It’s been a bit, I know. But I mean, it’s NaNo time and you know how much I like to bitch and moan about that, so I had to wander back here eventually. It’s been a really weird few months, I won’t lie. Weirder than usual. I’ve been a big plugged up, like there are lots of bits of things in the way of doing what I need to do to be really successful at this writing shit. So, what the Hell. Let’s make a blog!
“It’s Writer’s Block” and Other Things I’ll Punch You for Saying
First of all, I want to make this heard loud and fucking clear. There is NO such thing as Writer’s Block. There’s “I don’t wanna,” there’s “I have to eat a bunch of sugar to overcome my inner critic,” there’s “I’m being pulled in too many directions to complete a thought,” but there’s no such motherfucking as Writer’s Block. There’s just doing and not doing, and not doing is typically due to a psychological overwhelm.
It’s not because of your magical fairy farts that are unique to your writerly garb. It’s because you’re not willing or able to focus on the project. Period.
Ok, so now that we’ve got that out of the way I’m going to say that sometimes I really, really want to write, but I feel all plugged up. Like a tube of toothpaste with a hard bit at the end.
Wait… let me back up a little bit.
My Writing Technique: Mental Pre-Writing
When I write, I start by pre-writing in my head. This is the bulk of my writing, to be honest. Clients don’t necessarily understand or appreciate this method. I’ve been fired before for not having ongoing notes, but fuck those guys because that’s just not how I work. It’s in my head or it’s all done in one go, there’s not a lot to put down besides research required to fact check what I think is probably right. I think everybody has a little bit of their own technique, but I’m pretty sure that mental pre-writing isn’t unusual in writers who are expected to crank copy like mad (like journalists, for example). If it is, paint me pink and call me a Goddamn unicorn.
Anyway, so I have all these ideas jumbled up in my head, rattling around, sometimes mixing with one another, making weird hybrid ideas and eventually they’re ripe enough that I sit down and pull them out and work with them. Sometimes time doesn’t allow that, so I pull them out not ripe and fucking salt and pepper the shit out of them and serve ’em up the best I can.
Not every piece is a Pulitzer. Sometimes you just gotta get the information out there and live with the end result. That’s life in the fast lane. But rarely, another thing happens. You get all plugged up. If you think of that mental writing space as being sort of funnel shaped, then you can see where I’m going here. This piece is too oblong or too big or too fucking green to go through the funnel properly, or two things are trying to go through at the same time, and nothing happens. You can feel it trying to come out, it’s like an itch you can’t scratch, but nada. That’s your mental plug. Gross.
I’ve dealt with a lot of these little bastards, they’re nasty as fuck. Luckily, there are a few tricks to work them loose so you can move on with your life and get your content delivered on time, every fucking time. And that’s what we’re gonna talk about in the next section. Prepare yourself for an obligatory header.
Tricks for Unplugging Your Writing Funnel
When your funnel’s plugged, it’s the worst sort of feeling. The pressure’s building, both from your clients and internally, and you just might explode writing ideas everywhere if you’re not careful. So let’s talk about unplugging. We don’t need you to make a mess in here.
1. Write it Out. I’d say about 60 percent of the time when I’m plugged up, it’s because I’m trying to enforce my own priority on projects that won’t have it. For example, right now I need to be writing a dental blog that promises to actually be good fun, but I’m plugged up, so I’m writing this blog about being plugged up because it’s actually what’s causing the plug. I reached up there and I saw that my lack of attention to this blog has been in my way for a while, so I’m fixing that shit. Unplugging the funnel. Prepare for chaos!
2. Cry it Out. Maybe 20 percent of the time, I can’t make the words work right because something is really bothering me and I can’t quite focus on the task at hand. I’m trying so hard to hold my emotions back that I can’t open the funnel fully to let the ideas out. It’s a mess. This has also been happening lately. A good friend of mine died in late May and I didn’t realize how much trying to hold that tidal wave of emotion back had also been holding me back professionally until yesterday when I broke down crying because he wasn’t on Spotify. Believe me, I felt as stupid writing that sentence as you did reading it.
I cried like someone had shot my dog for over an hour. Just, buckets and buckets and I kind of still feel a bit leaky, if we’re being honest. This was someone I used to collaborate with on stupid shenaniganry, as we both honed our craft. I feel his loss in an immeasurable way. But in all the crying, I also realized that I was starting to unplug. Part of what was holding me back from a really cool opportunity, maybe the opportunity of my lifetime, was not wanting to move forward without Will, which is obviously impossible. So, for every time that starts to plug up my funnel, we’re just gonna get out the chocolate and cry it the fuck out. Endorphins are pretty cool.
3. Force it Out. There are other times, not a huge number of them in the grand scheme, but enough, that the words don’t come and it feels like there’s no relief from vocabular constipation. I think of those times like giving birth. Not that I have, so I might be wrong about how it goes. But, basically, you sit down and you write. And that sounds easy, but when you’re plugged up solid, it’s the hardest thing. But just write anything. Write one word. Then write another word. Write a sentence. Write two. Write a paragraph. Don’t worry if they’re awful, you can fix it in proofing. Some days it just takes a few sentences, some days it takes whole paragraphs, but by simply purposefully writing on one topic, you’ll blow that plug to kingdom come.
Ok, that’s your useful bullshit bullshit for today, kiddos. I’m back, shit’s gettin’ real. It’s Day 7 of NaNo, I hope it’s going well for you. Even though you know how I feel about that whole thing.
I’m not doing NaNo, but I am trying very hard to write some nice sonnets about cats for a friend who’s been having a rough time lately. Best wishes to those of you who are. Doing NaNo, I mean, not writing sonnets about cats. But if you’re writing sonnets about cats, I’d be happy to pass them along to my friend.
If you’re reading this, Eli, they’re coming! Sheesh! Enough about it, it’s boring!!!!!!!! 😉