Writer’s Block if There’s Nothing at Stake?

There are seasons for all things in life. I think someone wrote a song about that.

Moments to work like a hound, moments to rest. Times for sugar, times for health.

There’s falling in love, there’s solitude.

Lately I’ve been waking up, grabbing my journal, and finding I don’t have much to say. Classic writer’s block seems a doubtful culprit since there are no deadlines or responsibilities with my casual morning writing.

What I fear, then, is emotional block. If I can’t dump my straying accumulated thoughts on to page each morning, are they even there?

Since I believe that emotions—repressed or not—are a human fuel, I can only assume that indeed I have something to write about, somewhere. So why can’t I hear it?

My irritating tendency is to paint things in black and white: If I’m not journaling well, it must be because I’m losing touch with my emotions. If I’m not in touch with my emotions, how will I be a good writer? 

Next? Panic.

messy easel with paint

So, I try to work on my color palette, to reframe the situation.

Perhaps I don’t have to slap an analysis on this season of less journaling. Stop worrying now and trust that the season will change in its time.

If morning journaling is the subconscious “dump,” maybe my subconscious is occupied with something else, something more important than daily thought drifts. Perhaps it’s busy hatching a plan that will change my life completely.

There.

I’ve assumed the best instead of the worst (i.e. that I’ve become cut off from my emotions so my writing career is over).

There’s also this: when I began journaling last September I was living alone in a foreign country. I remained solitary and essentially without social life until May, albeit stateside.

But since May, I’ve been getting more involved with my partner. Talking to someone for hours a day may be an outlet for all those thoughts that would have gone to paper.

Also, reflecting on his mind takes the place of the thoughts I was spending on myself, and that’s probably a good thing.

There was an unhealthiness in the amount of de facto self-reflection time I had before Derek. I should have been volunteering more or fostering dogs—something to take my mind away from the pressures I put upon it.

So while I’m nervous about less journaling, I’m trying to give space to the idea that I don’t have to define what’s happening. Maybe it’s simply adjusting to sharing life with someone. It’s certainly been a while.

Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

I guess we’ll see.

 


 

I barely know what I’m saying with all this, but I think it has something to do with not trying to be so controlling and critical toward myself. If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them below.

Another thing I’d love? You subscribing 😉

photocred: photopin.com

Inception Points

It was this time last year when the thought of being a writer first crept into my mind.

My sister and I had spent two weeks traveling through Southern France. She left and I continued to Genoa, Italy. I couchsurfed with a young and lovely psychotherapist for 11 days. We drove up mountains on his motorcycle, swam in the Mediterranean, became expedited lovers.

When he left for work during the day, the apartment was mine for hours. I was an actor then, so no job at home awaited me. There was nothing “official” to work on, the days were utterly open.

meggan and sister overlooking nice france

Jessie and me standing sweaty above Nice, France

On one of these days, a short story appeared in my notebook. My first, I think, since a three-pager (typed, double-spaced) from sixth grade.

I didn’t realize I was remembering as I wrote it, but those minutes are carved into my brain.

Lying belly-down across the futon in Federico’s guest bedroom. Letting in the last bits of breeze before closing the window from summer heat. A cup of Darjeeeling. Sweating.

Clearing the checkered kitchen table cloth of his clutter–rolling papers, Italian notes scrawled on paper corners, shards of tobacco, an extra set of keys.

Pulling the squared wooden chair across the tile beneath me. Sitting down, writing.

The first line: She stared at the set of keys.

The words that followed are less memorable than the moments. The output was food untasted. Something was happening.

Still, I didn’t notice until after, when the story stayed.

Heart-heavy, I left a dream and returned to Los Angeles. I turned 30. I didn’t want to see friends or go out for auditions. I didn’t want to step onto the rushed and smoggy streets. I didn’t want anything there.

Only one desire stood among the fallen: I wanted to be a writer.

And so we began.

 


 

Do you remember when you decided to do your thing?

Tell me about it, if you please.

The Beans of Overanalysis

My psychologist tells me I tend to overanalyze things. She is not the first loved-one to do this.

I finally asked her, “Do you mean compared to other people?”

“Well, yes.”

This surprised me. What do others do during the quiet stretches of mental solitude? What do people talk about?

Years ago I might have taken Carole’s comment as a badge of honor, but not anymore.

Overanalyzing doesn’t lead to answers, it leads to the illusion of answers. It’s like stirring a pot of beans and expecting them to become something other than beans. They only become more mushy.

Analysis has it’s benefits. It gives us space and time to empathize, strategize, and creativit-ize.

But analysis is also an excuse for inertia. Analyze instead of act.

Or a way to feel an [often false] sense of control over current situations or outcomes that don’t yet exist and may never come to be.


I forgot to write a blog post last week. Since October, I’ve written at least one weekly, but suddenly–poof— the habit disappeared. Realizing this, I began to catastrophize:

“What’s going on with me? How could I forget? Where is my mind? Do I still care? Am I losing heart? Am I letting love distract me too much? Am I weak? Emotionally detached? Hiding from myself?”

These thoughts have been visiting me now for five days. I finally sat down to write about it, and lookie here, I’m writing a post. I’m not coming apart at the seams.

Failing to do something I love didn’t mean I don’t love it anymore.

In fact, maybe last week’s issue was that my family was visiting while I was simultaneously preparing for an open-ended trip to Asia and Africa that would last at least two months.

Maybe it was just that.

Analysis often has little to do with the plans life actually has in store. But the living continues.

I’m going to just try to live.

meggan feeding a monkey in bali


On that note, what do you think about most of the time? I have a feeling a lot of my readers are fellow over-analyzers. But what else? How do you deal? Leave a comment!

 

photocred: photopin.com & my friend in Bali

How to Write a Book, First.

I thought this would be the triumphant year in which I wrote a book.

Apparently, it is to be the year I learn to write a book.

(If you’re following, yes—I still plan to have it finished soon.)

Three months will mark the anniversary of setting off to finish my little “masterpiece.”

By the end of October 2016, I thought I had everything necessary to push it through the final rounds of editing.

By the end of January 2017, I realized the whole thing needed to be rewritten. (Upwork beta readers at $30 a pop and growing subconscious fear led me to this decision.)  

It needed more information to deserve the title How to Travel For Free. I was not happy with this fact. I wanted to be finished with my first book.

But rewrite I did, and slowly. And distractedly.

Finally I’ve reached what’s essentially another first draft. Whitney has expertly worked through a big-picture edit, and here I’m at another crossroads…

crossroad road sign dead end

My direction? Rewrite. Again.

Recently, I’ve been exposed to the writing thoughts of Derek. At first I thought we were simply two very different styles of writer, but his thoughts have seeped into my brain and I find my writing heading toward change. Now, I question every sentence: Can I cut that word? Can I whet my message?

He’s also led me to (among other things)the book On Writing Well. And not a moment too soon.

William Zinsser’s masterpiece (yes, masterpiece!), is exactly what I needed. I realize now the imperative to hone the basic skill of carpentry before trying to carve flourish into the wood. The art may be in me, but the craft is keenly nascent.

It was silly to think a book I’d begun four years ago and revisited last September would be ready come summer 2017. Fine. Perhaps it needs not a complete rewrite, but at least a complete trimming.

This better understanding of process is a valuable thing to have learned, though. More valuable than just learning how to write a book. That I will learn in time, but not before I learn how to write.

This isn’t to say I’m suddenly morphing into a pro writer—I’m not—but I can sense at least one level up in a game with infinite levels to come.

Before reading On Writing Well, I was disheartened by all the editing work awaiting me. Now I feel lucky to have something on which to train these new writing muscles. 

I’m also rereading Lord of the Rings and, well,

I know what I must do.

 


 

What is this post about? I’m unsure. I wanted to share where I’m at in the book-writing process, but more, I want to know if you’ve been somewhere similar. So tell me.

Leave a comment (and subscribe here)!

photocred: photopin.com

Where Does Honesty Apply?

For fear that they will tell me what I don’t want to hear, I’m refraining from reviewing the posts I’ve written lately.

The sneaking suspicion is that I’ve been complaining a lot about how generally distracted I feel.

Beginning a few months ago, in a state of utter boredom with book editing, lack of social life, lack of work, it seems I turned to haphazard romances spice up my life.

The thing about romance is that it’s really, really engaging. Especially in the beginning. It’s full of untouchable hope and sparkle and mouth corners turned upward ever on their own accord.

New romance: a wonderful drug.

I’ve been doing drugs as a way to escape life block.

foil art of a running escaping person

They say when you grow up with someone who has an addiction (work, alcohol, worrying, painkillers, sex, socializing), that even if you do not share the same addiction, you learn the associated emotional and psychological behaviors.

Depending on the addict, these behaviors may include secrecy, detachment, rage, depression, compulsion, obsessiveness…the list goes on.

Behaviors are habits. Even the non-physical ones, i.e. the manners in which we think and relate to the world. Over time, they become internalized in our nature. Still, they are changeable with concentrated effort.

When we’re young, there’s little we can do to prevent ourselves from acquiring the subtle and not-so-subtle habits of the significant people in our lives.

In January, I went to Santa Fe to isolate myself for writing, but also to isolate myself at all. To reshape my behaviors and try to become healthier in the realm of relationships. It’s not that things were a mess, but I wasn’t as emotionally fit as I wanted.

How does this relate to the creative quest?

If we can’t be honest about the secret hurt selves living inside us, we can’t be honest in our work. Ignoring our unresolved needs and heartaches does not make them any less part of our makeup.

If we ignore painful parts of ourself, we aren’t being honest in relationships because we’re not bringing everything to the table. Especially in the relationship with our own self.

If we can’t be honest in relationships, the relationship is unhealthy. Period.

All the more so because you’ve attracted someone who is willing to accept dishonesty—whether they realize it or not.

It doesn’t take long for unhealthy-ness to become a distraction. We don’t pay attention when things are functioning as-expected; we tune-in when things go pear-shaped.

abstract drawing vaguely pear shaped

If I don’t figure out the thing I’m seeking in these ultimately unfulfilling relationships, I’m doomed to keep repeating this pattern. Without going into too many details, there is a definite pattern.

Just like the abused woman manages to find that small percentage of men willing to abuse (and vice versa), I’m doing the exact same thing, just with a different sort of [much more benign] abuse.

The behavioral commonalities among the small percentage of men I date are too distinct. It’s clear I’m seeking some lesson…but what?

Here’s the frustrating fact:

We will never find what we’re seeking in the other person; it has to be found within ourselves.

It’s so much harder, right, to have to do the work ourselves? Ugh.

Otherwise, we keep attracting the bad stuff with hopes that in focusing on the other person and their issues (which likely mirror our own), we can avoid addressing the heavily-defended zones of pain within us.

We probably had to defend and fortify these zones at some point in life for the simple sake of self-preservation. The defenses grew strong but ultimately unnecessary. Whoever taught us pain, fear, and distrust no longer sits in the ruling chair. We do.

So…what now?

I suppose this means more solitude, more soul-searching, more writing. More trying to unearth the hidden flame that keeps luring the wrong moths.

a lit match and flame

It’s something I have to do for me, but it is also something I have to do for my work, my writing. If there are places I am unwilling or unable to look at in myself, then I can never honestly give me away.

If I can’t give me away, then whatever it is I am giving is simply not the truth.

I want this to be true.


And you, how are you feeling?

Leave a comment! And subscribe for your inbox, it wants it.

photocred:photopin.com

Big Goals and Nesting Dolls

The past month hasn’t felt very productive.

How can I write about creativity or goals if I’m not doing things? 

In an attempt to inspect that feeling, I made a list:

When did the non-productivity begin?

-Launched Indiegogo campaign for my book (early May)

-Got stuck in LA dealing with life-logistics for a few days

-Met a man (as promised, it wasn’t through dating; rather, it crept up on me like the best kind of unpreventable, lasting cold)

-Literally got stuck in LA and took an all-night, brain-draining train to Santa Fe after missed flights. (mid-May)

-Went to a week-long writing workshop with Natalie Goldberg and Bill Addison in Santa Fe. I loved Bill! (late-May)

-Helped the Workshop create a promotional video

-Went across the world to visit “the man” (early June)

-Flew back to LA (now)

 

Two things jump out at me here:

1. Travel seems to lose me around six productivity days per round trip. I’m mentally scattered the day before and after, and generally distracted with movement on the actual day.

I’ve made two trips, so that’s 12 days. With more discipline, it probably could have been closer to four. People with “real” jobs do this all the time out of necessity. Ugh!

2. Since I’m a vagabond without fixed scheduling, I often rationalize reasons not to work on big goals

(brain too groggy->wouldn’t be effective->more optimal to work on minor/easier goals instead).

Rationalizing enables me to put off more difficult things that actually matter to me long-term in order to accomplish the simpler things that only matter short-term. What’s left in the end?

I assure you it’s not long-term satisfaction.

looking up a tree through branches from ground up

Yes, I would prefer a life where I had all the necessary resources to work only on my big goals. The rest of my mental energy would go to reading, cooking, relationship maintenance, and fitness.

A current meaningful goal is to get my book published, but since I don’t have all the resources I need, I do things like launch funding campaigns. Campaigns take effort and check-ins along the way, little minor maintenance “goals” on the to-do list that don’t feel important.

 

We can’t get to the top of a tree by jumping.

 

We have to climb. To deal with scratchy branches, unstable footing, secret spiderwebs.

I have to stop bemoaning the routes I choose to take. It’s like resenting an orange for having a peel.

Big goals have little “must-do” goals nestled within. It’s a nesting doll; there’s a system at play.

My resistance toward the little guys also causes me not to register when they’ve been accomplished. Some days I do no direct work on my favorite projects; then, I’m angry at myself and angry at the tasks and errands I did get done.

I’d like to try to be more accepting of my minor must-do goals. To count them wholeheartedly as valid steps toward ideal goals. I’m not going to draw causal relationships, I’m just going to accept the day’s to-do list and aim to give myself kudos over resentment.

All that being said, I still plan on reinstating a fixed study/work schedule.

…But attempting to welcome [valid] distractions along the way.

russian nesting dolls to represent goals

If you relate, leave a comment—it means the world!

photocred:photopin.com