It's been a while since we've posted a blog. It was just one small sacrifice to bring you all some really cool projects over the past few months like the Corn Belt Almanac and the Farm Fresh Fundraising Dinner. We'd like to break the drought with a blog helping you out with your extreme case of writer's block, or as I call it, "writer's drought."
If you’ve never experienced a writing drought (or at least writer’s block), you’re either lying or you’re James Patterson. We’ve all had those long weeks where we sit down at the desk, fingers ready to go on the home row, and then, like the last twelve times you tried, nothing happens. It’s an interesting problem for a writer, either if some of you may write on your free time or if writing is paying the rent. All of this stress can leave you feeling as listless and unmotivated as left-shark. So what does a passionate writer do when it just doesn’t feel right? How does a writer manage when that feeling lasts weeks, months, possibly years?
As someone who experienced this first hand, it can be pretty depressing. There was nothing more I wanted than to be a writer. I told everyone that asked that I wanted to write books when I grew up. I was given the “Most likely to be a best selling author” honor in high school that I hung right over my desk to motivate me. I spent four years of college trying to improve my skill. During college, though, I stopped accumulating actual writings. Instead I had only numerous documents for failed stories containing a sentence or two...a whole paragraph if it was a good day. On a bad day, I’d spend more time balancing finances to see how long I could last in a micro-home.
Just like any other medical issue I have, I took my problem to the internet. Most articles gave the same, overly positive advice of “just write anything” or something more adventurous like, “go for a walk!” I sat down to “just write anything” and nothing happened. Walking was nice, but I didn’t exactly solve the problem. With the internet essentially useless in my efforts, I tackled the issue from a different angle. My thinking was that if I had a problem, just like any illness, I had to beat it at the source. It wasn’t hard to figure out why I wasn’t writing when I thought about it: I was afraid of it. I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of my work not being taken seriously. I was afraid I was lied to my whole life, and I wasn’t as good as people told me. I only needed to take a few steps to break out of my drought and let inspiration finally pour it’s life-giving waters over me.
Read the books you loved as a kid.
When I felt like I lacked inspiration, I wondered what gave me so much enthusiasm and drive to be a writer. It certainly wasn’t reading the same Jane Austen novel over and over like I was forced to in college. I think any small child would turn and run from the life of a novelist if they were required to read Pride and Prejudice more than three times. No, it wasn’t until I was bored one day and picked up A Series of Unfortunate Events again when, for the first time in a long time, I felt that warmth you get from a good book. Instead of studying the simplicity and intelligence of the writing and feeling discouraged, I finally said to myself “This is what I want to do.” After I finished the first book, then the second, then the very last, I was scrambling for that feeling again. I pulled out all my old favorites from my shelves. From the hordes of books about unicorns and dragons to more young adult novels like Holes and Walk Two Moons, each book reminded me more and more of why I wanted to write and each book left me with the same feeling they did when I was a kid; to write a book that made someone feel the same way.
Don’t ask, make your friends read your work.
If the content and quality of your writing is what you’re worried about, get a second opinion. Right now I bet you’re thinking about the first person you shove your work at in a desperate plea for help. Sometimes all you need is that reassurance that you’re not so terrible after all. Plus, a set of fresh eyes is good for catching little mistakes you might have overlooked. If you’re stuck writing because you’re nervous about someone finding your ideas silly or too confusing, have someone read it! Why write a story to have no one see it? Don’t be afraid to be specific and ask about problem areas, either. Their advice will help it grow to exactly what you want it to be. Asking my friends to read my work isn’t as close to asking as it is to politely informing them that the document is already in their inbox. Criticism is important to me. Round-table critique days were my favorite: everyone’s grade depended on giving at least one bit of advice to everyone else’s work, most importantly, mine. Even now, I still have those comments saved to look back to when I’m stuck.
Don’t worry, just write.
Yes, I understand this sounds the same as “just write anything” but it’s not (totally). You have tasked yourself with completing a work of art, and just like any painter or musician, you have your own unique style that will set you apart from everyone else. “Just write anything” isn’t going to help you. You shouldn’t waste precious time on writing something that isn’t honest to who you are. Write what you know. Write the way only you know how. Promise me, it’s going to start out feeling awkward and messy but once you’re in the swing of it you won’t want to stop. Soon the words will come to you and it will feel just the same as it did before.
I read that drinking water can help too, but you should be staying hydrated anyway.
Writer’s drought is no-joke. It’s a tough world out there. It can be dry and hot and barren and all you want anyway is some water- so drink some!
-Erin O'Neil, Social Media Coordinator