On That Malicious Thing Called Writer’s Block

You know that wretched feeling. You’ve had it too, just admit it. Or at least I hope so, because otherwise I’ll have to feel doubly bad about having it myself. I’m talking about the terrible, despicable, malevolent malady that cuts your wings while at the same time it mocks you unendingly for your pathetic inability to fly. I’m talking about that voice that coaxes you to create, while simultaneously locking your hands behind your back and whispering discouraging degradations in your ear. I’m talking, of course, about writer’s block.

I know I’ve suffered from it before, and many times at that. It’s just that every time it passes I tend to forget it was ever there. It’s like my mind’s trying to block out the memory of that terrible state, in naïve hope that it won’t come back if I hide from it (and even the memory of it) well enough. And maybe this is actually a good way to tackle it, but in that case I’ve never managed to find a sufficiently good hiding spot. Because it always comes back.

The downside to this memory repressing approach is that every time writer’s block returns to once again grip me with its poisonous claws, I tend to panic. Why can’t I write? Why do I suddenly want to throw up at the mere thought of GM:ing? Where the fuck is my inspiration? I can’t remember just how bad it was last time, or the time before that, and thus I have no frame of reference to help me understand that this time around won’t be the end of the world either. That it will pass and that my inspiration (together with my incurable creative hubris) will return once again. Of course I know this, theoretically, but I can’t see it.

The current blockage has been a long one. I’m always at my most creative during autumn and early winter. That’s when magic happens. But this year not much writing happened even then. Well, of course writing happened — I’m a journalist after all. But now I’m talking about creative writing; that kind of writing that flows from your soul and builds worlds — not just documents them. I’ve managed to force some pages from my mind, but that’s all. I haven’t been able to fly for almost a year now, and it bothers me to the brink of madness.

I blame two culprits for this. The first one’s name is burnout, and the other one is called performance anxiety. I hit the proverbial wall in late 2015 and haven’t quite recovered yet (but that’s another story). My mind seems to have coped with this by locking off certain areas and gearing down. Together with a tendency of mine never to settle for anything less than perfect, this is a flawless recipe for creative shortage.

Now the mere thought of sitting down to write makes my mental safeguard put its hand on the emergency brake. Because I tell myself, deep down, that I can’t produce. That I won’t be able to live up to the stuff I’ve written in the past. That I might as well stare into a wall as try to create something, because it will amount to about the same result in the end. Writing has become so charged for me that I’m almost afraid of trying — because failing would kind of be the last drop. So I don’t write, I stare into walls instead.

Now I’m also well aware that this, too, will pass. Everything passes. But maybe it’s high time for me to work out some kind of strategy for coping with the malady of writer’s block, so that I’ll be able to handle it better next time it happens — whatever the reason it does. I’ll need to de-dramatize writing in my own mind as well, of course. I have to learn to settle for less-than-perfect, since that is perhaps one of my greatest problems. But that, too, is another story.

I think my next step will be to make a list of things that I can do to find an outlet for my creative urges, that don’t require me to write fabulous epics or game-mastering intricate RPG:s. Yeah, that’s what I will do. I guess I’ll post the list as a blog post once it’s done, so that you’ll be able to see what I came up with.

And finally, writing this post was in itself a part of my coping strategy. Without thinking about it I have actually been able to write more than 700 words without those stupid claws poking at me. Yay! And also: now I have clear as day documentation about this round of writer’s block actually having happened. Now I won’t be able to pretend that it has never befallen me before the next time around. Score.

Now that you have bravely trudged yourself through this my helplessly self centered wall of text, what do you think? Have you ever felt those restricting claws poking at you, and how did you tackle it? If you have any great, good or perfectly average coping techniques for dealing with writer’s block — please let me know. They’d make a wonderful contribution to my upcoming list. 🙂

And until next time: write safely.
Dreams is a dangerous place, after all.

 

The Complicated Art of Knowing What You Want

The title of this post says more about what I want to articulate here than the post itself probably will. Sorry for that. Also, sorry for the sorry state of my dusty keyboard in the featured image. Cleaning is yet another of those things I should probably engage in more often and dedicatedly (<-is that even a word?).

Anyhow, I feel like I have too many thoughts and contemplations swimming around inside my head not to find a vent for them somewhere. I guess this post will have to serve as said vent, for now.

I am in the middle of so many things. From the outside it might not show, but on the inside I am almost bursting. I think I can best convey my feelings through a gaming analogy, being the hopeless gamer that I am.

Many games are linear. You walk from left to right as in good old SMB or, as is often the case in this new 3D-era, at least you have a quest marker to follow.

In the games I like the most, however, you repeatedly face choices that will impact the continuation – and often even the ending – of the game. That’s a thrilling touch to the gameplay, don’t you think? Well, I would agree that it is. But for me, it is also excruciating mental torture. Because I absolutely can’t stand leaving any rocks unturned. Most often, those fictional crossroads result in me creating a multitude of save files in order to explore every single possibility in the game before settling for the “best” one. (Watching spoilers on Youtube really never was my thing). I have to try all the roads, or else I will probably be unable to let go of the thought that I have missed something. And trust me, that thought can destroy an entire game for me.

Thing is, however, that it’s not just in games that I have this mindset. It’s ever present in my IRL-gameplay as well. I literally feel that I have to finish life with 100% completion, or else I will have failed. Suffice to say, this mindset is doing nothing in favor of my nerves or my well being.

As I have written here previously, my goals are to succeed within the journalistic field, and to get at least one book published. The problem is, I also want to succeed within music and acting. I want to join the police force and the military. I want to travel the whole world, I want to move to a big city. I want to sell everything I own and go on a street musician road trip with my violin. I want to become a professional drummer and a famous guitarist. I want to hang my photographs in a gallery and I want to work with politics. I want to be a computer ace and hack NASA, I want to rob a bank. I want to become rich and drive a fancy car. I want to save the world. And I am probably the worst kind of narcissist, but somehow I actually feel that all these roads are possible options, in one way or another.

But I also want to be completely content with what I already have, and this is probably the one field that I genuinely feel that I cannot succeed in.

So now I sit here with a thousand plans and dreams, totally stressed out and with no faith whatsoever in any of these things ever coming to pass. I know some of them probably will – at least the first two (possibly the only ones that really matter). But I don’t know how to get there. Life has no save files or reset-buttons, I cannot press reload every time I’m not entirely content with how things turned out.

And there certainly are no spoilers on Youtube to help me get where I want, or to check out all those options that I never explored.

I often find myself wishing that life was more like a Super Mario Bros game, where there is only one path to take – and if you still happen upon an alternative route, it’s probably just a shortcut to the same goal. Or at least that life had a mini map and a quest marker.

Well, I guess I just have to wait and see how this open world sandbox game will progress. Perhaps the quest marker option will come in a future DLC.

Over and out.

 

At Sea

I can’t seem to be able to remain in one place for very long. Recently home from Florida, where the nooks and crannies of both Miami and Key West were pleasantly roamed, I kind of grew sick of sitting still. So now I’m on the road again. Or, more accurately, on the water. I’m going to Åland to visit with a friend and have been driving (what feels like) the whole day. After working my  last job pass before the Swedish Easter Holidays, that is. I’m kind of tired, to be honest. Caffeine and sugar keeps me going right now, and luckily those are the main ingredients in the coffee drink on the table in front of me. Life’s good.

I’m using these two odd hours onboard the M/S Rosella to get some writing done. Not my average random stories, but a couple of music album reviews that are due this Wednesday. Genres: metal and jazz. Totally in line with my current craving for variation, I’d say.

Hmm, what’s more… Apart from working with myself, on myself, I’m still working on my many projects. The novel is growing, but not in volume – I’m in the editing phase now, and trying my best to cut away at it so as to make it publishable. I’ve decided to give it a meta-voice in between chapters to make it more interesting. I hope the attempt will be successful. I’m a bit behind in the journalism course I’m doing (blame… life I guess), but I’m hoping to catch up before long.

And I’m playing Dota2 like a maniac. Seriously. I started playing it as part of my research for an article, and then I got stuck. So far I’m a total disaster at playing any hero other than Lich and Dazzle, but, well, I’m getting there. I think.

That’s my life right now, broadly speaking. I hope that all of you reading this are safely traveling as well, irrespective of whether the journey is a physical one or if it’s taking place in your mind. Those mental journeys are often the greatest ones.

Until next time: take care and drive safely!

/Chris

Two Years Later

Two years later and I’m here again. Same place, same streets, same sun.

Nothing much has changed here, and yet everything about me has.

My fears then, my worries, my desperate feeling of not knowing how to survive without destroying a life upon my return, all those things have joined the other bottled memories on the shelves in my mind’s library.

But yes, I feared and I worried. I survived and I destroyed.

I never meant to. I wanted fairytale sunset ending as much as anybody. I’m not sure if I failed or if I was in the wrong kind of fairytale altogether. Maybe the one where the scarred warrior princess gets saved by a masked black knight and rides off into happily ever after, never to look back, was not for me. However much I wanted that ending. If you’re ever reading this, you might as well know that a not at all insignificant part of me still does. And that’s what pains me today, two years later. That I could not live it, and that I lost so much. That I lost you.

Writing this might be inconsiderate, of course. Not the most pedagogic thing to do. But then again, I’m not writing this for anybody else but me. This time it’s for me. Because I write, that’s what I do and what I’ve always done to get those itchy voices out of my head. And right now they’re loud.  So I write.

This sun sees so many people come and go, and everyone has their own itchy voices. I’d be surprised if it remembers them all. The footsteps I made in the sand the last time around sure as hell aren’t there anymore. And still when I look up at that sun, when I walk on that beach, I remember. I have changed so much and so much has changed me, but I’m still that same person with the same worries and fears and a feeling of not knowing how to survive without destroying lives in the process. The desperation is gone, now it’s memories that haunt me. I miss you, and I’m sorry I broke.

And being here again, two years later and with so many new bottles on my shelves, this new thought is taking form, growing roots: what kind of fairytale am I really supposed to be in? Will I ever know, and how many things must yet be destroyed in order for me to find out?

And maybe the sun knows, but it never tells.

50.000 and running

Aaaand there I crossed the finish line!

28 days of stress and despair and severe self criticism and now I’ve finally reached the golden fifty thousand words. And still I’m not finished. far from it.

I still have to drag my characters through an enormous amount of additional trouble before I can allow myself even to think about post editing. I don’t know how many words I have yet to write before I have it all down on proverbial paper, and I don’t know how long it will take.

But even so, I’m terribly proud of myself for finishing this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. I never thought that I would, and circumstances far outside the influence of my secluded desktop island have really done their best to prevent me from succeeding. And yet, here I am.

I have no idea what I will name my novel once it’s done, and I already know that I have a ton of editing to do before I’ll even dare to show it to anyone that’s not close family. But I have the plot ready in my mind, and I know several things that I will add in the editing phase.

I’d like especially to thank prclarke88, Carrie Zylka, tabletopthane and my sister Johanna for spurring me on. Without your motivation, chances are I would not even have made it halfway through the month. 

With two more days to go, we’ll see how much further I’ll get into the plot before December comes knocking on the door. I hope that the writings of all of you guys are going great as well. Let’s make these last two days count!

Over and out! 🙂

All The Things I Hate About My Novel

Okay, so let’s talk about the inconsistency of inspiration.

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. I failed at it in 2007, but this is my revenge. We’re halfway into November right now, and I’m halfway towards the coveted 50k words that will mark my victory against the little voice in my head that keeps chanting “You can’t do this so why even bother”. I have a story that has been growing inside my cluttered head for years, and it is now happy as a puppy to be finally let out of there. The problem is that I am beginning to hate it.

I don’t hate the concept or the plot, mind you. I’m really happy with and proud of those. No, my problem is that writing it is beginning to feel forced. I find myself constantly checking my word count just to have an excuse not to write for the next half a minute or so. I find myself rushing through scenes just because I can’t stand to be in them anymore. And I find myself thinking that even thought I will probably reach the finish line well in time for 11/30, the end result will be a text so uninteresting and worthless that not even my  mom will want to read it. I would not want to read it, for heaven’s sake.

Here’s a inexhaustive list of things I hate about my novel:

  1. The characters are flat and shallow and totally uninteresting
  2. However cool the setting is, I am unable to do it justice through my descriptions
  3. I can’t seem to approach the meta plot in a way that’ll make anyone want to read it
  4. The relationships between characters are cheesy
  5. My writing is cheesy
  6. I’m cheesy
  7. I forgot to put yesterday’s leftovers into the freezer and had to throw them away this morning.
  8. I’m out of bread.
  9. My apartment is a mess and I blame it on Writober and WriMo.
  10. Cheese

Yesterday was a completely different story, however. I was sitting at a brass clad table in a coffee house in Sthlm, feeling like a romantic Nora Roberts character as I wrote the winged words of a future bestseller. I knew exactly what I was doing and my ego was untouchable.

I really hope that this feeling of worthlessness and creative fatigue will have packed its bags and left by the time I awake tomorrow morning, because I don’t have room for it in my apartment or in my life. I have so many things going right now that I can’t afford to be humanly insecure about my writing for more than a day. Not only do I have the golden 1666 words to write every day, but I also have deadlines and essays and work to do.

I also hope that it’s not just me growing tired of November from a WriMo point of view. I hope that this is a natural state in the writing process. I hope that my novel is not as boring and flat as I think it is, and I hope that you can forgive me for having such relatively shallow problems in a world where terrible things happen every day to ordinary people with dreams and hopes just like you and me.

Do you have any tips on how to tackle the feeling of being a worthless writer working in vain on a worthless text? Or do you just agree and want to whine together with me? Feel free to drop a comment or a tweet!


And finally: I’d like to give a shoutout for this beautiful blog post by James Radcliffe. It is about the beauty in broken things and it really made my day. I recommend reading it.

Now I’ll be off back to the Self-esteem Lowlands. Have a nice evening!
Over and out!

My Crazy Friday

So I went to Stockholm this Thursday to participate in some workshops and lectures for my journalism course. And when they were over, I simply decided not to go home.

I took the sub downtown and wandered around for a while in the rain and the increasing darkness of early evening. The otherwise so crowded streets were emptying and the stores and cafés were closing for the night. I found one that was still open, ordered a chai latte and settled down by a small table with a candle to write.

From the ceiling mounted speakers flowed the kind of music perfect for Moments. You know, those short islands of clarity in your daily life, that you know that you will remember for years to come. Maybe with envy because you are not there anymore.

The latte was also perfect, and the words flowed. Then, seemingly suddenly, the café closed and I was out on the streets again, wandering aimlessly. It was getting too late to catch a train back home anyway, so I looked up a cheap hostel that I checked into.

The Red Boat, just as the name implies, was a hostel contained onboard a red boat laying at anchor by the river winding through the city. The room was small but perfect, and I dumped my things there before returning to the darkening city streets. In want of my camera, my cellphone had to make due.

Stockholm’s windows glowed like celestial bodies in the night and the passing cars were that imagined sky’s comets and asteroids. A friend called me, one who knew I was in town and who wanted to meet. We ate and drank and then we went clubbing. My first time in Stockholm. I got to see light and smoke and people getting thrown out in the night without their jackets for no apparent reason. It was glorious.

Then remained to return, alone, to my small room and fall asleep while the city night and the flashing lights of police sirens fell through my curtains and painted the ceiling in blue stripes.

Now I’m sitting in that very same café again, a chai latte in front of me and a realization in my mind that for Moments to happen one sometimes has to step out of the secure, comfortable box that makes us take the train home directly after journalism classes. My own train home leaves in about an hour, so I guess it’s time to drink up the latte and savor the Moment before stepping back into the box.


Oh, and by the way: my word count is now 23341. And I don’t know what my computer was thinking with the tags on this post. I’ll fix it when I get back home lol. Over and out!