Photo courtesy of Erik Walker
Fair warning: you are about to be exposed to something that plagues writers. Are your vaccinations up to date?
It happens to all of us. You fire up the writing engine, it sputters a couple of times and then dies. You can keep cranking the key but all you get is a pathetic Rrrr-rrrr-rrrr noise. I don’t care how long or often you’ve been writing, sometimes the writing engine is just plain out of gas.
So, what do you do?
Write anyway. Seriously, the act of writing begets more writing.
Here is an old journal excerpt that I wrote when my tanks ran dry.
I am having one of those days. I hate everything. Everything I’ve written. Everything I’ve read. Even the music chirping through my headphones doesn’t do a thing for me. I want my money back. Oh, wait, I didn’t pay anything for this. This is just my life.
I made a date with inspiration, and I have been stood up.
By the time I had written that much, my brain handed me an idea.
What inspires me? A person? A book? I think about the famous quote about monkeys and typewriters and Shakespeare. Realize I can’t even remember the whole stupid quote. Can’t remember who said the quote. Hopeless. Spend time Googling in search of the quote. Realize after looking at 40 versions of the quote that nobody on the Internet remembers the quote either.
For this weekend’s assignment, I’m challenging you to write about not being able to write. (Yes, it IS oxymoronic. I knew you were a clever bunch.) Write about the things that keep you from writing, the procrastination techniques you use to avoid the keyboard, the insecurities that stop the words before they start. Your writing can be melodramatic, funny, painful, or the worst stream-of-consciousness crap you want to pour on the page. But there’s a catch. You knew there was, didn’t you?
Set a timer and write non-stop for at least ten minutes. You can keep going if you’re on a roll when you run out of time, but don’t stop early. Even if it means adding tidbits like this one from the same journal entry:
AARGH! Will never write again. Brain broken. Igor! I need lightning bolt!
I like to call this technique the Timed Info Dump. It’s a great way to generate ideas and tune in to a project you’re having trouble starting. So, next time the brain stalls and you’re fresh out of lightning bolts, set the timer, take a deep breath, and write.