Writer’s block is the worst. Worse than getting a cold in the summer. It sneaks up without warning and can leave you wordless for days, weeks. Thousands of books and blogs have been written promising the cure. Sometimes they help, but sometimes there is no easy cure. Like a car on an icy road, you’re spinning your wheels and unable to move. And it’s frustrating. I know. I have writer’s block right now.
Deadlines are looming and I cannot, for the life of me, get one word down. I tried freewriting. I tried writing prompts off the Internet. I tried eating a spoonful of peanut butter (Wait, was that for writer’s block or hiccups?).
Finally, I realized what it was. It was the place. Not the setting in my story — the place where I was writing. My apartment was toxic. I was surrounded by mental clutter that was stressing me out and keeping me from writing. Bills were piling up on the counter; dishes in the sink; clothes in the hamper. Whenever I sat down to write, I saw the dining room chairs that need to be refinished and reupholstered or the tax documents that still needed to be filed or any number of projects that demand my immediate attention.
I needed a change of venue. (My girlfriend’s apartment wasn’t much better. She has final exams coming up and stress is contagious.) Finally, I ended up at Bookmans, a local used bookstore with a cozy cafe. It’s one of my favorite spots; always filled with interesting people and books brimming with stories.
And sometimes, when all the complicated remedies fail to deliver, a simple change is all you need. Because I sat down at the bar with my tea and the words started pouring out, as if they’d been waiting there for me all along.
— 30 —
I’m a writer living in Flagstaff, AZ. How do you deal with writer’s block? Leave your tips in the comments or shoot me a tweet: @jonnyeberle.
In your voyages around the blogosphere and the twitterverse, you’ve no doubt noticed that this is the time of year when anyone with an internet connection tells the world about their resolutions for the new year. I promised myself that I wasn’t going to be that guy, but all the cool kids are doing it, so I guess I’ll give in to the waves of peer pressure. So much for not being that guy.
I’m not a big fan of following the crowd (as photos of me in high school show quite clearly), so instead of making New Year Resolutions, I make Birthday Resolutions. I’ve found that this makes me feel sufficiently clever while simultaneously giving me an extra week to think about/judge/steal everyone else’s resolutions. Without further ado, my list of things to do differently in 2012:
1) Figure out what I’m doing with my life.
Daunting, right? Two thousand eleven was a period of radical change for me where almost all of my previous plans and expectations were upended. This year, I need to tie up some loose ends and choose a way forward. In a few short months, I will be the proud owner of a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Journalism and Political Science and the undergraduate work that has defined my life for the last four years will come to a close. So…now what? Do I pursue a master’s and if so, in what discipline? Do I go to film school? Do I jump straight into the workforce? Do I try to get a job in the fields I’ve been studying or stick with the marketing/social media thing that’s been paying the bills recently? Do I stay in Flagstaff for a while or finally scratch that itch to move? Whatever happens in the next 12 months, these burning questions need answers. I just don’t know what they are yet.
2) Be Kinder to the Earth
This one is tough. Driving is one of my favorite hobbies (and I should also mention that my car is an SUV); long, hot showers are the bomb; and I admit that even the smell of grilling meat is intoxicating. It occurs to me that my carbon footprint is big and my money is being siphoned out of my community. I need to cut back and make better choices to preserve this world. After all, we’ve only got the one planet and I hate moving, so I’d rather keep this one in good shape. I did alright this Christmas season, buying most of my gifts locally and wrapping everything in recycled paper bags. Now, if I could just bring myself to ride my bike more often…
3) Slow Down
I am constantly surrounded by distractions — I have wifi in my house, Netflix streaming to my TV, and Facebook on my phone. It has never been so easy to get nothing done. My life is fast-paced, with school and two part-time jobs heaped on top of the distractions. There are times when I feel completely overwhelmed and that’s when the quality of my work goes down. My homework gets done, but at the last minute and not very well. My writing output slows down to a dribble of words here and there. My sleep is fitful and my days are exhausting. I do not like this feeling. I vow to reduce my stress by 50% this year. To do it, I am starting with better planning and time management. Our wireless world encourages us to live in the moment, but this year I found that kind of lifestyle is destructive to my health.
The second thing I plan to do is cultivate a sense of inner calm. I’m going to learn meditation (which will also improve my focus and creativity), I might take up yoga, and I will certainly take days of sabbath from the digital world — regularly scheduled times when I will turn off all of my electronics and drop off the grid.
4) Embrace Incompleteness
I am an unfinished person and that can be difficult to accept. I want to be perfect, but I can’t do it. I have to be okay with the fact that I’m going to fail sometimes and that I’m still a work-in-progress as a human being. There is something freeing about coming to that realization. It also brings with it a desire for self-improvement. I may be nearly done with my college education, but I’m far from done with my learning. I want to learn new dance moves; improve my writing style, photographic technique, and my filmmaking process; and finally pick up the guitar that has been languishing in a dusty corner and learn how to play.
I don’t know if I’ll accomplish all of my goals by this time next year, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I have no problem carrying these over into 2013 or 2014 and I suspect that I’ll struggle with these resolutions for the rest of my life. So, there you have it. Sorry for being that guy. If you’re interested in keeping tabs on my progress, keep reading this blog or follow me on Twitter, where those in the know call me @jonnyeberle. As always, I love to hear your questions, comments, and amusing anecdotes.