Re: Lucas N: I have been a screenwriter and a working freelance writer for a few years. I've come to detest the term 'writer's block'. Honestly, any kind of creative block is just imaginary, it's all in your head. I've talked to a few aspiring screenwriters who have told me they struggle to finish their screenplay because of writers block. I feel that my default mode of working is writers block, when I have a burst of creativity and just write and write for hours, I consider that phase a patch of good luck. The only way to overcome it is to just keep writing, no matter how tiring and draining it may feel. Your brain has no shortage of good ideas, so just keep going and don't stop until you're satisfied with the work you're done. If you wait around until your mind compels you to get to work on your writing, it'll take you far too long to finish a project.
Re: Leilani J: My first semester as a Writing Fellow in English 101 at my university, I wrote a “Digital Literacy Narrative” elaborating on my creative process and how I’ve coped with creative ruts and expressiveness when I feel fearful of sharing--I’ve included a shortened version of that reflection here, and really hope it helps. All in all, your creative process is your own, and it can be most helpful sometimes to take a deep breath and just jump from that diving board:
In the first few pages of The White Album, Joan Didion stresses storytelling as a human inclination. People assign meaning to the disparate and collective events that they then call life and assign meaning to. We do it “in order to live;” “We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices…” For five years through the late sixties and early seventies, she began to doubt the weight of those narratives.
When someone creates something, they allow themselves the space to reflect and say something, sometimes without words, sometimes without speaking. The sound of our own voice can feel off-putting sometimes, or messy, or confused, just not matching up with the perceived eloquence or cool of a favorite writer. Attempts can feel more forced than powerfully iconoclastic.
In the process of making anything, there can certainly be a lot of fear. According to the NY Times, “81% of Americans feel they have a book in them -- and that they should write it.” Now, much like the author of this article, I am not suggesting that every person should try to write a book, but I do believe that we all have something to say, on whatever scale. Whether or not it is important is for the audience to decide, but that actual act of sharing--of storytelling, of capturing life soon enough to save the changing photograph of memory from warping--is a valuable act of preservation. Our creations are no testament of the totality of our being, I know that. In an old journal from tenth grade, I write, after a moment of slow-hitting shock, Will anything I ever create ever be 100% reflective of myself?
Aside from a short script (the existence of which collaborative work motivated), I haven’t written anything in a long time. I’ve been listening to a lot of American humorist Fran Lebowitz, a self-proclaimed writer who doesn’t write. She is afraid. She has had many a past success and much praise; she quips that if you are a writer with a compulsion to write, don’t worry, just take out a book and read, it’ll pass.
My first note to you is a confession: I have not written anything for myself in months. This was so the summer after junior year, too, a grueling three months of I have to write/draw/make something, haunted by the instructional phrase Writer’s write a clerk repeated to me at an antique store counter years before. It doesn’t escape me. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I abandon the art world altogether--even at my “lowest” points, my smallest attempts at creativity, I construct mood boards of collected images and blog. I don’t usually say I do, as it feels like a rather detached attempt at creativity, at a lack of much creation.
I can’t recall who said it, but the words were roughly: Art doesn’t imitate/come from art. Art comes from life. For much of my childhood, however, my freedoms were limited. My parents were quite strict; I never had friends over, we seldom travelled. Probably as it goes in many childhoods, most of my life was centered around home, school, and church. Art and books and eventually films were my self-curated escapes, often excusable indulgences my parents weren’t bothered by. In high school, I eventually decided to take a fiction-sabbatical and read purely non-fiction: on David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Matisse--all those hyper-commercialized names of the great exclusive art world. If this is what success meant--even if not every artist intends to find a traditional form of success through fame or immediate cultural reception--my journey was a how-to guide for thinking like an artist, for becoming so absolved in art that it could become a way of living. I started a journal, a catalogue of everything that meant anything to me: playlists, collages from the National Geographic and thrifted magazines, quotes, book recommendations of my favorite creatives, lyrics.
Journals are not survival guides because we can exist without them, but they offer a kind of raison-d’etre sustenance that can empower us to think and live differently. In an attempt to understand the means of Stephen King’s success, I drank up his memoir On Writing, whereupon I stopped journaling because King said he never logged ideas (a good idea will stick, he said, that’s how he wrote all of his books). So, trust the process, I followed this bestseller lead. However, although King doesn’t log his ideas, he still writes every single day, so it isn't that he isn’t sticking to his craft intensely, or putting forth less work than other writers. My intensity, I discovered, manifests in journaling; its what my creative process looks like. Of course, it’s tempting to stay in that space of inspiration, forever cocooned in the eventual promise of, I’m almost there, I’ve been feeling very inspired lately, I’m sure I’ll write something soon. It can be nauseatingly difficult to motivate enthusiasm for the work, an excited determination. We all have different ways of externalizing, and there are many unlike my own, but we are all attempting the same thing: to become better writers, to hone the craft. I’m interested in the things that facilitate creative energy, and am always interested in learning about different sources of inspiration, and sometimes suggesting a few I’m familiar with. There is no one right way. My process is lengthy and hard-laboured; if it’s not my best work, I’m wasting time. It’s not surprising to see unmotivated writers, as institutionalized approaches can be jading. Not everyone is “meant” to be a writer, but that doesn’t mean we don’t each have a story to tell/something to say. We don’t have bestsellers just because people string together pretty words and sentences, but because the human experience must be validated and challenged and allow us to connect with each other. Allowing a space to exercise that voice is intrinsic to validating one’s experience as a person, especially contextually.
My biggest fear, I communicated recently to a friend, is saying something that’s already been said. Something cliché. A friend recently countered that experiences are valid; what’s important is that it means something to you, and if you arrived at that point independently, your perspective isn’t any less valid. I often fear that my work will speak negatively on who I am as a person, and so the level of responsibility and accountability with which I approach my work is often intense. Language is powerful, and, in that way, empowering. Writer or not, everyone has a voice. To reiterate, allowing a space to exercise that voice is intrinsic to validating one’s experience as a person, especially contextually. The kind of practice the studio [ENG 101] offers requires me to be very intentional about how I converse with others and open to understanding that their unique experiences have prepared them for “this” statement, and the getting-there part may be inconclusive as of--which is ok!--one which is constantly developed and refined. As romanticized the idea of the writer holed up and hungry in a small apartment suffering for his/her work, no writer writes alone. We can all get there, but we find ourselves needing a second and a third and a fourth opinion and an audience, each other, so we do it collectively.