Get on with it

With November comes NaNoWriMo, the mad writing event that happens yearly, when people attempt to write a short novel (50,000 words) in a single month, 30 days.  Some people in my Ravelry crowd are making the attempt, which reminded me of it.  I’m not going to; I don’t write long-form fiction, and I’m too distracted, and frankly I can’t court something with such a high risk of failure as I think I would have.  I don’t really want to do it, the idea is just a bit entrancing — to write a rough but successful story in a month!  But without real desire to undertake the work, it wouldn’t happen.

I briefly thought about doing my own cock-eyed parallel challenge, where the only important thing is word count — content totally secondary, just put words on the page, and then more words, and still more words.  The point to just undertake the action of writing, with the understanding that if I ran into difficulty with ideas, it would be totally legitimate to wreck the story, or essay or whatever, just drive a truck right through it and keep on going.  Get to a given word count, period, as a simple and undeniable marker of achievement.  I was reaching for an easy win with that idea.  I really badly need a win.

I have been struggling really badly with feeling stuck, feeling like I’m buried in concrete, being crushed by the place I’m in with no ability to get free.  Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard tons of pert little motivational things, I can tell bunches of them to myself even, but none of it actually changes anything.  Maybe sometimes it helps, I’ll grant it that.  But getting unstuck requires movement.  Words don’t do it.  So what do you do with a stuck bit, when the answer to getting unstuck is to just do the thing, already, and you don’t do it?  Again and again, it doesn’t happen?  What do you do with that?  How do you make yourself do a thing you cannot make yourself do?

I’m thinking about writing today, was thinking about it this afternoon, while feeling the weight of stuckness in my chest.  I thought about how I keep saying, now and then, that I want to be a writer, but I’m not writing.  Not consistently, only when I feel like it, or have an especially clever idea I think I can post and maybe get compliments on.  In between I’m not doing the work.  I’m not writing.

What to do?  I feel like I need to make a point of this; that if any part of the stuckness is unclarity or hesitation about what I want to do, then maybe doing it will help me get some clarity.  That whatever part of it is fear that someone, some unspecified person is going to keep me from being able to be a for-real writer, that no one can keep me from using a pen and paper.  Maybe I need to get over myself and just get to work.  I don’t know if there’s a win in there.  Maybe I just need to do it anyway.


5 comments so far

  1. Alison on

    This reminds me of the ‘morning pages’ practise from The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron?). The aim is just to sit and write, freely, for a specified time/a whole page every morning. Even if you sit writing, “What to write? I don’t know what to write; my mind is a complete blank. This is a stupid exercise, how can this possibly help anyone?”. The ‘real’ thoughts come through soon enough, and even if you are writing about writing, or writing about thinking about writing, at least you are, fundamentally, *writing*.

    Havi ( would say you need to process the process, I think. That this is where you are, that it doesn’t define you, that curiosity is more use than anger. Lots of things. You might like her writing; she’s good at destuckification without being peppy and perky. On the other hand, you might not; she is, without a doubt, quirky.

  2. sandi on

    I’m sorry you’re stuck. It’s painful to be stuck. But you’re struggling so hard that I worry you’re only getting yourself more tangled!

    This is what I say to myself when I struggle too hard against a stuckification:


    Self (I sez to myself), Self:

    There is a block in your way. You are pushing and shoving at it, trying to get it to move…and it won’t move. So you push harder, or you shove from a different angle…and if it doesn’t move, you berate yourself for not being strong enough.

    Let’s step back a bit. There’s an obstacle, a block, in your path. It is what it is. It’s not that you are not enough of a muscle-girl to move it; it’s that you don’t know enough about the block to know HOW to move it. Is the base of it freestanding, or buried deep? Could it slide out of the way, or will it have to be exploded into bits? Is it rock, or is it ice?

    The martial arts teach us to Know Thine Opponent…so what do you know about this block? Step back. Study it. Ask it questions. Let it speak to you. Most of all, respect it for what it is, and seek to find out why it is there.

    I also like this baking analogy: You’ve spent some time mixing up a nice dough, now let the bread rise and bake. It takes time for bread to rise properly; the process cannot be rushed. You can’t push bread around and make it puff up; it just has to sit there until it’s ready.

    That stuff helps me when I’m beating myself up for not writing.

    But waitaminute!

    You ARE writing. This blog, your Rav posts, emails. You’re writing, and it’s GOOD.

    Methinks I smell a SHOULD around here somewheres…

    Let the bread rise. Step back and allow yourself time to observe what is, and sit with it. Get to know the blockage, let it bake, listen to it, let it be what it is, for this is all part of the process of discovering and speaking Truth.

    Breathe. Be. We love you, and we’re with you.

  3. divadea on

    I hear ya. Mine is “I want to be an artist, but I’m not making any art!” I have no good advice, but my solution for myself has been to let it go for a while and get the movement going in another area that is related but not quite as terrifying, which for me is teaching.

  4. Cousin Anne on

    If you don’t want to write a story, you can always try a writing challenge like the NaBloWriMo one (write one blog entry a day for a month). That’s still a writing challenge, and doesn’t limit you to fiction or word count!

  5. Lynn on

    Listen to your cousin. Just write. Here. Rav. Send me a postcard. Send a postcard every day to someone you know. scribble on your grocery lists.

    An unrelated idea: Write down all the details you can about situations where you were NOT stuck. Does Sunday dinner with the family make you feel unstuck? Write all about it – who was there, what you ate, what you talked about, what you enjoyed. Did Rhinebeck make you feel unstuck? Write all about it – who was there, what you ate, what you talked about, what make you happy. Write down at least 5 such situations, and more if you want to. Let the writing settle for a couple days. Look over what you wrote and look for patterns – you always feel stuck when you look at other people’s gorgeous handspun shawls; you always feel great when you talk to Rav people in real life – whatever patterns you see. Could be helpful.

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