Fear, Loathing and Writing Blocks

Hunter S. Thompson was able to write a book and make some money from his fear and loathing

The bad news about fear and loathing for the writer is that these two emotional states can stop the flow of words. The good news  is that they can be transmuted into writing fuel.

Hunter S. Thompson made fear and loathing famous in a book and in movies. Fortunately, the massive amounts of mind-altering substances that the writer/protagonist ingested in his tale are not required for this transmutation. There are other effective approaches that are easier on the brain, the body and the criminal record.

One way to shift your attitude about intense feelings like fear an loathing, is to fear and loathe them less. You may be more open to this idea if you come to believe that your negative emotions can be a real asset to your writing, especially the feelings you tend to dread and avoid.

One way that writing comes to a halt is when the anticipation or experience of writing dredges up hard-to-tolerate feelings, so you avoid writing to avoid experiencing those feelings. It isn’t writing itself that you dislike, it is the emotions that are activated when you write. If you can find a way to be more welcoming to these emotions, they may grace you with fresh energy and ideas for you work.

It takes a conscious effort to transmute fear and loathing into writing fuel, and it means operating in a way that runs contrary to common sense. Welcome your fear if it comes knocking, and ask it what it wants to say. Invite loathing into your living room for a chat. It might feel weird to do this, but certainly less weird than a taking an acid trip to Las Vegas with Hunter S. Thompson.

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Your Duty to Protect Yourself from Harmful Feedback

Many people in your writing life will not be highly skilled in the art of giving useful, non-traumatizing feedback about your work. As the primary custodian of your writing, one of your responsibilities is to protect your ability to do it. Real threats to your ongoing writing practice do exist, and one of them is harmful feedback.

When you do receive input of the wrong variety, it can shatter your confidence, confuse you and stop you from working. Usually people mean well and are simply clumsy or misguided in what they say or how they say it. Even so, damage can still be done.

Your writing may also inspire reactions from others whose motives are not so innocent. Friends, family members, colleagues, mentors and significant others often have complex and ambivalent feelings about the writers in their lives, and the feedback they supply can be tainted by envy, resentments, judgments, the need to control, the need to be overly protective, unresolved past grievances unrelated to writing, etc.

If you tend to feel vulnerable about showing your work(and almost everyone does), it is crucial that you identify the proper people to help you with your writing. Not only do you need input from people who actually have something to offer, they also must be Continue reading

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I Hate Writing…I Love Writing

A woman author once said this to me during a workshop on improving writing productivity. ‘I hate writing, but I love writing.” It sounds absurd, but I knew what she meant. Writing was her primary passion and yet she felt emormous resistance to doing it at the same time.

This inner contradiction is a common feature of writing blocks, and a source of great turmoil and suffering. It’s as if your psyche is divided by powerful, competing impulses, neither one of which wants to give up. In addition, if you avoid writing  a profound uneasiness will plague you, but if you pursue  it a monsoon of dread descends upon your head. Sheesh!

This hardly seems fair, and it isn’t. And if you attempt to find someone to blame it on (which is only natural) you’ll soon see how hard it is to conclusively identify the culprit. Even if you have a pretty convincing theory about who is to blame for this mess (self or other), it doesn’t really help you. It is you alone who needs to sort the problem out and find a way to contain the love/hate contradiction and not let the inner turmoil prevent you from writing.

Walt Whitman sheds light on this problem in his poem Song of Myself, when he wrote,

“Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

Perhaps Walt provides a a clue to working with the issue. After all, he contained a bunch of contradictions and was able to write quite a bit during his lifetime. What if we allow  these two supposedly antagonistic forces both have their appropriate place in our mind?To just feel these different impulses and to consider them as only two parts of the multitudes you contain. Maybe then uneasiness wouldn’t make you feel so uneasy and dread wouldn’t be so dreadful.

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Fear the Bubbles

These seemingly innocent bubbles have enormous power

Sometimes I think it’s amazing that we are able to do anything, much less write a story, novel, poem or article. The process of fixing on a goal and making it happen is not as simple one might think. This is especially true about goals that we are ambivalent about, like ” I will write for an hour this morning.”

When I witness my own process of intending, hesitating, considering, postponing, self-reproach, rationalizing, moving toward, moving away, seeking distractions, and then hopefully finally sitting down to write; I feel fortunate if I am actually able to do it amidst all the conflicting mental and emotional pushes and pulls.

All it takes is one convincing distractor thought like, “Instead of writing in my scheduled time this morning, I really should take a long, hot, bubble bath to get myself in the right mood…” and all is lost. Somewhere inside you know this is a mistake, but if this wisdom is overridden by the urge to avoid for just long enough, you fall out of the saddle.

The procrastination issue with writers resembles the addiction recovery process. The recovered addict knows that using the drug will be predictably bad for his or her life, but in any particular moment, the inner hunger to use again might assert itself in wily ways that undermine the commitment to stay sober.

It’s humbling to realize and accept that your mind is not in your full control. This is especially true when you take on a challenging task like writing a book. Your resistances and fears get activated and you have to manage the contrary impulses, day after day. To succeed it helps to set your writing life up in a way that best supports the enterprise, and stay with it as best you can, one day at a time.

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The Kathy Bates Writing Block Cure

Not all muses are enchanting nymphs

James Caan, playing a writer in the movie adapted from Stephen King’s novel Miserywakes up after a car wreck in the home of an obsessed fan, Kathy Bates, who had rescued him. Crippled and immobilized by the accident, Caan is trapped in Bates’ cabin, and soon discovers she is a dangerous, psycho-baby-killing, ex-nurse who is demanding that he continue writing a mystery series about a character, Misery Chastain, that he is sick of, but she adores.

To get her favorite author’s attention and to encourage him to return to the Misery series, Kathy Bates employs highly effective, though unorthodox, motivational strategies that involve death threats, terrifying rages, restraints, narcotics, large knives, and ankle sledgehammering. As a validation of her controversial techniques, we see a reluctant James Caan successfully overcoming his initial inability to write this book. Soon he is writing with vigor and a renewed sense of purpose.

When your writing becomes misery, it’s murder to keep working at it consistently. This is especially true if you do not want to write the piece you are working on. We all have had this experience in school, and those teachers who used Kathy Bates methods were hated, even if they did get us to produce. The problem with this extreme approach is, a tremendous amount of resentment and fear Continue reading

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Book Release Event for Short Hot Flashes in Monterey, CA on July 31

Author David Rasch and illustrator Jason Cirimele and will be at The East Village Coffee Lounge in Monterey on Friday, July 31 from 7:30 – 9:00 pm to celebrate the publication of their illustrated collection of flash fiction: Short Hot Flashes This event will include live music, a slide show, readings of selected stories from the book, raffles, a book signing, and other surprises.

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Short Hot Flashes Book Tour Goes to LA on July 19

Illustrator Jason Cirimele and author David Rasch will be at Bookshowla (http://bookshowla.com) on Sunday July 19 @ 1 pm for an afternoon of live music, book signing, readings from their newly published book: Short Hot Flashes, raffles, and other surprises. Hope to see you there!

BookshowLA  address in Highland Park:

  • 5503 N. Figueroa Street Los Angeles, CA 90042

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