It’s been two and a half months now since I made the commitment to try and develop a real writing practice.
It’s a funny thing, because I’d chosen the Medium platform in particular based on its flexibility, and on its potential for anonymity. I didn’t really have any plans to engage with the platform beyond using it as a vehicle for my writing, but I’ve discovered I’m enjoying the content I’m finding here, and the fact that in the odd case, strangers are actually reading what I have to say.
And it’s a silly fact, but it makes me want to keep writing.
Which is why I’ve really been trying. But let me tell you, it’s a hell of a challenge sometimes.
Working a regular nine-to-five job that requires me to be chained to a computer for the better part of a week means I’m not terribly motivated to add more screen time once I’m off the clock.
I try and break up my day — go for a walk after work, make some dinner — but a lot of the time it’s hard to get myself back in front of the computer.
On more than one occasion I’ve forced myself to write when it’s not what I wanted. It usually takes me two hours or so of fruitlessly pounding out and erasing sentences to figure out why nothing’s flowing: I’m only doing it because I feel like I should.
That belief — and forcing myself to soldier on — triggered a major writing slump.
I “wanted” to write, but couldn’t get inspired.
Everything single thing I tried to write during that spell was stagnant and sterile, lacking in voice.
I still get the sense some evenings that I should be writing, but I understand a little better now there’s a difference between should be, and choosing to be. I can’t muster the inspiration when I’m feeling depleted, and forcing myself to try only serves to increase my frustration.
I’ve ready many, many articles so far on topics like “What to Write When You’re Out of Ideas” and “How to Overcome Writer’s Block”, and they’re useful, in a sense…I guess.
Everyone’s process is different, though, and it’s a challenge to try to adopt someone else’s method to improve my own — particularly when I haven’t quite figured out what, exactly, that method is.
I know that I write better in the morning.
This is awfully limiting, however, as the only days I have the freedom to write in the morning are Saturday and Sunday, and occasionally Monday. It means there’s even more pressure to be productive those days, when I tend to be better.
I sometimes smoke a small amount of CBD strain cannabis if I’m really struggling to make the words flow, but this approach isn’t always guaranteed.
It can definitely help me get out of my head somewhat and stop me from overthinking, particularly in cases where I’ve drafted and redrafted the same paragraph a half a dozen times.
What cannabis cannot be relied on for, however, is sparking inspiration if there’s none there to begin with.
There have been nights I’ve decided to write — got my computer all set-up, my requisite glass of water by my side. I smoke a bit, then plunk myself down in front of the screen, and: nothing.
If I don’t already have a topic in my head I’m looking forward to writing, then the cannabis, for the most part, is pretty pointless.
One thing that has helped is jotting ideas for posts down in a journal.
If the idea’s a good one, it’ll begin to percolate in my mind, and before long I’m antsy to get cracking.
Other ideas that seem inspirational in the moment simply whither on the vine, unable to trigger further excitement.
One night I knew of a topic I wanted to write on, but couldn’t seem to make it translate to the screen.
Instead, I took my journal with me to the bath and decided to handwrite it out instead, letting the ideas flow messily.
The technique worked because it gave me a premise, something to start with.
Of course, when I tried to duplicate it again a few short days later, I couldn’t make it flow.
The latest approach to help spark my inspiration is to take one of the notes I’ve jotted down in my journal of ideas and try some free-flow writing.
I take care not to do this within the Medium platform because it cripples my process — adds an element of expectation I don’t want to exist.
Instead, I use a Word document to capture my stream of ideas, with virtually zero reverence for grammar and syntax.
This free-flow method of writing liberates me of the anxiety of having to produce something flawless right from the get-go. It gives me a chance to help the ideas form, to give them substance, before trying to commit them to a more formal delivery.
I’ll tell you, I was skeptical at first. As I sat sloppily transforming thoughts to the screen, I thought for sure there was no way I’d be able to create something coherent from the slurry of nonsense.
I was wrong. I was able to create something pretty decent simply by breaking up the thoughts into something legible. It wasn’t the writing itself that was useful, but the ability to capture my thought process, to plant the seeds in my mind. It made me excited to write, finally.
As I carry along on this journey of writing more regularly, I understand more and more there’s no cut and dry method for making it work.
Sometimes, it doesn’t, and it’s a matter of being able to accept it. To be able to recognize that it’s not all good days.
The days it does work, they’re worth celebrating — a victory, if you will.
I’m looking forward to more of those.