The one about running out of words

This isn’t the first draft I’ve written. It isn’t the 4th or the 5th. It’s more like the 11th or 12th. I look at the last time I wrote and I can feel the panic clawing its way to the front of my mind.

“It’s been almost two weeks since you’ve written.”

“If you want to be successful at writing you have to write!”

“Why can’t you write?”

“Think of something!”

“Think”

“Think”

“THINK!!!”

Ideas float from the recesses of my mind to my fingers and I start to type. Before I’m even two paragraphs in I’m deleting everything. It isn’t right. This isn’t what I want to say. And all the while that phrase haunts me. If I don’t look at it, it won’t be there. If I ignore it, it’ll go away. Even now, even in this space where I’m talking about it I don’t want to write the words.

Writer’s block

Supposedly when you put something in writing you take away its power. Not the case today. Looking at those two words is not making me feel any better. If anything I feel worse. What if I can’t think of anything to write ever again? Obviously this is a hyperbolic statement. Of course I’ll be writing again. Soon the thoughts will flow smoothly and quickly from my head to fingers to my computer screen. But beneath the hyperbolic is a fear that seems all too real.

What if I can only write when things are going poorly in my life? What if the very fact that I’m happy in most areas of my life right now means that I don’t have the ability to create good work? What if I can only write about things that outrage me? What if I’m only an “issues” writer? 

I don’t believe that to create good art you have to be tortured. But when a period of writer’s block like the kind I’m in now hits me, I start to wonder if I’m the exception to that rule. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. I can be driving around running errands and think of five or six blog topics. But when I sit down to write them I’m unhappy with every paragraph, every line, every word. For me writer’s block isn’t the absence of ideas. It’s almost having too many ideas. Too many ideas and none that jump out at me. There have been days when my fingers barely pause on the keyboard and when I stop to look at the word count I’m blown away. And then there are days like today when I’m laboriously trying to get more than 500 words on the page. My fingers hurt. Not from rapid typing but from constant suspension over the keyboard waiting for the words to come. And they just won’t.

I honestly don’t know what happens next. I don’t know what is going to snap me out of this writer’s block. I have no tried and true actions that jump start my mind. I’ve heard some people say that to get through writer’s block you just have to write. Even if it’s horrible write. Write whatever is in your head and don’t delete it. Just keep writing. So that’s what I’m going to do. The perfectionist in me finds this really difficult, but I’m going to do it. That’s what this is. This is me forcing myself to get something on the page. It’s not much but it’s something.

Any of my readers who are artists of any kind when you struggle with your own “writer’s block” what are the strategies that help you defeat it? Leave your thoughts in the comments. They will be much appreciated!

 

 

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The one about biting my tongue

Nobody has ever told me I need to be more assertive. Nobody has ever told me I need to speak up more. I’ve never been told “you let too many things go.” I once had someone (yes it was a boy) tell me that when I got married I would pick up a dirty sock my husband left on the floor and yell “You left this dirty sock on the floor! This means you don’t respect our marriage!” Zero to 60 in fifteen seconds. To be perfectly honest, that criticism stuck with me for a long time. It was always there to pull me out of a really great mood; to remind me that at the end of the day I have a big mouth and I make a big deal out of every little thing.

But lately, I’m not as bothered by this aspect of my personality as I used to be. I’m realizing that I would rather be the woman that needs to learn how to stay silent than the woman who needs to learn to speak up. I was raised in a family that didn’t just allow my opinions to be heard, they insisted on it. We are a family of talkers. If someone is upset we talk about it, doesn’t matter how big or small the situation. If it’s enough to upset someone in the family, it’s important enough to talk about. As I’ve gotten older I have realized that I do need to learn to let things go. Every Facebook status doesn’t need my attention. Every misogynistic comment doesn’t need my rebuttal. Sometimes the sock on the floor is just a sock on the floor. Sometimes I will find myself so mad about something and when I sit down and really think about it I realize I’m not just making a mountain out of a mole hill; I’m making an erupting volcano out of an ant hill.

So yes, part of my maturation into adulthood is learning how to be quiet. I’m learning that waiting a minute to let someone else speak can be just the encouragement the shy person in the corner of the room needs to make herself heard. I’m learning that small issues don’t always grow into big ones. I’m learning that silence has its own kind of power. Yet, even so I’m still glad that this is the strategy I have to learn. Listening instead of speaking. Letting things go instead of picking things up. Releasing small things instead of ignoring big things.

I’ve come to this conclusion because I’ve watched people I respect and admire choke back their thoughts because they don’t want to rock the boat. I see relationships falling apart because one partner just can’t get up the courage to tell the other partner what is bothering her. I see people calling something a small problem when really at best it’s a medium size problem swelling to gargantuan size because they “don’t want to fight about this.”

“If we ignore it, it’ll go away.”

Maybe

“I want to say something but this isn’t that big of a deal.”

It isn’t?

“I’m going to look petty.”

So what?

“This shouldn’t bother me. I’ll just get over it.”

What if you can’t?

I’ll be honest, I tend to hear these sentences mostly from the women in my life. That’s the stereotype right? Women make a big deal out of everything. We’re always upset about something. All we want to do is talk talk talk. Of course behind every stereotype is some truth, but are we okay with living in a world that teaches a woman her first instinct should be to doubt herself? That when she’s upset about something the first thing she should do is make sure it’s okay for her to be upset before doing something about it?  I’m not okay with that. When I watch people I care about struggle to make their voices heard, I’m thankful all over again that silence is a skill I have to practice. I stay silent not because I’m afraid to speak. I’m not worried that my opinion might offend someone. I’m not worried that I’ll lose a relationship. My silence comes from thoughtfulness and respect, not fear.

Learning to be silent is a process. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m doing better than I was. I’m having more success at it now than I’ve ever had. I think it’s because I’ve stopped feeling bad that my gut instinct is to speak up. It’s good that I care. I’m learning that being quiet can be its own form of caring. It’s caring enough to let someone else speak. I know I’m going to keep getting better the more that I practice.

If I could go back and tell the me who first heard that sock statement anything it would be this. Okay so the point you have just heard is not completely invalid. However, the dude that said this to you is a jerk whose MO in life is to avoid avoid avoid. You can take this advice with a GIANT grain of salt. Someday you will understand that when you are in healthy relationships, romantic and otherwise, silence won’t be demanded from you as some sort of power play. Rather, it will be asked of you by people who have your best interest at heart, love that you aren’t afraid to say your opinion, and want to help you grow into the most complete version of yourself that you can be. With those people silence isn’t a choke hold; it’s a gift.

So with that I will close out this entry on silence (clocking in at over 900 words I know, I see the irony) by opening it up to my readers. Are you a person who needs to learn to be quiet or a person who needs to learn to speak up? Which do you think is harder to learn and why?

The one about my “to read” list

I’ve felt a bit of a block in my writing the past few days. I wanted to write a sort of follow up to my last post, but honestly I don’t feel like I know what that follow up would be. The only way I know how to deal with writer’s block is to continue to write. Write something; write anything. Just keep writing. So today I’m going to share what’s on my “to read” list.

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Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear: I’m not usually a big mystery novel fan. I find it very hard to not flip to the end of the book and solve the mystery. I do better with mystery TV. But I am always on the lookout for books set in the Edwardian/WW1 era. Basically if it’s in the time frame of Downton Abbey I’m giving it a try. I saw this book being recommended constantly for fans of Downton Abbey so I decided to give it a try. Maisie Dobbs begins life as a housemaid for a very rich family in the early 1900’s. Her employer, Lady Compton, takes Maisie under her wing and helps her get an education. During WWI Maisie serves as  nurse at the front in France. After the war, with the help of her former employer, she sets up a detective agency. This book is the first in the series and so far I’m really enjoying it. Maisie is a delightful character. The nature of the mystery she is asked to solve leads to some flashbacks to her time in the war which adds another great element to the book. I’ve heard the later books are not as good the earlier ones so who knows how long I’ll continue in the series. But I am definitely a fan of the first one!

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan: I found this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s blog. This book is about a bunch different marriages across the decades. While those stories are unfolding the book also tells the story of Frances Gerety. She is the woman who came up with the phrase “A diamond if forever” for De Beers. The description of the book sounded really interesting and I can’t wait to get into this one.

Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple: So technically I have already read this book but I have to recommend it because I loved it! I downloaded this on my Kindle right before my vacation to South Beach last month. I’m in love with epistolary novels. (Novels written all in letters.) I am especially interested in modern epistolary novels. (Meg Cabot and Rainbow Rowell have both written novels that take place mostly through email and other electronic forms of communication.) The second I saw that this book was an epistolary story about a girl trying to find the mother who ran out on her I knew I had to read this. What pleasantly surprised me about the novel was how funny it was! The story is heart warming and clever and the choice to do it through email made it even more enjoyable. Highly recommend this book!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford: This book begins with the demolition of a hotel in Seattle which sets off the memories of a Chinese man who moved to Seattle as a child right before WWII and his burgeoning friendship with a Japanese girl. The book is set in the present and flashes back to the past which is a device I usually love especially in my fiction. It also deals with the topic of race and the United States’ decision to place Japanese Americans in internment camps during WWII, a topic I find horrible and fascinating at the same time. I’m really looking forward to starting this one.

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell: The continuing headline of this book says “the classic kitchen maid’s memoir that inspired ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ and Downton Abbey'” so you know I had to read this one. I’ve seen this recommend for fans of both shows on several book blogs I follow but hadn’t gotten a chance to check it out of my library. Then my birthday rolled around and the St. Louis gang sent it to me as a present. The Downton Abbey obsession can continue!

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr: I would recommend clicking on the link for this book and reading the whole (very long) description because it sounds fascinating. Briefly, the non fiction book follows an extrememly rich American family from the Gilded Age through modern times; focusing specifically on the charismatic Huguette Clark. This is the second book given to me by the St. Louis gang for my birthday. Jena said she saw it at B&N and thought it looked really interesting and I totally agree.

So those are the books on my “to read” shelf. I’ll definitely check back and let you know what my final thoughts were on them. In the meantime feel free to let me know what you are reading in the comment section. I’m always looking for more books to add to the list!