Today, I am once again delighted to be sharing space with Tamara Protassow, a woman whose blog & services you really might want to explore! (Non-affiliate link.)
My name is Tamara Protassow, and I like words and ideas, especially new, clunky and not-yet shined ones all awkward with potential. I live on a 2 acre paradise of orchard and garden, in a tiny cottage with my 2 kids, husband and dog. And goat. Mostly I coach writers into shining up their big ideas, or getting to the heart of what needs to be written. I think about the internet a lot, and read about it more. I blog about writing and ideas at www.tamaraprotassow.com and about my garden adventures at www.orchardkitchengarden.com.
The ungainly relative at the wedding
There’s something that I’ve noticed when working with my clients, and it’s this: there are times in life when putting that pen to paper or fingers to keyboard feels harder than cleaning the bathroom.
We’d rather do anything than sit, face the page, and write. Anything!
Even running the vacuum becomes suddenly urgent and fascinating, as does sorting the sock drawer and cleaning out the pantry. Suddenly we’re filled with the self-important torture of the Blocked Writer.
As a Blocked Writer, there are all sorts of things we’re entitled to: complaining (and lots of it!), self-obsession, depressions, ungroundedness, unreliability, procrastination, selfishness. Of course we are! We are the Tortured Artist (trying to be) At Work!
True blocks are difficult times, requiring tools from the writer’s toolbox, and patience in their application. There are many resources out there for dealing with this, as well as support in the form of coaching, and forums both online and off to access too.
I do wonder at these times though, whether it’s truly a block, or whether there’s something trying to come through that scares us. If it’s a block, then a walk, taking time out, taking the pressure off, gently trying to write something every day, doing something else creative, accessing the help I mentioned before, all of these things can ease us out of that space, and back into the writing space.
But if it’s something that’s put the wind up us because it’s so big and beautiful and possibly just a little out there that it’s scary? That’s when we need to just take that deep breath, sit down and WRITE!
I remember having a fiction folio due for my English degree, way back in the dark ages when people had to code their own blogs. My fiction folio was not bad – it had some strong work in there, and some poetry too, which was a new direction for me. It had descriptive pieces, some atmospheric fiction, and I’d done some nice work with metaphors involving mud, dirt, and light.
I had a piece or two to go, and was marching purposely towards a point I had decided my writing needed to go – more introspective, atmospheric metaphor… and horrors! My work dried up. I sat for hours, then days, with a deadline approaching, and no words tapping onto the screen. All of my attempts seemed trite, hackneyed. I cleaned my flat from top to bottom. I sorted drawers, and threw out paperwork. I was awful to live with.
Eventually, I decided to stop trying, and just write whatever was there to be written.
I turned and looked my big idea in the face.
I wrote some utter gumpf at first, pap and fluff and sump oil.
It went on for a day, until I was almost ready to despair, and then suddenly, the fit was upon me. I poured out a sharp, shiny, gritty short story of sci-fi surrealism. It challenged me, and went against most of my aesthetic sensibilities. It was different to everything else in my folio, but it was the necessary piece to lift my folio from ‘that’s nice’ to ‘wow, that is versatile!’ I got an extremely good mark overall, and that piece in particular scored the highest of the lot. Looking back, I can see that all along I had the feeling of something being just out of sight, in a direction I was not willing to look.
If you’re ignoring an idea, whether consciously or unconsciously, let’s face it: the idea won’t go away.
It’ll just stay there, looming like the ungainly relative on the wedding dance floor sidelines until either you’ve got a permanent crick in your neck from looking the other way, or you finally go over, hold out your hand and have a dance.
For me, life is too short to ignore something that is this persistent. Anyway, it’s only one dance. One page, one idea. Take it for a whirl and see what happens.
Look it full in the face, and ask it whether it likes to boogie.
And guess what? Your ungainly relative of an idea could turn out to be a great inspiration. There are depths there, and stories galore. You’re laughing more than you can remember having laughed recently, as you step on each other’s toes, bump knees and careen into other people. If you’re already OK with the idea of the shitty first draft, then you’ll be OK talking to your ungainly relative of an idea. Nothing has to start perfect. It could be that the conversation you have with this particular idea sparks something else that you’ll write tomorrow. Hooray! You’re back on track, and the writing’s happening.
Being the Blocked Writer can be a self-perpetuating cycle. If you get the inkling that you’re shying away from a Big Idea, have a go at asking it to dance. Do it as a public service for those who need to live with you.
When have you asked your ungainly relative to dance? I’d love to know!