When you've reached your peak, it can get a little difficult to top your accomplishments, even if they are small in comparison to other things. Your momentous times might seem huge in the face of insignificant details you may come across and master in life, this leads to your natural talent or simple 'happy times' quite tricky to replicate, or (even better) harder to improve. Some people may call this a good transition, and better yet an 'inevitable change all humans must go through in order to grow'. For some writers though, this is called writer's block.
Now don't get me wrong, I know there are many other reasons why people have writer's block, but don't you think it'd be easier to narrow down the millions by possibly one? Specifically my 'one'. Which of course, is a bastard. Okay, okay, so the reason why I'm calling this block such a terrible name is because it occurred in one of the most tiring times in my life. Yes it was when my sister chose an unspeakable city to attend college. My hometown.
May not sound bad, but I want you to remember what might have happened in your own hometowns, for example: prom, first crush, the day your pet fish died, and how about that first day of middle school?
Mhmm.... try remembering the cringe.
We'd been living in a very nice place for almost two years, and in that exquisite location I'd managed to write three wonderful novels, as well as develop ideas for two more. I was on a roll, and honestly I was very, very cocky about my abilities. It wasn't so good for my health and for my overall growth as a writer. So when my family announced the big move, you can see why I was upset over the fact that my writing abode, my natural habitat, my place to think, my office, was going to be taken away from me, and all because my younger sister willed it to be so.
It isn't anyone's fault. Looking back, if I hadn't made that transition, my writing would still be filled with the uppity nonsense I see in a lot of people.
After a few crying sessions, denial, and the overall realization that I would be going back to the most hellish place my mind could think of— I packed my writing gear, some luggage, and books, and I made my way to the new house with nothing but resentment and the absolute idea that my writing would never be as whimsical, untouched, so virgin, and true, as it was when I lived in literal heaven on earth.
As I take a deep breath typing this, I try to find the beginning remnants of what had went on in those first few days back. If anything, can you help me by writing your own stories in? I am extremely curious and somewhat terrified of taking a trip down memory lane.
As you might've assumed, things did not go well at first. An overwhelming wave of hidden childhood traumas had arrived once more into my life, and with them came something new— yes, you guessed it . . . writer's block.
My first thought was to get back into writing and to possibly get my stories out there into the public, in order to finally get myself out of the darkness this block inevitably creates. Which was, thinking back, a horrible idea! When I consider it now, it was very much like throwing a baby bird out of a nest without giving the poor thing time to learn how to fly. And I was more than a baby bird, I was still trying to figure out what these strange wings were. It was not a great idea, but that was what the 'me' of the past had decided to do.
Honestly I'm extremely hard on myself, so I decided to take a try on a few websites where the writers were considered fine wines, or 'experienced', individuals published in magazines, and even kids my own age who were famous for winning contests on writing websites. I thought I could fit perfectly well into that community, but oh was I so, so wrong on so many levels.
"The morning will come again, because no darkness, no season can last forever..." — BTS
I published my first story on a website I will not name, and the first review I received was like something out of the New Yorker. It was from this user who had a profile picture of a fancy chair placed next to a fancy fireplace in a fancy office.
It terrified me.
I was like, oh no, some prestigious old man has read my murder mystery draft and absolutely hates it!— thankfully though, that is not what happened. Surprisingly, he gave a thorough review and said that even though it was only a prologue, it was actually pretty good. How great is that? But then again he also criticized my choice of vocabulary, as well as asked me to read his work in return for reading mine. First of all, Mr. Fancy User Person, I did not ask you to read my work and I certainly would not like to read your fantasy-cowboy mystery trilogy!
Basically every experience I had on writing sites were very much like this one. Really though, these sites are good and they did help me overcome a lot of hurdles at a very young time in my writing life. I started off by ripping the bandage away quickly, instead of prolonging the fact that criticism does happen. It might've scarred me, but I've absolutely come to terms with it. I'd met so many wonderful people there, (I've also met wicked people too), and honestly they are there (friend and foe) to haul you up higher when you feel down and out and absolutely tired from the weight writing puts on you. Truthfully the hurt doesn't last forever. In the end, it becomes a valuable lesson.
So give it a try if you like! Get out there and maybe you'll become the next online writer who will never win that Halloween writing contest even though the reading fee cost you 50 dollars!
*sobs in the corner*
Once I quit those writing sites, I decided to do the next best thing. Yes, I created my first Tumblr account! Wow it was so thrilling and exciting and I loved every minute of it . . .
I was peer pressured by my own sister to get one. I so did not want to join the void that was Tumblr, but at the same time I had nothing else to do, so in the end I signed up with my favorite Vampire Weekend song as my username: ottomancouch.
Honestly this was when I began to use my online persona in a more serious way, and when I mean serious I actually mean I used my growing audience and attention to make memes. I didn't know how popular I'd get, and most importantly, I didn't anticipate how popular my blog would be. This was at the time when I was into anime, when, Krul Tepes claimed that every city was hers now, when, if you weren't a volleyball boy then you didn't matter, when, Viktor Nikiforov fell in love with a very cute pork cutlet bowl— yeah, I lived in one the best Tumblr eras.
But have you noticed what is missing? Yes, I had forgotten about my writing.
My sister also saw this, and you know what she did? She suggested I write fanfiction for my followers! Isn't that funny? Up to that moment I didn't even consider fanfic legit writing. I only assumed that it was there to quench our thirst whenever we got . . . you know . . .
Anyway, please don't bite my head off. I tried it out, and when I got the invitation from Ao3, I began writing fanfic. I thought I was the queen, I believed I would conquer the website with my super-amazing writing— I couldn't have been more wrong, again.
Let me just tell you now that fanfic writers are probably the best writers in the world. And let me also inform you that I still cannot write a good fanfiction. It's just too hard. I honestly wish I could be as great as these people, but unfortunately I am not. After many trifling nights scrolling through Tumblr fanfic-lists, reading 10k, slow-burn, enemies to friends to lovers, multi-chaptered fanfic, I can say that I'm hooked and that I've read better writing in fanfic than in most published novels.
"Before my eyes, it blocks my path. A high, high wall; what sort of scene is on the other side? What will I be able to see there? 'The View from the Top'; A scenery that I will never see on my own; but, if I'm not alone, then.....I might be able to see it." — Hinata Shōyō
I noticed once more the effect fandom life has on my writing, the unbelievable way these worlds shine a little light in my darkness. Furthermore, I witnessed the awesome talent these writers have, and (with five different Ao3 accounts, orphaned stories, and sleepless nights) I finally gave up on trying to be just as amazing. I accepted I needed time to figure out where my writing path would take me.
But when I saw just how far and long that path was, I felt defeated, because I'd been running forward that entire time, thinking I was making progress when in reality I was still near the starting line.
These writers, every writer, must have gone through similar or even worse struggles, just like me. I took comfort in knowing that I was growing despite my exhaustion. There were others like me. There are still others like me.
So, send a little love to your fanfic writers. They write for free, and they write very well. Go give them a hug, a high-five, or maybe 20 dollars, okay? I'm serious. Can we start paying these people, please?
What was I thinking?
I'd taken a three year gap from school, so at this point in my life I didn't really consider going back at all. I thought the overall idea of school was ridiculous. At times I told myself, You can't afford it! or Do you really want to relive that trauma again?— to make things clear, I didn't like the idea.
My writing had reached a limit though, and I was tired of forcing myself to write. I'd been living with writer's block for two years, so of course I was exhausted from creating nothing but crap. In my mind, with every scary school event I could imagine, I also thought of how college might help me overcome this dilemma. Maybe, just maybe, I could get rid of my writer's block by throwing myself (again) into a terrifying environment.
Not the best idea, but when I did at last agree to go, and inevitably attend the damn place, I have to wholeheartedly agree that it did help me. I met a variety of interesting friends who distracted me from my frustrations, classes were a great way to make me think, and I had to focus on trying not to starve because cafeteria food really does suck.
Remember kids, college can be good for something! Probably!? Actually, it's expensive as hell and so not worth being 20,000$ in debt after only one semester!
"Let me tell you about scared. Your heart is beating so hard I can feel it through your hands. There’s so much blood and oxygen pumping through your brain it’s like rocket fuel. Right now you could run faster and you could fight harder, you could jump higher than ever in your life. And you are so alert it’s like you can slow down time. What’s wrong with scared? Scared is a superpower. It’s your superpower. There is danger in this room and guess what? It’s you. Do you feel it? Do you think he feels it? Do you think he’s scared? Nah. Loser! Turn your back on him." — Doctor Who
Even though I was scared of school, I knew there were better things to be afraid of. For example, I was absolutely terrified that I might never be able to write again, and therefore my publishing dreams would never come true.
How scary is that?
In school, I made sure to attend readings, workshops, and at times I also spoke with English professors to get a clear idea on what I should do to fix my problem. Hell, I took Poetry before Fiction because I thought it would improve my flow, breaks, and diction! (it did help. please support your fellow poet. seriously they're probably starving).
But what really aided me in the end, was not my civil attempts to fix the issue, it was in fact when I had been so down and out that I had to desperately cry out my problems to a published author.
This wonderful lady is named Amelia Gray. I met her at a reading one night when I had decided to gather my courage and actually speak to a published author. I sat myself down at the front row, and after listening to a lot of harrowing questions other people had for her, I shakily raised my hand and asked her one of my own, How do you deal with writer's block?
I watched as she gathered her thoughts to finally reply with, You can't be too hard on yourself. For example, today I wasn't a writer, I was simply a person in bed playing with my phone. Give yourself these breaks, and most importantly, you have to learn how to forgive yourself when this happens.
Let's just say that I was almost in tears when she was done. My broke ass even went and bought her book. When it was my turn to get my copy signed, she saw me and said, Writer's block!, and I nodded and thanked her for her advice. To my surprise she told me that she had a similar story too. When she was in college, attending a reading like this one, someone had asked the author how he dealt with writer's block and he responded, The question is: Can you write a book? Can it be published? Can you do this? The answer is: Yes. Yes you can. You can do this.
Again, I almost started crying because she was very sincere. After exchanging thanks, smiles, and good lucks, I departed from that place with a book signed, The answer is yes!
A published author, my dream, told me that I can do it.
I'll never forget that.
Honestly there are so many other things I did in my attempt to expel writer's block. Sometimes I reread old work, I began new projects, brainstormed, discussed issues with classmates, and I even opened up about personal issues to someone I trust. At first, I didn't want to let go. I only wanted to work at the problem until it became ugly, almost like a scab you keep scratching off before it heals.
I realized then that what I needed to do was give myself time to breathe and most importantly, time to live.
It's a natural process for some, and I've found that the best cure for me is to just let it pass naturally, believe in myself a little more, and to forgive myself. I had to wait two years to see improvement, and honestly it was worth it because I've regained my style again.
And if this lonely article wasn't obvious enough, then I'll straight up say that experimenting also helps. Man if I could list everything I've done, then the article would be a novel. So for now, I'll keep it this small (crazy) list that consists of fanfic, fancy profile photos, and *american frat boy voice* cOlleGE.
If you've read this far, I want to thank you for sticking around as I recounted my many uninteresting endeavors!
Seriously, thank you. I really mean it.
Wow I just spilled my guts out to a bunch of strangers, or better yet, the internet void where no one knows I exist...
Well, to finish this article off, I want to say that even when you feel incredibly alone in your writer's block, you can't give up. I know I'm not qualified to say it, but when I felt at my lowest, I wanted someone to tell me that— amidst the people in my life who only see destruction and a road-to-nowhere with my writing, the simple encouragement of someone telling me to keep going, it was all I needed sometimes.
Hey, just take into consideration that your writing will always be better than mine. Keeping that in mind, I wish you all, struggling or not, the best of luck out there in that harsh world.
Hopefully my Buzzfeed content has distracted you from having a daily existential-crisis moment!
Stay safe out there, please.