly, it’s the third time I’ve been injured since late May. First time, I literally fell off a bar stool at the pizza joint, flat onto tile floor. Incredible fluke — Not only did I not hurt my back or head, I didn’t really get hurt at all. A couple days’ stiffness, and I was basically fine.

At the time, I was thick in the mire of a three-month contract that upended my life balance far more than I’d intended, so I wasn’t getting out much. I was counting days, like a schoolkid, until July 1, when the contract would be gone. Summer! Whee! I planned to blow off writing until the fall.

I shit you not, June 30th, 11:50pm, hours to go before my “So, our contract is up” email is to be sent, I’d been watching TV from the floor, went to stand, and heard CLICK as my knee popped out of joint, my tibia grossly cranked to the left. Horrified, I hopped to the kitchen on one leg, got an ice bag, and for no reason, the tibia popped back into place. Boom. Back like bacon, baby.

That boo-boo, unfortunately, did inconvenience me. I couldn’t walk much until the end of July, and most of the month’s summery fun eluded me.

Life removed the distraction of summer because I just couldn’t get out. I channeled that inconvenience into finishing my cookbook. Finally done  (it’s really good! buy it and support me), I once again felt like a kid getting outta school for summer. I was excited to cycle, be leisurely. I’d rode my bike daily that week. Bliss, whizzing through August air, sun beating down.

Five days into “summer break,” I whacked the truck mirror. Now I’ve been home licking my mental wounds for much of the last nine days. Once again: “I could’ve been hurt so much worse.”

It seems fortune has a twisted sense of humour in the dog days of summer.

Look ma, asphalt for eatin'.

Look ma, asphalt for eatin’.

School of Hard Knocks

Shit happens. Ask me my top ten life mottos, that one makes the list. Shit happens, it is what it is, que sera sera. Cliches to live by, my friends.

I’ve ridden the rides in this injury-filled park one time too many and I don’t need to be uninvited from the party anymore. When it’s time to go, I’ll grab my coat and be gone.

This is one of those times. Injured three times in three months? Yeah, okay, universe, you got my attention. What’s the lesson?

That’s rhetorical, people. I already think I know.

Writing well is a gift. It’s a privilege. It’s also a craft. It requires great sacrifice and dedication to accomplish matters of note. It’s not some flip of the switch. Like sailing a long ocean voyage, when finding one’s sea legs can take some time, getting a good writing flow takes a while of testing the waters.

Where the craft part comes in is where the sacrifice plays out too — daily duty, workworkwork.

Opting Out

I know writing is a choice. You see a keyboard, you sit, you pound it out. It’s like the old Hollywood movie trailers — “One man, alone in a foreboding wilderness… where only he can decide–”

The struggle that constantly assaults me is guilt. I feel like a failure if I’m not doing the outdoorsy-n-awesome things the locals here pride themselves on doing. Oh, look, someone else climbed a mountain and parasailed before landing on the moon for a local, organic picnic with cheese they hand-pulled at dawn. Thanks for the shame, Instagram.

I wish I could write in other places, but I’m a creature of habit and I like to be at my desk. I like the noise my keyboard makes, the rattle the keyboard tray emits under my staccato-fire key-whacking, the distance of the screen from my eyes, how I squint when I’m lost in thought and the creamy walls blur before me, while I listen to the white-noise whoosh of cars under my window, always noting the sea breeze blowing in and stiffening my knuckles. It’s my thing. This is where I do it.

So as summer days pass and nights get longer, cooler, and darker, my Catholic upbringing leaves me pounding the keys in shame and guilt at my desk, as others pass my window in their shorts and sunglasses, oozing optimism for a fun day ahead or the fatigue of a great day behind them.

And there I sit staring as they pass me by, me in my passive glory, ever the observer.

Of People and Places

But that’s writing. It’s not a party favour. It’s not a group activity. It’s a dark and dingy thing done alone.

There are different kinds of writers. Ones who write on events and places, happenings and zeitgeists. They need to be in the thick of it to serve it back to the masses. Then there are the those who slip away into otherworldly mental caverns. No safe place for others.

I’m the latter. My introversion can be extreme. A party of one works all too well for me. Three months on an Irish coast with a broken phone, only sheep dotting the horizon, and wine to keep me warm while winter winds howl and the skies cry, that would be a vacation for me. I might commit a serious crime if it meant time in isolation like that.

Paradox of paradoxes, for convenience and more time alone, I find myself living on the edge of the busiest part of my town. The most crowded, superficial, hyped, over-marketed part of my city. Rare does even a moment pass when people aren’t walking past my writing window. Isolation? Beyond my four walls, I think not.

Unlistening to the Machine

Part of me is very much of the “So? This is who you are. Just own it. Who cares?” mentality about self-imposed isolation. But I also think the world is beautiful, nature is powerful, and if I could have more of it with less of the humans in it, that wouldn’t be so bad. Humans aren’t so bad in small doses, either.

But society tells me Summer is fun! Go do summer! There’s only so much summer, so go out and play, kids! Whatchoo sitting inside for?! Don’t you know only losers don’t play outside? Come on, kids! GET HAPPY — it’s right there, outside your house!

It’s something I only want in 90-minute spurts. It’s not a lifestyle I seek. I don’t need to be on the Tilt-a-Whirl of the big-city life. Getting happy isn’t gonna accomplish my dreams. It ain’t gonna write my books. It’s not gonna pay my bills.

People who don’t understand introversion think people like me opting out is “sad” or “lonely,” but we think it’s sad and lonely that they can’t enjoy being alone in the same way we can. As Oscar Wilde wrote, loving oneself is a life-long romance. Even if there’s no one around to see it.

Among my favourite places to go alone: The sea.

Among my favourite places to go alone: The sea.

Do or Do Not, There is No Try

The trouble with writing a book, for any author, is it means sacrificing time you can spend earning other income today on the dream that it will earn income for you well into the future. This is where the stereotype of the broke-ass writer comes in. I have to cut back on my earnings AND my spending to be the writer I want to be. That’s sacrificing on every level.

That’s the risk we take when seeking the elusive dream of passive income and royalties. Passive income, that’s money you don’t have to run ragged on the hamster wheel to bring in. That wheel spins on its own, in theory.

The best way to grow that passive income isn’t to keep talking about the one book, it’s to continue writing others so you’re attracting new audiences.

For me, that time is now. I have to write more, produce more, and promote myself at the same time. All of it must be done at the expense of everything else in my life. Less time for leisure, less time to earn “real” money on the side of my primary job, less time to exercise, to cook — everything.

The longer I wait, the more interruption it causes in flow on all sides, the less then that momentum can carry me.

It’s a matter of discipline now. And my summer, as little or as much may remain, is a distraction from that discipline.

Dinner is Served

Which brings us back to the asphalt.

That day, I’d been meaning to cycle to the Gorge and sit under a big leafy tree as I considered my choices. Do I take more time to enjoy summer, or do I finally concede this summer’s a bust and writing must be my focus while the motivation burns?

For good or ill, I needed no leafy tree for the pondering. Life threw me to the curb and said “Eat this.”

I’ve never felt more strongly that I was getting told what was what. Writing, life said, was what my days had to be about for now. It was safer, for one. No moving parts, except on the chair.

If I barrel through this year as a writing tour de force and accomplish all the goals I’ve got bopping inside my head, I’ll have no regrets for the choices I made this week.

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Road Warrior

Sometimes when life knocks sense into you, it can be very literal about it all. It gets literal with this girl.

It took three injuries in a little over three months, but the Zen of landing badly has taught me a thing or two about a thing or two.

Sacrifice, choice-making, focus — all these themes played on a crackling, staticky loop in my head for days. Here’s hoping they echo loudly in the wintery, writerly months to come, ‘cos I know what road’s ahead of me — asphalt, curbs, potholes, and all.

Of Force & Faith: Writing & Creativity Blocks

ceremony script - sha sha chu

photo by Sha Sha Chu via flickr Creative Commons

Writing is a fickle mistress, and hard to keep happy.

I have much work to do but I’m like an athlete in training, and forcing myself to write something on a daily basis. Right now, it’s all of a personal nature. Opinion writing, observations, that sort of thing. So in a way, I’m “forcing myself” to write, but in another way, the pressure to do so is because I’ve had many “I want to write” moments of late. I’m inspired, and often, but I’m also beholden to work, leisure, and other living-in-the-real-world distractions.

The old “find the time” conundrum. Ahh, adulthood.

Which brings me to the idea of Writer’s Block. The nefarious “block” is a topic that makes me laugh because it’s something I know all too well. I find myself annoyed at smarmy, smug types who tell you “There’s no such thing as writer’s block,” because I’m not sure what they deserve more — a face-punch or a logic-restoring slap upside the head.

Of course there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Don’t be an idiot. There’s nothing that stands up inside you to shout YOU! DON’T WRITE ANOTHER WORD! NOT A LETTER! STOP!

Of course not. But that doesn’t mean you should be writing when it ain’t nothing but grunt. You know you’re writing shit when you’re writing shit. Why push the matter?

Wait Till You Can’t Wait No More

I’ve been forever misattributing a quote I read once, and I guess I’m so far from the original quote now that it’s unGoogleable (and all instances trace back to ME), but it went “A writer ought not write until the thought of not writing becomes unbearable.” Maybe I’m the one who said it after a fevered night’s dream.

Still, I’m not sure if I agree with that quote either, or its limitations of “wait till not doing it’s unbearable,” which sounds like the literary equivalent of blue balls. Somewhere in the middle of the extremes of workaholic craft-maintaining and waiting for the sheer passion to write is the sweet spot of creation.

I’m old enough now to understand that the life of a writer comes in waves. I’ll probably never be a write-all-the-time-forever writer, but I suspect I’ll have five-year windows where I’m on, and a little while when I’m off. Or maybe it’ll become more constant the older I get, as I learn about balance and understand what this craft does for me on so many levels. Maybe I’ve been out of the game enough to last me a lifetime.

I haven’t wanted to write for so long. I can’t explain how it is to understand that your creative self just isn’t what, or where, you want it to be. I can’t tell you how I knew I had to walk away and just rekindle my place in the world.

I can’t explain the loss of confidence I had in what I do, in how I write. I don’t give a fuck if you understand how pervasive such a thing is for a writer. It’s not about you.

Fake it Till You Make It? No.

Lighthouse on a ferry sail.

Lighthouse on a ferry sail.

My walk-away wasn’t all about confidence or the loss thereof, but that certainly played a role in the beginning. I totally lost my mojo in 2010 / 2011. I had grown angry at life and didn’t know how to feel other things or express more than that.

Real writing is about going to those netherworlds inside you. Dark places, places where we don’t sell admission tickets. So if what’s inside you is just blanket-angry and one-tracked, and you don’t approve of that anger, or worse, you disrespect yourself for it, it’ll be a really hard road to scrounge up personal writing that’s worth reading. I never found that road.

After I moved to Victoria, that bitterness began to vanish. The anger started to evaporate and I found myself lost in this new world around me. The will to write popped up at inconvenient times, but very fleetingly. It didn’t stick around. I didn’t get that “where’s a pen?” twitch, or that niggling sense of “Huh, I like that idea…” that made it worth the effort of recording.

Creativity was nebulous, at best.

When the desire to write started to return, my confidence issues returned too. I felt an imposter in a wordy world. Every time I wrote something, it’d be like I was walking through a garden, noticing things, enjoying the moment, then suddenly there’d be a 4-foot wall. Instead of looking for a way around or over, I’d go “Well, huh — there’s a four-foot wall. I guess that’s that.”

I wasn’t following it through, and worse, I felt I couldn’t.

And Then One Day

Writing is like anything else in the world. If you’re a writer and it’s really, really good, you just know it down inside you. It’s a feeling on a cellular level, an almost-religious experience. It pops.

I didn’t have that feeling again until I wrote Unmerciful World on Medium. Seymour Hoffman’s death hit me like a brick, and within 15 minutes I’d sat down to write in a daze. A trance, maybe.

It was the shot of confidence I needed. Arrogantly so. I was impressed with myself. I remembered what it used to feel like to crank out promising copy on a daily basis, on topics that mattered to me, rather than just work that would satisfy clients. (Which I pride myself on delivering often.)

So began the journey of trying to reconnect with writing. I started doing more, but they languish now as incomplete topics in my drives. And then I was writing a lot. But still not for your enjoyment. I started a very personal project I think will become an ebook by Christmas, for instance.

Still, writing for yourself, in silence, gets a bit masturbatory and creepy. It doesn’t take long before objectivity vanishes and a me-me-me mentality storms in.

Now I’ll need to find a balance between the two. I’ve alluded to projects I want to write and share with you. I have two books I want out this fall. (And since, unlike cooking books, there are no product testing, re-testing, photographing, or complex layouts involved… I expect it to be a much simpler and far more fulfilling experience! And quicker to bring to fruition.)

And there are others. I have creative ideas for weird experimental writing I’d like to try. As my confidence bubbles up, I’ll put those in the mix too.

Boat at Fisherman's Wharf here in Victoria recently.

Boat at Fisherman’s Wharf here in Victoria recently.

But like a long-cooked stew, these sorts of odd projects are sometimes best when simmered on low in the background for a good long time. And so they are.

Writing is exciting again. The challenge is nearly titillating. I’m beginning to anticipate the onslaught of winter, where I won’t feel like two selves are pulling in me — the one who wants to scream FUCK IT ALL and go running for the beach versus the other who wants to pull the sunny windows closed, mutter darkly “Fuck it all” and stay at the computer, pounding out words.

And in between it all is that damnable presence of the bank and a life that needs to be earned before it’s spent.

Writing, like all things, needs to be bad and uninspiring for spells, so we creatives can truly love and appreciate these rare periods where inspiration comes knocking and our keyboards answer confidently.

I’m not upset that I’ve had such long durations out of the creative world. I won’t apologize for it or beg you to take me seriously after it. I think I’ll be a better writer for the experience. I’ll simply have to prove it.

It’ll be a fun ride as I find out.

Mojo Rising: In Which I Want To Be A Blogger

307153_272353769461853_100000616957975_876750_1805170655_n (1)Hey, reader.

So I’ve not been blogging on purpose. Didn’t have it in me. For two years. Yeah, I know. You can fake it if you wanna, but I don’t phone it in.

What you don’t know is, the more annoyed or passionate I’ve been of late, say the last six months, the more I’ve been writing, and never doing anything with, new posts.

So it occurs to me that I’m, you know, one read/edit and a click away from having a shiny new blog post. Yeah! Something to ACTUALLY read, for you, the reader-person.

Doesn’t that just blow your fucking mind? A click away, man. A click!

•click•

But that’s the thing that’s been missing — the desire to write for public consumption. Or even write at all.

Lately, though, I’ve actually stopped what I was doing just to write something. Write a thing that doesn’t even pay me money! Lemme tell you, friendly reader: That blows my fucking mind.

You got your writers who’ll tell ya that writer’s block doesn’t exist. I’d agree with that. I can write six ways to Sunday all day long, but it doesn’t mean it’s got anything worth saying. And sometimes the saying of it is just a thing that keeps you hemmed into an already-troubled mindset. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

You wanna yammer on because there’s “no such thing” as writer’s block, or wallow in your you-ness, you knock yourself out. I know when I’m writing crap I wouldn’t even line a birdcage with. Let’s call 2012 and 2013 my “Bird Sanctuary Years,” okay? The Epic Saga of When the Crap-Writing Canary-Cage-Liner Sings.

But I got out and dialed up my creativity for photography and cooking, things a brain can pause for. Pause, a nice thing to use. Lovely. Pause. We should all pause a little but more, but petting zoos should have unicorn rides and shoulds don’t mean shit. Creativity is creativity and a writer doesn’t always need to write, I discovered. But now’s a different thing entirely.

So here’s the deal. I’m back. Not in a blogging-daily type incarnation, but then who knows? Maybe. I used to do the EB White write-500-words-a-day and it mostly wound up on here when it went well. Far be it for me to eliminate anything.

But wait! There’s more!

There’s something in this for me too. I’m writing ebooks. Not just one. I have a very crafty scheme in mind for taking this whole entire blog and giving you a radical reinvention of it in ebook form. This one will remain as it is, but I’ll have my fun. I need to get you all riled up about it. All in due time, reader. The grand tease thing. I’m shameless, friend. I’ll admit it. But I’ll make it worth your while too. Found my mojo, after all.

Thus it’s time for me to resume blogging for public consumption. I had my break. It was groovy. I have several things kicking around I can fire up and finish off. Longform stuff too.

I have mounting anger about the stupid-ass bullshit in the world and a raging hard-on to tell you why. I want to write. I’m twitchy. I’m ranty. I’m occasionally funny. I’m freeing up time in my life to take back writing and to own my voice.

Giving myself permission to just not write was what made me eventually write for the hell of it. It’s like rediscovering your golf-swing. You can’t just order it on Amazon. It’ll find ya when it finds ya.

So… I said Hey, reader.

In case you missed them, I have blogged lately… three times this year in larger posts I wrote and stuck on Medium. There was this about Philip Seymour Hoffman that got widely read and was an Editor’s Choice, and then there All The Fucks I Give, my thoughts on people who self-censor and the act thereof, which also was an Editor’s Choice, and finally this on how Twitter Doesn’t Suck, you make it suck.)

On Writing, & Not

I’ve fallen prey to the thing I caution others against constantly in writing: I keep thinking, “Huh. That’s a great idea. I’ll write about that later.”

Then the proverbial “later” never comes.

Instead, untethered, unrecorded, the idea dissipates, never to occur to me again.

Experts estimate we think some 60,000 thoughts per day. We’re constantly thinking. We think about thinking, we even think about thinking less. Hell, we medicate ourselves so we can think less.

We think about groceries and bills and sex and hairstyles and smells and sounds and feelings and flashes.

As the old Latin saying goes, “I think therefore I am.”

60,000 thoughts a day!

You know the difference between writers and other people?

Every now and then, one of those thoughts goes off like a bomb, and a writer — a real writer — absolutely has to write their thoughts on that idea. Just get ‘er down, out, and string those words together like a lifeline to the cerebral side.

Real writers know that inspiration is fleeting and it’s not always possible to ride the lightning. But they also know that ideas, topics, themes are everywhere all around us. Whether we choose to record our gut-instinct reaction to them is generally the dividing line between who succeeds and who fails when they write.

This is why a real writer is forever making notes. Notes, notes, notes.

Not making those notes, it’s like that lifeline snaps and a writer floats adrift, no destination shore in sight.

And Then I Stopped

I used to be the note-making type. This digital shit, no. I just can’t do it. I fucking love my iPhone but writing ideas I plug into it might as well get flushed down the toilet. I never look at ’em, never make ’em come to life. Something about the very, very linear data-based method of note-making is a big stinking fail for me. I gotta do it on paper with a pen.

Last fall through to now, I’ve been deep in the “moving, changing, adapting” to life phase. I was finding out where I didn’t want to be, where I needed to go, and who I wasn’t. Sure, I’ve had thoughts in between, but they seldom made it to the page. And I have had way bigger priorities, and I’d given myself permission to just walk away from my craft for a while. I just didn’t think four months would pass and I’d still feel the same.

I recently heard about some creative type of great acclaim, but whose name escapes me, who was said to have walked away from his craft to “lead a more interesting life.” A more interesting life.

Because creating isn’t interesting. It’s isolated. It’s solitary.

Whether writing, painting, architectural designing — it’s almost all done alone. I can’t write with you in my room. I can’t write when I’m cooking dinner. I can’t go out for drinks and still get the writing done. I need my desk clear, no time constraints. I need money to be not stressing me out. I need to feel comfortable sitting for a few hours.

And then, the writing itself, for me, requires I have time alone with my thoughts too. I need the solitary times in my life. I’m an introvert. I’m outgoing, but an introvert.

But if I don’t have external experiences — be it cycling along the water, enjoying great food with great company, watching a movie, scouring the city, spending a day doing photography — I also can’t create.

I don’t remember when or where I made the promise to myself that I’d move here and just let myself figure out when/where/why to start writing, but it was certainly a conscious choice. I’d been swimming against the current in life for so long that the opportunity to just go with the flow after moving here for a no-commute lifestyle was something that I couldn’t resist.

I’m still doing it, too. But a part of me has become annoyed, lately, that many great ideas I’ve thought of have just vanished for me, because those ideas could fuel hundreds of hours of writing when the dark, dreary, rainy months descend come November — and when I want to be spending my months strolling the stormy seashores on mornings before writing till noon in slippers and pajamas. After all, that was part of my Move to Victoria Lifeplan.

So, today I’ve spend part of my Canada Day just cleaning. I’ve sorted my desk out, changed a couple things in the layout. Dusted.

And I found my Idea Box.

Writing Tools: My Idea Box

Idea Box, I love you. Welcome back to my life, you trusty thing, you.

I’m sure other writers have tools like these they employ, but let me tell you about my Idea Box and how I make it work for me.

It’s a recipe card box. You can get ’em at any dollar store for under $5. Grab a stack of index/recipe cards that fit that box. I go for 3×5, because you don’t want to get too into anything at this stage, so limit the space. I like cards with lines on only one side, but do what you like. You can also pick out colours for the cards, if you write on frequent themes, say like a productivity writer could use pink cards for Organization, and blue cards for Time Management, so if he/she knows it’s one general subject they’d like to tackle, they can limit ideas to choose from via the card colour.

So, here’s the deal. I’ll write my idea in 5-12 words on the unlined side of the card, then on the back I’ll write a few points about why it’s interesting to me, or how I’d tackle it.

Then, I put it into the back of my Idea Box, with the short synopsis showing at the front.

When I need an idea, I go into the box, remove all the written cards, and quickly flip through looking at the front. When something makes me go “OH!” I’ll either start writing right then, or I’ll check the back of the card for more on the idea, and see if it’s something I feel like tackling.

Sometimes the back of the card’s what I save until I’m into writing about the idea and I hit a stumping point where I’m a bit blocked, then I might read it for a new perspective.

So.

I found my Idea Box. The ideas in it are so stupid my head hurts. I’d cleaned it out before my move and left a few weird ones in. I have now recycled all those cards. I’m starting fresh. It’s staying on the corner of my desk, never out of sight.

Like Catching Lightning

And that’s really, I find, the secret to writing. Listening to your ideas, and never letting them slip away unless it’s you throwing it away. Of all the ideas we have for our writing, most of them are shit. Half the time it’s about execution. And sometimes it’s just plain dumb luck.

Inspiration really is as fickle a bitch as she’s claimed to be. She comes, she goes. She’s not into marriage and she’s barely even a one-night stand. She’s only after quickies in a by-the-hour room.

When we amateur or on-the-side writers are lucky, we have that rare synchronicity of not only having a great idea, but having the time to tackle it, having the lack of distractions so we complete it, coupled with our creativity firing on all cylinders.

The rest of the time, we do what we do and sometimes it just works.

But the more we do it, the more those sometimes happen.

Me, I find it hard to go from a non-writing period like I’ve been living through for the last few months, into a writing heyday, but I’ll get there. In the meantime, I’m doing what life presents to me. Writing will come, because it’s as much a part of me as breathing. For me to have had such a long period of not wanting to be a writer is unusual, but I’m a believer in taking breaks when you need them, and being honest about when it’s time to get cracking again.

As a short-summered Canadian, that time is not yet nigh. Summer is a priority when you stay fishbelly-white 9-10 months a year, like yours truly.

I can only believe my writing will improve for giving myself the time to be who I need to be this year.

Here’s hoping I somehow find a balance as summer wears on.

FYI: There are some other reasons I’ve been holding back on writing, such as my increased site traffic, but those are for writing about on another day — the adversity of external pressures on creativity would be a poncey way of describing that one. I’ll revisit writing, breaking my block, and recharging my creative self frequently in the weeks and months to come, I suspect.

When Writing Isn’t Working: My Experience

I feel like I’m phoning in the writing of late.

Doesn’t really matter what you think. I’m the doer. The deciderer. If I don’t buy what I’m sellin’, then I’m wasting my time.

Writing isn’t like washing dishes. Doing it on autopilot ain’t gonna float, Joe.

And I don’t know where that went. That “thing” that makes writing awesome.

For me, writing’s like a bad lover. Doesn’t always stick around when you need it. Communication’s either there or it’s not. It’s easy to feel alone when you’re with it, and not in a good way. There’s not a lot of dialogue, just feuding voices in your head.

People who claim they wish they could write have no idea what they’re asking for.

The Realities of Writing

It’s a demanding thing. It needs hours, days, weeks, years of your life to get done and get done well. Part of it’s sheer luck — getting born with a gift for words and swirlie-idea-thingies, well, you can’t send away for a degree at the University of Phoenix for that.

It’s a worldview. It’s believing you have a perspective that’s worth registering as a voice in the cosmic mix.

You have to really believe in yourself when you write. You need to commit to word choice, slap that vocabulary down. Then you have to turn around and doubt every fucking thing you wrote. You need to read it like you’re the Word Reaper, slashing ’em away with your sickle. It’s a Jekyll/Hyde thing, writing/editing. Love it, then hate it, on purpose.

There’s a lot of debate out there…

Does Writers’ Block Exist?

I can unequivocally say YEAH. Oh, yeah. Sometimes writers’ block (I use plural ’cause I know I ain’t alone in my “writer’s block” experience) is more like the Great Wall of China than it is the cinderblock fence down the road.

The thing is, it can be overcome. But sometimes the things causing the block just need attention, time, and perseverance. Sometimes it’s about making choices because priorities need to happen.

Face it. Writing happens by sitting on your ass with your implements of choice, doling out letters, words, phrases. No phone calls, no outside world, no need to wear pants.

Writing takes time away from everything and everyone in your life. It’s a selfish, solitary struggle. Hanging out with your friends? Gets in the way. Doing your dayjob? Another “block.” Dealing with real-life situations, everything from relationships to rehab? Another obstacle.

So, when you’re talking about life distractions, focus issues, and the equivalent of creative impotence, you can understand how TIMING is everything.

So, It Can Be Fixed, Right?

Writers’ block absolutely can be overcome. But it’s like the old joke — if there’s a wind at my back, the stars align, and the cosmos is on my side, maybe it’ll all work out.

You gotta have the right timing. That feeling of “Oh. I could… expound on that, you know. Well, THAT’s an interesting line…” is exactly when to jump on writing. Why I started this post was, I wrote this tweet and thought “I just like the way that sounds,” and thought “Maybe I should blog.”

So, if the mood hits, and you need a topic, well, what do you write about?

For me, if I’m at a loss, I’ll usually start writing about what I just ate and whether it was yummy. Then I’ll write about the weather. Then I somehow hit a “you know, earlier, X happened” or “I saw Y” vein, and the tangent will lead me into something that’s actually been playing in my head but all the STUFF got in the way. THEN I delete all the crap about breakfast, yummy-factor, and the weather. Poof. We has writing.

But there are times when I’m just not feeling the joy, and nothing has been interesting to me for a few days, and everything I write’s crap, even if I’m trying.

When they say “shit happens,” they’re talking about writing quality too. For all of us. Anyone who tells you that you can be consistently excellent at writing is someone who doesn’t have a fucking clue about writing.

You can sure try. But that’s what editing is for. Coming back with fresh eyes, judiciously cutting/splicing, and recreating it.

And Then We Edit

They say movies are born or killed in the editing suite. Sure, you can shoot a movie, but until the editor splices that thing together, it don’t mean jack. It’s as much in the edit as it is in the original draft that writing is made.

If you don’t have the passion when writing, or at least the craft of copy, then it’s a hard thing to salvage but it CAN be done, especially if you know you have more in you then you put on the page, and you’re open to rewriting and amending entire sections. Some of my best work was “add-on” work that I started just so I’d get my half-ass idea down, then completely reworked later.

Bottom Line: Fake It Till You Make It

Lately, writing’s been obligatory for me. Seldom is it something I’m inspired to write, and I know it feels that way to me when I read it back. Technically, it’s not bad. But it needs a little soul.

So, if I’m not writing well lately, why bother? ‘Cos that’s how you get past it. Keep trying. It’s why I wait for a notion to hit me. The chances of not sucking are higher when I’m not forcing it. Eventually, the things getting in my way will get the fuck out of my way, and I’ll have that day where I LOVE the feeling of writing.

Ultimately, as hard as writing is, as both a friend and foe, I’m quite sure writing and reading have saved my life at times, and they’ve certainly shaped who I am.

If writing is as much a state of being as it is of doing, I generally love the kind of perspective I have on the world. It’s fun being in my head when I’m on creative bents. It becomes like a drug I wonder how I could ever live without. But, like heroin junkies and other addicts, it’s a high we seldom get to live for very long because the price we pay is high. Eventually we come crashing back to that place where it’s a struggle to do things well.

But that’s why they call it a ride.

Love it or hate it, writing’s the thing that’s been a part of me more than and longer than anything else — and when I’m not doing it the way I want to, not hitting the target like I love to, it’s kind of hard not to feel like I’m not the person I thought I was.

And that, too, is part of writing. Self-doubt, disappointment. A “block” is something we take very personally, and with good reason.

But I’ve been blocked before, and breaking through it is an amazing feeling, and a great time to be a writer. It’s worth the struggle. For me, anyhow.

From Hair to There

I’ve been adrift in a thought-sea for days now.

Just lost in waves and waves of thought.

About me, my future, what next, why now, where to go, who to see, and a million other things.

I can’t write during those times. I get a little discombobulated and things don’t really happen linearly for me. Writing tends to start, then stop, languishing in the land of Unfinished.

There’s probably a dozen drafts I’ve conjured in the last week for this blog, for me. All starting and then hitting a mental dead-end. But they sit there in the hopes of one day getting cranked into reality.

I don’t really feel into writing today, either, but it’s one of those times that needs to be noted. I’ve spent a lot of time lately working out — turning a lot of lost-muscle-flab back into strength and tone. It’s been a hard, hard, full couple of weeks. I’ve made it past the initiation, though.

The returned-to-it pain that comes from going all Olivia Newton-John on my ass and getting physical is finally settling into a full-body strength and intensity that tells me things are changing, and how. Doesn’t hurt anymore, it’s just a new normal of feeling like I can kick all your asses with ease. I kinda like that. Throwdown Steff, yo.

Today’s a pay-off day, too.

Haircut time.

I’ve been slowly growing my hair out since Christmas. In less than two hours, I’ll be under the scissors as someone turns me into a hair model. I get an experienced stylist hacking my overgrown mushroom cloud of a haircut into something fierce and sexy — because my getting-longer thick mane’s made for fierce-sexy — for free. Why? Because I’m a genius and know where to look for such things.

Adversity isn’t something you need to bend over and take like some listless doll. It requires creative thinking, a smiling face, and a willingness to seize chance as it comes. Me, just because I’m unemployed doesn’t mean I can’t be resourceful about how to enjoy elements of life.

Soon, haircut.

There’s really nothing like a new hairstyle for defining who you feel like at any point in time. I don’t know who I’ll look like in 3 hours, but I’ll know that girl really earned that new look.

I need to feel differently when I look in the mirror. There’s something I’m wanting to see looking back at me, and it’s not there yet. I don’t mean a size 4. I don’t mean something hot. It’s not that. There’s just a sparkle in my eye I want to find every time I catch my own gaze.

I want my amusement back. I want my perennial grin.

I have this card on my bookshelf:

I find that smiling makes people wonder what you’re up to.

It’s that going-through-life equivalent of When Harry Met Sally, after Meg Ryan fakes her orgasm in the deli and the old woman (Rob Reiner’s mom) tells the waitress, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

There’s something fun about BEING the person who LOOKS like they’re always having fun. Other people vibe off of that in really interesting ways, and life gets more entertaining and unpredictable as a result of their reactions.

It’s probably something to do with the law of attraction. Look fun, feel fun, and fun finds you.

For me, that starts with a haircut I can really own, something that, when I look in the mirror, I know for realz that that ain’t the girl who was stuck in neutral for a long, long time — just reacting to life rather than shaping it (for a short while, anyhow).

A makeover doesn’t take much, but it sure has a massive impact when your biggest goal is a different you.

My desire to change myself shouldn’t come across as some “Wow, I sure hate ME, so I’m gonna do something about it!” because it’s actually quite the opposite.

I think I’m awesome. I think I’m funny and entertaining as hell when I’m in the right mood. I can be electric. I know what I’m capable of, what I exude, what I can be.

But most of the time I get in my own way.

Because of stupid, stupid insecurities that have taken a lifetime to develop and need to be undone one at a time, in slow and lasting ways.

As time progresses, more and more of those insecurities fall away. Since my weight’s increased and not been lost in the last year, it ain’t recently about weight or my size.

It’s something internal that’s shifting. That’s how it should be.

A nebulous growth of a new self or worldview, a seedling — small and blooming. That’s real change. It sprouts where you don’t expect it, and it gets along just fine by itself for a while — some inadvertent sun, rain, and away it goes. Then, one day, it needs more and you have to be ready to train it, support it, and give it something to hold to, then it grows taller, and stronger.

That’s kinda where my change is. I’ve sort of got it started, and now I need to define it, make it taller, stronger.

Which is where my head’s been for so long of late.

And today my head gets a new look. My inner self gets a new perspective on its outer self. And change becomes obvious and defined for the first time in a year or two.

All because I get to have a haircut.

For free.

Long hair! Sexy hair. It’ll be awesome. I haven’t had bob-length hair in eight or ten years. Oh, yeah.

So what do you want to change?

Look around.

See what little opportunities for harnessing your life and taking it in a new direction might be waiting for you to discover. If you’re not looking, you won’t see. Pretty simple. Life Through Remedial Math 101.

So, today? This week? Open your eyes. See what you’re missing. Go where it takes you. Enjoy the ride.

I know I am.