I’ve found myself in a rut recently. I haven’t had the inspiration to write at all; I’ve questioned all my possible novel ideas, and for the first time, I faced the issue of not knowing what to put in a article for this month. I’ve never had that problem before because my brain would normally spit up something for me to grow from a title to an entire article. But this month? I had nothing, and that scared me quite a lot. So, I figured - why not write about that? Surely, I figured, I am not the only struggling writer out there.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always identified myself a writer. If someone asks what I do in my spare time, I’d say write. If they ask what I plan on doing in the future, I’d say write. For a long time, this rung true. I wrote literally every spare second I got - my imagination was a fire, and I had to put the words on paper or I’d end up going mad.
Over the last few years, between college and life’s endless tangle of crazy happenings, I lost that. I haven’t lost my love for writing and I still intend to go into a writing related career, but that part of me that was so full of ideas has gone somewhere, and I can’t seem to find it. I feel like I can’t call myself a writer anymore; I still write for TWE and I have the odd fan fiction here and there but I can’t seem to get past the first chapter of anything.
I always thought I’ll be a writer, no problem; but then came the realisation that in order to be a writer, one has to write. And that’s effort - not that it’s effort I don’t want to put it, but it’s just effort that I can’t find within myself no matter how much I want to. I know becoming a successful writer is a long and hard journey, but now I’m actually approaching that road, I think the reality disheartened me.
So what is the problem?
I’d put a large part of it down to depression. A major part of my depression is losing motivation; for college, for writing, for exercise. It’s a bloody struggle - staring at a blank document and waiting for the words to come to me. I’ve done everything from writing prompts to taking requests on Tumblr.
Another part of it for me is the self criticism; a writer’s work is their art. When I write something from my heart, I pour everything I feel, everything I think, into that. And to go and show someone? It’s terrifying. It’s a moment of vulnerability; something you’ve spent so much time on. So, you begin to question. Is the character consistent? Should I have done it in first person? Is the structure any good?
I also found that knowing so many other aspiring writers made me quite insecure; I knew that some of us might be successful, some of us might end up dropping the dream, and some of us might end up discouraged and disheartened. And which one of those categories do I fall in? For all I know, it could be none of those things. Putting myself in a box and becoming a self fulfiling prophecy is a stupid idea. I know that - and I still do it. It’s a classic Jazz thing, really.
And the solution?
Currently, I can’t find one. That’s why I’m writing this - because I feel this intense need to write. Hold onto that; that’s what makes you a writer, at the end of the day. That feeling of loss when you can’t structure an idea, or that desperation to get to a computer or notebook and spit out some words. Even the biggest names in the writing industry don’t write 24/7.
Even just grabbing a piece of paper and scrawling something down can be enough. It doesn’t have to be a story; just something. Maybe about how you’re feeling, or how your day went. I found that writing a list of my sources of stress was a good catharsis. Ironically, inability to produce substantial writing was at the top.
Joining TWE is a way to write, too; a bit of shameless promotion right here. When you’ve made an agreement that you’re going to write something, you have motivation to do something you love. There’s also the side where you help people; that’s one hell of a good reason to get typing. It’s a reason to write.
Writing prompts can be good too; so far, they haven’t given me any groundbreaking ideas that pave my way to being the next Stephen King. But what have they done? They’ve got me writing, and that is definitely something Stephen King does. Even if it’s just a short story that will only gather dust in the dark depths of my horrifically unorganised Google Drive, it’s still writing.
The thing about writing is that there’s no official definition of what it constitutes to be. That’s both a blessing and a curse; a blessing because it means you can set your own standards, but a curse because you then beat yourself for not meeting set standards. I use to think that not writing everyday meant I couldn’t call myself a writer.
I’ve realised that writers don’t always writer. Writers do all kinds of things that aren’t writing. They come up with endless ideas, but use none of them. They sit, staring blankly at a screen, and wait for the words to appear (a bit like Spongebob and his boating school essay). They cry over not being able to write.
Sometimes, writers do everything but write.
I’ve kind of realised that between starting this article and closing it - the half an hour that I’ve been manically typing for has been quite a journey. All of these words are what I call word puke.It just kind of came up, unplanned (not the best analogy!). This article could be an exact example of the solution.
Open a book, or a document, and just type. Get your thoughts out. You don’t have to organise them - just let it out. You might find an idea in there, or even a tiny, tiny thing that could grow into something much more. JK Rowling, for example, found that a story idea crept it’s way into her mind one day when her trained was delayed. That idea became Harry Potter.
That doesn’t mean you should go and stand on a train platform and wait for something similar, but you should definitely wait. Wait for that idea, that tiny seed, and don’t force it. If your brain is anything like mine, it’s probably working overtime to come up with ideas for novels. One day, it will spit out something, and it will be a eureka moment.