As my general lack of posts (and the content of the few posts I’ve done) in the past several weeks might indicate, I’ve been having a lot of writing issues lately. Lack of confidence, motivation, energy, whatever – you name it, it’s messing with me.
This has especially screwed up my writing-related posts since A) I don’t feel like enough of a “real writer” to be writing anything about writing, and B) even when I recognize that there’s no such thing as a “real writer” and therefore nothing anyone writes about writing comes from a specific place of wisdom or authority, I still have nothing to write about, since the rest of my writing posts come from a place where I’m trying to convince myself that something about writing is true. Because I haven’t been writing, I haven’t been learning anything about writing, so I have nothing to write about.
So all that’s been coming out lately have been these posts about my writing troubles. I swear they’re not just an excuse to whine (mostly) – they’re here because I suspect a lot of writers have this happen to them at some point and, speaking from experience, nothing makes you feel worse about it than looking around and thinking that every other writer has this figured out but you. I sure as hell don’t have this figured out. It’s okay.
Yeah, but what should I do about it?
I don’t know. (See “don’t have this figured out,” above.) However, I can tell you a few of the things I’ve been trying lately, with some degree of success:
1) Push yourself to write anyway
I’m putting this one first because it’s the hardest, but might be the most effective. Another part of the reason I’ve been writing these posts is because it forces me to write something, even if I’m not crazy about doing it.
I’m not certain, but this method also might work better if you take a break from whatever type of writing you’re having trouble with (fiction, nonfiction, fan-fiction, blog posts, poetry, whatever) and try another kind for a while. Since my big problem has been with fiction, I’ve been trying to focus on blog posts and nonfiction to try and recharge. Luckily, I currently have a freelance nonfiction gig to help fuel this strategy, but that’s not even remotely necessary. Just dabble in something else for a while, even if you’ve never done it before or aren’t great at it. And don’t worry about whether the type of writing you’re doing is “legitimate” or not – legitimacy is subjective bullshit and if it works, it works. If you’re thinking of writing the crackiest, porniest fanfic that’s ever existed, then go for it!
(And if you’re having trouble finding the energy to write at all, I highly recommend item #4, below.)
2) Ask your writer friends for help
Admittedly I haven’t been doing so well at actually trying this one, but like I said, it’s probable that most or all writers go through this – so who better to give you advice than a fellow writer? Plus, it helps you strengthen your relationships with writer friends, which is always a good idea.
Don’t have any friends who write? Well, then hit me up! My Twitter handle is ZanneNilsson – message me or ping me or whateverthehell it is you do on Twitter to get in touch with people. (Never been sure of the exact term for that.) I’d be happy to talk or commiserate or just listen or whatever it is you need.
3) Look to writers who inspire you
Again, I don’t know if this’ll work in all cases. But if there’s a writer you admire who seemed to genuinely enjoy writing, then for the love of Helix read whatever they had to say about writing. For example, one of my favorite writers is the late Ray Bradbury, who (thankfully) seemed to love the act of writing itself, and left behind a bunch of essays (collected together as a book called Zen in the Art of Writing) on the subject. Lately I’ve been rereading them and it’s been helping me regain my enthusiasm bit by bit.
If you do this don’t spend even one second thinking “Oh yeah sure but I’ll never be as good as they were”; the point is to regain momentum and thoughts like that will just get you stuck worse than a half-eaten Jolly Rancher on the bottom of a boot.
Besides, the only writer you’re supposed to be is you, got it?
4) Make a “Get Psyched Mix” and listen to it repeatedly
Way back in an episode in one of the early seasons of How I Met Your Mother, there was a recurring joke about a mix CD Barney makes to get everyone psyched for a New Year’s Eve filled with parties; Barney says that in spite of the advice that mixes should rise and fall, the mix he made is “all rise.”
At some point after seeing this episode – maybe like one of my sophomore years of college – I was having trouble writing a paper (which, characteristically, hadn’t been started in spite of being due the next morning) and decided to make my own “Get Psyched Mix” playlist to give me the extra boost I needed to get shit done. In the years since I’ve used it every time I need a pick-me-up or simply to get something finished, and I’ve continually added songs to keep it fresh.
Is it ridiculous? Yeah, sure, look at all the fucks I give. Does it work for me? Absolutely. Hell, I’m listening to my “Get Psyched Mix” right now.
So just gather together whatever songs motivate you or get you pumped up in some kind of playlist that you can pull out every time you need it. If you find a new song that helps, then add it! Don’t worry about the similarity or “quality” of the songs you’re using; you don’t ever have to show this to anyone else.
And besides, my mix combines songs from “Hamilton” and video game soundtracks with “All Star” and a bunch of ’80s action movie montage songs. Scoff all you want, but it’s almost impossible to be down on yourself while listening to “You’re The Best Around.”
And on that note, I’ll leave you with the theme song for today’s post: