Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Ninth Circle of Writer's Hell

Do you ever have one of those days when you sit at your computer, staring at the blank 'Compose' page on Blogger (or WordPress or whatever your bloggy poison of choice may be), and think, "I am boring. I am a boring, boring person. My life is boring; my thoughts are boring; my clothes are boring; I am bored just writing this?" Or, if you prefer slightly more straightforward language, do you sit and think, "WHAT ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH AM I GOING TO WRITE ABOUT TODAY?"

I know you'll be shocked to learn that I feel that way right now.

I think there's nothing like the panic that overcomes a writer when we cannot think of anything to write. It is all-encompassing, it is pervasive, it creeps into every vein and every nerve until our palms are sweating and our hair is falling out and our bodies are vibrating with anxiety, and we would give our left arms (or legs or souls or lives or firstborn sons) for just ONE good, or even mildly mediocre, idea. It is, I believe, the ninth circle of a writer's hell, and it is the place we will all go to when we die without EVER WRITING ANYTHING.

Does this sound melodramatic?

GOOD. Because it is. It feels that melodramatic. Which is why I'm using so many italics and CAPITALS.

How can I be a writer, we think, if I can't come up with anything to WRITE? My very identity is being called question! My very soul! The very fiber of my being!! WHO AM I IF I DO NOT WRITE???

(As a side-note, this should be fairly obvious, but let me add that this extreme, panic-stricken melodrama does not help the situation. In no way is it useful, or even inspiring. It's rather more like asking for directions and then putting on a giant pair of noise cancelling headphones while someone is trying to give them to you, and getting anxious and angry because you can't hear what the person is saying, and telling them sternly to just SPEAK UP, for God's sake.)

And then of course, we realize that the answer to that question - WHO AM I IF I DO NOT WRITE, that is, in case you lost track of the thread of this post like I did - is that we are no one. Which then sends us into an unending spiral of depression and more anxiety.

Surprisingly, this also does not lead to any actual writing.

You know what does? Writing. Yes yes, I know, it's a catch 22. We have nothing to write about so we don't write, but the only way to start writing is to write, but we don't have anything to write about so we don't write, but the only way to start writing is to write...

Fun as that endless circling logic is, I hope you'll pardon me if I step away from it for a bit, and point out that I just spent an entire blog post writing about not writing. So, there it is: I can write, after all

Yup, there is a point to this post. Who would've thought?

I know it might sound ridiculous, or useless, but this truly is the only way I've ever found to break that panic, unblock the blockage, and escape from the ninth circle of writer's hell: write. It doesn't matter what I write about. More often than not, I write about how I can't write. It feels impossible, so I write about that, too. I give myself free license, and I do NOT edit, ever. I bitch and moan and whine to myself, I indulge every ounce of my own melodrama, and then, somewhere around page ten of my insane ramblings, it stops. The complaining turns into brainstorming; the panic turns into curiosity. 'What if I write about the ninth circle of hell', I think? What if I write about that time I did a swan dive on the streets of Manhattan, or the time I sat in the passenger's seat in a car in Ireland and became convinced I was going to die because I didn't have a brake on my side - or a steering wheel?

So I write about those things. Or I write some more about not writing. Either way, I am writing, and that is the entire point.

Plus, it's really sort of fun when you get to post about not having anything to post about...

43 comments:

  1. Considering you had nothing to say, you filled a page with it.
    When it comes to writing stories, I know the feeling. Blog posts aren't as challenging though...

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  2. LOL. Well, it was a well-written post about not writing. I cracked up quite a few times. And I love the asides.

    I think you fill out this quote quite well with today's post.

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    1. Hee hee, thanks! I do love a good aside :) That was a great quote, and a great post- thank you for sending me over!

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  3. I know that feeling, but I mostly get it before I sit down to pull up a new blog post. I mostly write my stuff in Notepad first, then copy and paste when ready.

    I usually start my panic while trying to go to sleep the night before I promise I will write a blog post the next day. Makes me want to jump out of bed to saddle up to the computer, but I know it will be futile, so I fall off to sleep. The next morning, I jump out of bed in a panic, mind blank, one sock hanging off my foot, hopping into the kitchen to start the coffee....

    Then I think to myself, "If I DON'T have something to write this morning, I'll just poke fun of myself a bit." :)

    Don't panic. Have fun! I enjoyed your post while sipping on my coffee this morning.

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    1. LOL, what a great image - all bleary-eyed from sleep, confused and panicked. I can see it so clearly!! Sounds like me :) And yes, I think poking fun at oneself is a great way to deal with not having any idea, too.

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  4. I can relate. This is exactly what I do. I went through a long dry period a few years ago when all I did was write, "I can't write anything today." It's not usually as intense for me now, but if I get stuck, I usually step away and start brainstorming or write something other than the work I'm stuck on. That helps too.
    Baby steps always gets me back into the game.

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    1. Yep, it is baby steps, isn't it? It's hard to be patient, but we always get there somehow.

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  5. It's why I haven't been posting much lately. Nothing to say. I find life very boring these days . . . I'm sure I could find a juicy writing topic to hash out, but . . . ::shrug::

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    1. I know. It's hard to motivate in the summer - at least on the East Coast :) And sometimes I think it's a good thing when life is a little bit boring.

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  6. When I feel like I don't have anything to blog about, I just don't do it. I'm not one of those people who can plan out my blog posts months ahead of time. I'm very intuitive about the things that I blog about! So if I have nothing to write about that week, I do nothing except visit other blogs. But when it comes to my fiction. Honey! If I can't write you talk about agony! I feel like a tortured soul. But of course, my muse comes back (snickering, the bastard) and all is well with the world again. So from that aspect, I can definitely relate!

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    1. Me neither!!! I've always been in awe of those people. I'm just way too anal to NOT blog every week - which is why I end up with posts like this :) Your way is probably a lot better! And yes, this happens to me with my fiction, too. Damn that muse...

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  7. You wrote a Seinfeld episode:) That was a brilliant show by the way. Now you need to take some nice deep breathes in, remain calm and relaxed and think of some beautiful music or the ocean waves. You can slowly get up from your chair, pick up a baseball bat and whack something you don't mind destroying and whack it hard!! All your anxiety will fade after that:) I have the shingles right now and it is quite painful. the rash is leaving but the pain comes and goes. Now I could write about that but who wants to read about someones right breast hurting so bad that it feels like someone came from the inside and gave me a titty twister and pulled towards the inside-I mean really? Who wants to read that? ....oh...you just did-lol we must laugh at our issues...and then breathe, find the calmness and then whack something-lol

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    1. LOL!!!! I feel awful laughing when you're probably feeling so icky, but your phrasing just totally cracked me up. I hope you feel better SOON!

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  8. You'll get your groove back because I want to read your novel when it is done:)

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  9. Darn, I should have written about not having anything to write about today. Instead I didn't write about anything and have no blog post. I'm not a writer. I'm a hopeless wannabe. But wait! I just wrote a comment. That counts. That totally counts!! I am a writer, I am a writer! (who abuses exclamation points, but whatever). :P

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    1. HA! You ARE a writer! What a lovely comment, too. You can abuse exclamation points as long as I can abuse italics and caps...

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  10. Every single one of Seinfeld consisted of nothing, and look how successful the show was. LOL. I love this post about nothing, Liz. It touched a cord. You're right, we write, therefore we are.

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    1. True!! Thanks Joylene :) We just have to remember that even if we aren't writing, well, we still ARE :)

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  11. Cracking up where you note your own use of drama (italics and caps) -- I know we ALL see ourselves in that!! (notice my CAPS for emphasis. :-)) This was great!

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    1. Haha, thanks!! Nothing like a good EMPHASIS, right? ;)

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  12. I'm not sure which is worse - not knowing what to write about, or feeling like everything you write sucks. >_< I have the latter problem all the time, and I'd totally trade you for the former.

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    1. We can't trade, because I do that all the time, too. But I didn't want to wrote about that part today; I wanted to save it for another blog post. See? I'm sneaky like that.

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  13. Haha, loved it! So this was like a freestyle post today? Also, how many cups of coffee did you drink before writing this? ;)

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  14. Oh my goodness, YES. So true! I sometimes hate the blank screen (of death, or so I call it), but if I can just get 15 minutes in then something happens and it's all good :) Great post!

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    1. Yes, I call it that, too! LOL. Thanks! :)

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  15. I have certainly had a lot of those "what can I write about?" days. Usually, I just don't blog when I'm uninspired, but I do try to write fiction. I basically have "guilty pleasure" manuscripts that I tinker with when feeling blocked or else I write weird short stories. A writer's gotta write. You do a great job writing about not writing! We've all felt that way, too.

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    1. I always think that procrastinating work on one novel by working on another is a great way to trick those demon in our heads! ;)

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  16. You have such a good point. I had the blog blanks myself this week. I put off and put off and then decided on the blog tour post since it was rolling around my head anyway. I need to try your trick and just write about not writing and see if that works.

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    1. Haha, I'm surprised it worked, actually - but yes, go for it!!

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  17. I freelance write--last week, I had 5 different clients request ideas about social media. 5-10 ideas each. I had to pitch them. By request #5, I was completely bled dry. I sent some and the guy sent back, "These aren't very original." UGH! I realized, there's only so much we can come up with! I keep a list of blog topics as they come to me...that helps. I just go down that list when I don't have anything good to write about that day.

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    1. UGH! Really?? I have no idea how you even came up with that many pitches. Plus you need ideas for your own social media, too. Yikes. I'm impressed by what you do!

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  18. When I can't write, I visit blogs. Which you can probably tell from my brief comments. :P

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  19. I only blog when I have something to say, but that does mean I sometimes have very long gaps between posts. I'm impressed you wrote so much on this one :-)

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    1. Haha, thanks! It's oddly easy to write about not writing...

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  20. Oh, I am indeed shocked! But I too have had those same fears and same dilemmas. What on earth can I write or blog about that would mean anything to anyone else? But you've got a loyal following, Liz. They just want to hear what you have to say. Period. :)

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  21. Well done, Trooper McGee! As usual. ;D

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  22. And you write about not writing in such an engaging way.

    This whole post is why I love the Faulkner quote: “Don't be 'a writer'. Be writing.” Calling myself a writer would only suffocate me. But actually writing...that is freedom.

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