Shut up and write 6 Comments

For someone who salivates over books and journals as much as I do, I can’t seem to shake that annoying beast known as writer’s block. Often I’ll be sitting on a train and a great idea will pop into my head and I’ll think ‘Ah, that would make the perfect introduction to a short story’. I’ll scribble it on whatever paper I have at my disposal, only to later consider the fragment of a story with less clarity and considerably less enthusiasm.

I blame university. The second I left the sheltered confines of high school my creative output plummeted. Suddenly I was faced with English tutorials populated by outspoken students who produced creative pieces at the drop of a hat (well that’s how it appeared to me).

It’s possible I’ll never be as prolific or as brave about my writing as when I was in grade two and my story about a frog with magic powers earned a gold star from the teacher. Age has not so much wearied me but made me more perceptive to the criticisms of others. This is probably why I find reviewing so much easier. It’s far less daunting to take a scalpel to someone else’s work.

I’m packing my life into boxes at the moment and constantly coming across examples of things I wrote during my younger years. If you’re ever looking for a reality check re-read the diaries from your adolescence. Apart from being totally cringe inducing, I was amazed by the high volume of thoughts and ideas they contained.

Perhaps I should stop worrying and just write. If I practise writing something everyday maybe I’ll get progressively more inspired. Can people train themselves to be more creative or do natural-born writers really need to try that hard?

  • Johannes Jakob

    I am imagining you writing the start of this post like 3 times and then getting usefully distracted by something that was obviously much more important anyway and needed doing right away.

    I always thought you had to make yourself write, but you shouldn’t -force- yourself to write. There needs to be discipline, but you also need to be reasonable about when it just isn’t working and you need to try again the next day. But it’s obviously about blocking out how awful this thing you are sweating over is going to be – maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. For every story that only has a start written, or gets finished and never revised, you’re going to improve as a writer. Either by mystically improving your writing ability, or just by excising whatever ideas and phrases were flying around your head.

  • EmilyL

    Yeah, that’s a good point. Funnily enough, I didn’t have much trouble writing this post. My lack of creativity served as a great spark. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? Like rain on your wedding day…

  • Kat

    Rain on your wedding day, that’s only ironic if your impending husband was a weatherman and he picked the date. But seriously, this post definitely resonates with me. Back in the day I wrote a kick-butt (and furthermore illustrated!) short story called The Killer Rose. To this day I struggle to create another tale of that calibre.
    I’ve found review writing to be a great tool against the big block. They’re often short, consumable and churn-out-able, great practice for using language precisely. It’s much easier to drill yourself to maintain clarity when the audience is so immediate. Plus, you tend not to be so precious about pet turns of phrase that don’t actually mean anything when writing outside fiction.

    It also very effective to simply blame uni, a luxury which will be returned to aspiring writers very soon.

  • Rosie

    I look back at my Primary school days and wonder where my imagination went… For me, it’s as though suddenly the possibilities of a story are limited by what comes to mind (and it’s less as I grow). I have to consciously push myself to imagine more, and then, with time and patience, a story will come to mind that is begging to be penned. Jojo, you said you have to make yourself write, and I think it’s the same with the imagination: you have to make yourself clear your mind of the every-day and give yourself time to daydream a little.

  • Kate

    I think clearing your mind of the everyday naturally becomes more difficult as you move further away from primary school. Adulthood is crowded with forms to fill out, household chores, trains to catch, money to make, toenails to clip, friends to catch up with, haircuts, dentist appointments, etc., and writing starts to fall further and further down the ‘to do’ list. Every day I want to write, but most days I get to midnight and fall into a sleepy, uncreative stupor. Last year I tried to write stories in the 1am to 3am timeslot. Not a good idea.

    Fortunately creative writing now falls into my official studying time. I think writing classes are a great way to make writing a priority and get over writer’s block, however you define it and experience it.

  • Gina Magini

    I love this line: “My lack of creativity served as a great spark.” It’s very dry but contains a valuable truth. Sometimes if you do something about not doing something you find something has been done. lol. You know what I mean. It’s making lemonade from lemons or using a flaw for a strength. I love it that you used your alleged lack of creativity to create something.
    Just write a little each day, and there you go. By the way, I am pretty sure you don’t lack creativity.

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