This week, I did something I haven’t done since the fall of 2013 – I devoted serious amounts of time to writing a story. Over the last few months I’ve brainstormed ideas for stories, and done prewriting and outlining for my novel, but the last few days are the first time in almost three years that I’ve actually worked on a draft of a piece of prose. Yes, I admit it, I’m a writer who doesn’t write regularly, but that isn’t rare. Any writer who says they never have difficulty finding time or motivation to work on their craft is either lying, or has mastered some form of unholy blood magic which allows them to jettison any and all irrelevant thoughts or sensation from their mind and synthesize brilliance out of thin air (while effective, excessive use of blood magic may result in watery eyes, dry skin, and psychotic fantasies of violent bestiality).
Writing is hard. Sitting down in front of a computer or notepad, with nothing but your own thoughts to keep you company can feel like self-inflicted torture on the worst of days. There are periods when ideas come flowing out of you like liquid gold, when you are so consumed by creative purpose, that you feel as though the Gods have deemed you’re work to be of such supreme importance that they send the muses down from Mount Olympus to perform fellatio on you; when you are willing to forgo all food, drink, and bathroom breaks in order to finish the last few sentences of your masterwork about a man who eats some bad Chinese food, and hallucinates the Buddha giving him life advice – but these days are few and far between. In truth, you spend sizable stretches of time staring at the blinking cursor, sucking on the web of skin between thumb and index finger, trying think of the best way to describe a character’s hair, or whether or not you should include a reference to an esoteric poem you read in World lit. class. You stand up, rub your eyes with your palms, then look over at the clock to see an hour has passed and you’ve only written two sentences. These are the times when you’d rather be taking a walk outside, sitting on the couch reading, or getting to work on that sink full of dishes.
I’m talking about having writer’s block. I don’t like admitting it, or even saying the word out loud, but that’s what it is. How do you deal with it? Well, the simple answer is, you write. Write anything that comes to your mind, even if it’s only vaguely connected to your idea; even if you know it’s bad. Write it, because at least it’s something. The reason I suffer with creative constipation is because I pressure myself to create masterpieces in one sitting. I feel like the worst thing a writer or artist can do is romanticize their craft. If you convince yourself that you’re a conduit for God, then you’ll find yourself saying things like: ‘The juices aren’t flowing today, I better try again tomorrow, maybe I’ll be inspired then.’ You have to make your juices flow.
Treat writing like any other job, don’t do it when you feel like doing it, make time.To accomplish this, I have invoked the power of day planning, adopting a set schedule: wake up at eight thirty, make my bed – doing something constructive puts me in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day, even if it’s something small – do twenty push-ups, go jogging for about an hour, come home, do the dishes, put in a load of laundry, eat breakfast. I do everything I need to do that isn’t related to writing done first, that way I can focus completely on writing. From eleven o’clock to five o’clock is writing time. By the end of the day I rarely finish more than a page and a half of text, but I always finish feeling satisfied that I’m just a little bit closer to completing my work.