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.

Posted in Common Writing Block Problems, The Blocked Writer's Book of the Dead, Tips for overcoming writer's block and procrastination | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

cropped-short-hot-flashes-front-cover-3-25-20151.jpg

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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

cropped-short-hot-flashes-front-cover-3-25-20151.jpg

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Book Release Event – June 3 in San Francisco

Jason Cirimele and I will be presenting our illustrated collection of flash fiction, Short Hot Flashes, at Mission: Comics and Art, 7 – 9 pm, Wednesday, June 3, 3520 20th St, San Francisco, CA  (415) 695-1545
The event will include readings of selected stories, original music, a slide show, book and art raffles, and other surprises.
For more info, and to sign up to attend see:  https://www.facebook.com/MissionComics?fref=photo
Short Hot Flashes FRONT COVER 3-25-2015
Posted in Tips for overcoming writer's block and procrastination | 1 Comment

Enjoy accounts of the agony of the blocked writer? Read Geoff Dyer’s ‘Out of Sheer Rage”

Geoff has written plenty of books, but he had a really rough go on this one.

Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence was originally intended to be an academic study of D.H. Lawrence, or maybe a novel…or something. It turned out to be “or something” –  a darkly hilarious and agonizing first-person account of not-writing.

I assigned this book once in a class I taught, thinking it would be an entertaining way for blocked writers to identify with the struggles of a known writer who was having trouble. Turns out it was traumatic to most of them, because Dyer’s expression of his mental and emotional turmoil was so intense and honest. They couldn’t see the humor in it, and seemed a bit irked that I had made them read it.

Even though it’s true that Dyer missed deadlines and experienced a profound sense of powerlessness, self-hatred, anger, depression and anxiety, somehow he was eventually able to write a book, albeit a very different one from what he had imagined. It is a good example of making lemonade out of the sourest of lemons.

He really does a good job of describing his tortured, many month process of not writing a book about Lawrence (who he admired tremendously). By cataloguing his inner process and procrastinating behavior so clearly and bravely, he unintentionally shows other blocked writers how to work with the many challenges inherent in the writing life.

Perhaps it’s just the psychologist in me that is fascinated and amused by this account of a monumental struggle with the written word. I won’t assign it to my class again, but maybe you should read it someday when you don’t feel like writing.

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