Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How I persevered through a serious case of writer’s block

My task today was to write an essay for this blog that is inspiring, honest, vulnerable. Instead of meaningful content, I have a headache and a bunch of nothing. Do real writers feel this stress? Am I doing something wrong? Why do I struggle?

I do not know what it means to write well, but I know I am falling short of the mark.

Blogs are supposed to be instructive, stories of success and inspiration. Today, my only success is that, four hours after I sat down to write during which I ranted and raved and cried in a Starbucks bathroom, I am still here, still writing. It would have been easy to give up hours ago, to conclude that today is not the day to write. To blame a break in routine, or allergies, or hunger, or exhaustion after a week filled with paying taxes, finding my birth certificate and navigating through the bureaucracy of the DMV. I had my choice of excuses.

Instead, I set my timer (and reset it, and reset it again). And I wrote.

None of what I spewed onto the page during these hours is reprintable. Most sentences do not read completion and I changed subjects too many times to count. In the spirit of transparency, however, the highlights are below. 

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Things I Learned While Trying to Rest

I have long been frustrated by my inability to relax. My compulsive need to create means that even activities I enjoy -reading, brainstorming, non-directed thinking - are tinged with anxiety. I often find that I rate the happiness of my days by how much I have accomplished. It is easy for me to tailspin into despair at the thought of an unfinished to-do list.

This need to complete (paired with the frequent stress brought on by not finishing a task or missing a goal) prompted me to complete Matt Frazier’s goal setting program in January. I had struggled to make writing a priority and, as a result, I was prone to spontaneous fits of crying. I was not accomplishing my goals and the stress surrounding achievement (or the lack thereof) was making achievement impossible. It was a vicious cycle but Matt’s clear writing and accessible techniques gave me hope that one day I would be able to declutter my mind and my lists, and write consistently.

My success continues to dumbfound me. I now crave writing and always have time to scribble even a few notes. I am still far away from my ultimate dream of being a full-time writer, but that is now an in-sight possibility and not just a young-girl fantasy.

Still, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. In the past few weeks, as I feel urge to write grow,I have toed the line on of excess. Dizzy with my success,I have not given myself a moment to breath. And so, after reading an article on the importance of rest  by Nicole Antoinette of Life Less Bullshit, I decided to take several days off from my two-hours a day writing routine and dedicate my designated work time to reading and creating ideas.

During this period of pause, I discovered five important things about myself and about the importance of both goals and rest.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

creativetime:

“My favorite response to the sign was from a 17-year-old high school student in Boston. She said: ‘Capitalism can’t work for everyone. If it did, it wouldn’t be capitalism.’”

In a new piece for Creative Time Reports, artist Steve Lambert wrote about Capitalism Works for Me! (True/False), his 2013 project in Times Square where he solicited personal opinions on capitalism from passersby. 

What an amazing project, and an excellent example of how to engage community in a meaningful but not overwhelming way. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014
On this rainy day, a poem.joh

beingblog:

There is religion in everything around us
A calm and holy religion
In the unbreathing things in Nature
It is a meek and blessed influence
Stealing in as it were unaware upon the heart
It comes quickly, and without excitement,
It has no terror, no gloom.
It does not rouse up the passions,
It is untrammeled by creeds
It is written on the arched sky,
It kooks out from every star,
It is on the sailing cloud, and in the invisible wind
It is among the hills and valleys of the earth
Where the shrubless mountain-top pierces the thin atmosphere
of eternal winter
Or where the mighty forest fluctuates before the strong wind
With its dark waves of green foliage.
It is spread out like a legible language upon
the broad face of an unsleeping ocean.
It is the poetry of nature
It is that which uplifts the spirit within us
And which opens to our imagination a world of spiritual beauty and holiness.
~John Ruskin
Photo by Justin Kern

On this rainy day, a poem.joh

beingblog:

There is religion in everything around us

A calm and holy religion

In the unbreathing things in Nature

It is a meek and blessed influence

Stealing in as it were unaware upon the heart

It comes quickly, and without excitement,

It has no terror, no gloom.

It does not rouse up the passions,

It is untrammeled by creeds

It is written on the arched sky,

It kooks out from every star,

It is on the sailing cloud, and in the invisible wind

It is among the hills and valleys of the earth

Where the shrubless mountain-top pierces the thin atmosphere

of eternal winter

Or where the mighty forest fluctuates before the strong wind

With its dark waves of green foliage.

It is spread out like a legible language upon

the broad face of an unsleeping ocean.

It is the poetry of nature

It is that which uplifts the spirit within us

And which opens to our imagination a world of spiritual beauty and holiness.

~John Ruskin

Photo by Justin Kern

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mental Illness, socioeconomic status, and the importance of stories (Free Write Series, Part 2):

I had hoped my writing today would effortlessly flow. Nothing ever flows effortlessly, at least not with a lot of work, so I don’t know what I was thinking. But I would like to write something, and I think that this piece is an important one to share. This will be the second essay in my series of stream of consciousness pieces written during the six week course, “Storytelling Through Poetry and Photography”, that Ilana and I taught last summer at Mercy Housing. As I alluded to in an earlier post, these essays are my way of revealing the parts of myself that I usually keep carefully hidden under layers of assumed confidence. Sharing these words is my way of becoming vulnerable.

The theme is “Home”.

I have never felt like I blended in with my neighbors around me –       always an outsider even among friends. I never connected. Was often bored, even when playing and so I decided I preferred to be alone, although I knew that wasn’t true. I longed, as a child, for a true friend who understood me, who wouldn’t judge me and who would love me. In whom I could confide and with whom I could feel comfortable. Even though I could not articulate these desires well, I know, looking back, this is what I wanted. And so I was often unhappy because I never felt a connection to a relationship. I made things work, but always with fear and dread of the moment when my friend chose someone else to be their best. My best friends came and went with bracelets and necklaces as proof. But the friendships I saw between others, read about in books, never came.

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Monday, March 31, 2014
There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.

Flannery O’Connor, born on this day in 1925, on storytelling and why the grotesque appeals to us.

Pair with Neil Gaiman on why scary stories mesmerize us so.

(via explore-blog)

Saturday, March 29, 2014 Thursday, March 27, 2014

kodaline-dream:

"For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over again."
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Running in the spotlight

image I took a plunge last week and shared with my writing group an essay about running. This topic might not seem shocking –hundreds of people make their living writing about running –but coming from me it was a newsworthy choice. In the sixteen years that I have been a runner, I have shared exactly one running-related essay (a reflection on the Boston Marathon bombings) with anyone other than my mother. Running is the time when I work out problems and in writing about it I often reveal my most intimate anxieties. Running is my private topic.

But, as a result of the tangled mess that has recently constituted my thoughts, I have not produced meaningful content about Uptown.  I contemplated skipping my writing group and hiding the essay about running in a file on my computer while I waited for my ruminations about Uptown to codify. In a moment of weakness (or courage), however, I uploaded the piece to the group message board.

As the critique began, I realized that the reason I had been hesitant to share this piece was not its theme but its subject. I was at the center of the action and the criticism.

When an essay about Uptown is sloppy, I can hide behind the content. I can tell myself that my subject matter is difficult; that I cannot be expected to handle the intricacies of someone else’s story well on the first or second or third attempt; that the piece, not my writing ability, is to blame for my struggles.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Humans like stories. Humans need stories. Stories are good. Stories work. Story clarifies and captures the essence of the human spirit. Story, in all its forms—of life, of love, of knowledge—has traced the upward surge of mankind. And story, you mark my words, will be with the last human to draw breath. Jasper Fforde; First Among Sequels (via wordpainting)