We begin our tale a while back as you teach yourself that the best big secret for the most effective creative process is this: write.
Write. Write furiously as if you’ve discovered it for the first time, because, in a way you have. Write without worrying about deadlines or opinions. Write some really dumb things- I mean, borderline terrible, but finish writing them anyway. Write with reckless abandon. Write like the words are your therapy- they’re not yet, but you’ll get there.
Write something that you can tell is just different. It sticks out from everything you’ve been writing. Maybe it’s shorter or funnier or has that one reference you’re really proud of making at the right time. Maybe the words rhyme. Maybe it’s just more “you” or maybe it’s way outside what your usual writing style was.
Share what you’ve written. Receive feedback. Let your chest and your ego swell at the thought that your words are the words of a “somebody” now. You’ve created a paragraph or two that sticks with someone else. Your story is gum on the bottom of their shoes, but they’re not even mad. In fact, they enjoy it and cherish it, and want to know where they can get more gum and how they can get tangled up in it all over again.
Call yourself a writer. You figure that you’re serious now, since you publish things every now and then. You let a few people read it and they might have shared it once or twice. So, you’re a writer. Buy that sweater that makes you look like you might do a book signing later- you know the one.
Write about comfortable subjects, receive praise. Write about tough subjects, get consolation. Write something funny, watch your comments soar.
Begin to realize your best ideas come when you’re inspired. Try to pinpoint how you’re inspired and when, as if it’s a math equation or a certain day of the week in a certain room with a certain record playing. Maybe you shouldn’t even write unless all the pieces are connected and correct.
Begin to write less. Tell yourself this is because you have a reputation to uphold and that’s why. After all, if you’re not funny all the time, you’ll never get that comedy writing job that you dream of. If you’re too sappy, you’ll be reduced to an over-share Facebook status.
Panic. Read your own words to calm down. Write a little, but then delete it.
Panic again. Read some other short stories or essay lists and realize that these make you mad because they’re better. When did you get so mad? You used to love to read. You used to praise your favorite writers.
Call it writer’s block. Call it stubbornness. Glorify the fact that with a new job, you are ‘busy’ and have important things to do, leaving no time for your words.
Tell yourself you were too personal anyway. Tell yourself you already wrote most of your opinions and stories. Tell yourself that the “dissatisfied 23 year-old suburban white girl” schtick has already been covered and dealt with.
Wish that you were anything else. Sniffle. Eat a bowl of ice cream. Feel guilty about the ice cream immediately after. Remind yourself that every famous writer usually had social issues and vices and was usually an alcoholic. Decide the ice cream isn’t that bad, and that thinking of famous writers is both a calming and terrifying thought.
Let your life happen. Participate, yes, but don’t feel like you have to give a major commentary. Feel like you are running out of stories. Feel like all you can write about is pop culture or your darkest thoughts. Feel like it’s all been done, it’s all been said, it’s all been written millions of times before.
Go to church, go to work, go home. Go for a drive to clear your head, even if you’re not sure what your head is full of.
You’re not really a writer anymore. You’re just a girl who writes, and that’s okay. After all, it’s been what – 3 months? Oh. I guess that’s longer than you thought.
Walk into a coffee shop a month later. Or is it two? It’s getting hard to keep track. Besides, you’ve had disappointment and personal failure and broken trust and relationships pushed to the brink and tragedy happen to you, so that adds something. We can’t all be on all the time. It’s harder to write when it doesn’t come easy, but you’re here, and this coffee shop has terrible wi-fi anyway, so you’re either going to write or sit, and we both know you’re a Type-A fidgeter.
Order a tea because you’ve had 5 cups of coffee today already. Immediately regret this decision, as the tea is not going to make your blood surge like you trained it to do before any major writing breakthrough.
Drink your tea anyway. Lie in the bed you’ve made. Coffee calls to you and you tell it that once you’ve written, you’ll reward yourself with a piping hot cup, one cream and a kiss of sugar. You’re okay with being both Pavlov and the dog in this experiment.
Listen to the people around you in the coffee shop and tell yourself that you could have written a better conversation than the one they’re having.
Sit down in the coffee shop with your computer and actually turn the wifi off so that you’re forced to do nothing but type. Type. Type. Type. It seems to go slower, like it’s a muscle you haven’t stretched in a while. Didn’t you used to be faster at this?
OH GEEZ everyone is staring at you in this coffee shop. I bet they’re all judging you. I’m sure they all think you’re self-absorbed. They all think you’re a hopeless writer, but maybe that isn’t the worst thought. Okay, let them think that. Let them read over your shoulder – you don’t care.
Typing is starting to feel laborious and you don’t like anything you’ve written. It’s all half-ideas and weirdly futuristic.
Good thing you brought your notebook. While reaching for it and your pen in your bag, realize there’s a joke happening right now with your notebook and pen versus your computer that you aren’t going to take the time to write down. Acknowledge this and move forward.
Write. Old-school, pen to paper, as your hand starts to cramp.
Wow, this is exhausting. You really have to pee but you don’t know anyone here at this coffee shop and you would feel uncomfortable making them watch your stuff.
Continue to write on paper. Remember how good it feels to see the pen form the letters and the imperfection of half-cursive half-print thoughts. Remember when it was a big deal that you had to learn cursive in 2nd grade and your teachers told you that you’d need it in the adult world? You wish you could laugh at this thought but it feels almost sad in a sense. Regardless, you’re still not pleased with your cursive on the letter r. It seems like you’ll always be cursed with that.
Write a few scraps and then one you like.
Think it might be too emotional to share on the internet, but then think, what isn’t? Frequently photos of baby animals on the internet make you cry, so maybe there’s something to emotions. Maybe they’re inescapable. Maybe they’re infectious.
It’s late now, but you’ve still got an hour of editing and critiquing and cringing over what you just wrote. You’ve still got to post it and then delete it immediately and then work up the courage to share again.
But hey, would you look at that? Looks like despite all that talk and self-doubt, you wrote something after all.
See you again, same time next week.