Why is this so stinkin’ hard?

This week was rough for me. Not only did I go back to work teaching cranky children in a non air conditioned school, but my writing… well, it just wasn’t working for me.

Allow me to backtrack a bit. It was Tuesday afternoon, my first day of summer school and  anyone who remembers what first days  are like will understand that hectic doesn’t begin to describe the process. I didn’t lose any of my darlings, everybody got on the right bus and only one lunch box was left behind. Success! I had planned to go back home and write. I had an awesome  last week adding about 12,000 words to my manuscript 5300 of those on Monday. But when I got home to write my brain melted. I was done. I was mentally exhausted. I decided to give myself a time out. A little rest and you’ll be fine. So, I went upstairs  turned on the People’s Court, and vegged. Ah! Exactly what I needed. I went back to my computer ready to go but, nada. I pecked out a few words and decided the only thing I was going to produce in that moment was toilet worthy. I left my computer after checking Facebook, my email, my bank balance and picked up my friend’s work in progress. She is new to writing, doubtful of her talent, you know, all the things we all were when we first picked up the pen. I was trying to encourage her through text message to keep going, to pursue her dream. She responded, “I know , but writing so hard.” 

I let that marinate in my mind over the next couple of hours and ventured back to my laptop. I sat in my favorite writing spot, put my fingers to the keyboard but nothing came out. I have the whole book plotted in my head. I know what I am supposed to be writing but the greatness in my head doesn’t match the product on the screen. I went back and reread my last scene and decided that what I wrote was redundant and hit the delete button. My friend was right. Writing was sooo hard. My total word count for that day was negative 396.

How lowering! Okay, I told myself, try again tomorrow and I did, and nada, zip, zilch, nothing. Thursday despite my best efforts no golden words came flowing from my fingers. Friday I forced out a pitiful 1000. I began to feel a little bummed. I had entered this Double Dog Dare Challenge with my sister scribes. I was supposed to be kicking butt and taking names, but I wasn’t and to top it all of every time I sat in my favorite writing chair to write I began to itch, like tiny little bugs were crawling over my skin. What was that all about? It was my mind revolting!

By Saturday I was sick of myself  and my lack of progress. I went shopping. That always makes me feel better but after dropping too much money and seeing not one but two students in the store I was still too bummed to write. So I got my hair done. To quote my grandmother, “If you look good, you feel good and if you feel good, you do go.” And I did feel good. I was whipping my hair back and forth like Willow Smith, ( I hope some of you know what I was referring to there,) I put my new shoes on and a cute sundress. I starting reading a book. After all that I finally felt better. I took my  laptop away from its normal spot and tried writing in bedroom. Tada! success. 2300 words Saturday night. 1200 Sunday morning. And it was work I could be proud of.

I go through this with everything I write. That period of self-doubt, the fear of letting it go, the times where my head is so blocked I’m wishing for a transplant. For me thankfully it only lasted a few days, but for some of us it lasts weeks or months or even years. I am sure this will happen to me again, in fact I am counting on it.

Here’s what I need from you… Tell me how you combat writer’s block/ writer’s blues.

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8 thoughts on “Why is this so stinkin’ hard?”

  1. Ohhh, Jamie, I feel your pain. I know that when I focus on trying to make a certain wordcount every day, my creativity actually suffers. The writing feels forced and I hear my inner critic shouting blah, blah, blah. I end up frustrated and want to take up quilting.

    That’s when I know I need a break. The outdoors seems intrinsically linked to my muse. So I take a hike with my dog (he’s always happy when I’m stuck in my writing), I go kayaking, sit in my garden and read a book, etc. Sometimes, I just need to do something physical. Too much time sitting at my computer makes me squirrelly.

    When I get back to work, I toss the word count and just commit to sitting with my WIP for an hour. Whether I stare at a blank page and ponder, or write fifty words, it doesn’t matter. In my mind I’m working on the story. If the words still aren’t coming, I work on plot structure, character and conflict grids, or some other machanical part of the story.

    The bottom line is that sometimes the muse is hot to trot and some times she’s a fickle bitch. But if you are in the writing bizz for the long haul, you’re married to her, so you’ve got to put up with her mood swings and go with the flow. Sometimes I buy her a bottle of wine and see what happens.

  2. Been there. About to be there again; even though I love hacking out the dreck, it is discouraging to see the word count fall. Don’t have any advice other than just do it. It’s all part of the game. Some days are great; some are blanks, but like PJ says, sitting there in front of the screen, thinking, is also work. Hang in there!

  3. Sometimes when it’s just not coming I get outside. Dig in the garden or let the dog drag me around the neighborhood. Sometimes a light goes on, and sometimes it doesn’t. But at least I got some fresh air. 🙂

    1. Hi! When I can’t seem to get out of my own way and write, I like to get out of the house. Away from my internet connection, my kids, the pile of dishes calling out – begging me to wash them. I usually find that if I leave the house for a couple of hours (not always easy to do) I come home with wonderful ideas or a ton written in a short time.

  4. Great post Jamie. We are human after all. It is consoling when we know we have lots of company. Thank you. Would you say all creative endeavors fit the genre? Going out, getting your hair done, having an ice cream sundae are great respites. A change of direction takes the cog out of the wheel, loosens the juices. For me, i paint, or design a space, or call a friend. Being a free spirit is helpful even though we are told to have a writing schedule so it gets done. But darn, what if you are writer-less staying in the schedule? No guilt to diversify.

  5. I understand- how I beat writers block- I give myself permission to write crap- once I’ve managed to write a few pages of nothing worth keeping or at least not good enough as it is, my mind starts working again and I know how to fix it, or get a new idea.
    Good luck!

  6. I’ve been, there done that too. This time around, I just decided if I write crap, I’ll fix it later. It can all be fixed later. I repeat that over and over. So far, it’s worked. I’ve had the same experience as Alicia. Sometimes, the simple act of writing (even crap) gets the brain started. But, to the other suggestions, taking a break – that is often necessary. We’re not machines. There have been numerous studies that demonstrate the brain works in cycles and sometimes you just have to give the gray matter a break!

  7. Writing is hard. Sometimes. But then there are those times were it all just makes sense. I’m not sure how many of those times I’ve had…but I love the idea. When I write – or wrote – it was in my bed, just messing around on my laptop…also helping was that I didn’t have wireless internet then. In my condo, with my bedroom door shut (and tv-less), is my time to sit in bed and let my thoughts go. Also, annoyingly, I come up with great ideas while driving…at least great ideas to me…and it is soooo frustrating to think through them all and not be able to jot them down. On my old phone I used to leave voice memos about ideas, but it was hard to take them and compose notes out of them. Paper to pen = hard

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