(two consecutive posts about struggling to write; I kinda suck at this point)
Yesterday I talked about banging my head against a wall to churn out a blog post for an hour,but I’m now realising, struggling to write two days in a row, that it’s not coming up with an idea that’s the problem, but actually writing it down.
This is a divide I highlighted in a seminar the other day, in which I used myself as an example (because I’m a conceited motherfrakker like that) of a writer, where writing is both creative – coming up with a format and idea for your piece – and mechanical – putting words and ideas into that structure that represent those ideas. For instance poetry with a defined structure like iambic hexameter is mostly mechanical stuff – I know what I want to say, but the effort comes from fitting syllables and long vowel sounds into the six-foot structure, like sudoku with words.
And while rambling blog posts written in prose, like these ones, don’t nearly have as much of a rigid structure, there is a mechanical side to writing them, that once an idea has been conceived, I need to find the words to explain it, and often to extend it to other ideas – because usually I’ll come up with a title that’s good for a paragraph then wing the rest of it – or change the words themselves to make the post informative, funny, or whatever. In the past, I’d have argued that my mechanical skills were the stronger of the two stages of writing – creative and mechanical – because I could take an idea like a fire alarm or an oven and spin a 500-word post out of them that people found, and are still finding, amusing; equally, my creative skills were weaker, as I couldn’t think of anything more meaningful and intelligent to write about.
But now I think it’s reversed; I’m uncomfortable banging out 500 words on a bullshit topic these days – it seems like a chore in of itself, rather than a low-effort activity to fill the gap before tomorrow’s potentially intelligent post – but I have lots of ideas for posts, both in my head and on various post-it and iPhone notes. I’d go so far as to say my mechanical skills have fallen off a cliff, where I lack the means (motivation? confidence?) to develop even more intelligent ideas into posts; I’ve been sitting on an idea about democracy for a while, where I highlight it’s key fault that it gives power to that which people want, i.e. is popular, instead of what is necessarily good for people, and the counter-argument that if there is an absence of objective ‘goodness’ in the world, popularity is the next-best thing we have for determining the placement of power. But I’ve been unwilling for some reason to make this into a full-scale post.
I might be burned out, after university essays that are much more intellectually difficult than A-level ones and the Twelve Stories Of Christmas, or I might just be sick of writing, having put out god knows how many words over the last fourteen months or so (I should totally count how many words I’ve written!), which is why I’m still capable of being creative, just not realising that creativity in words. I should try painting or some shit, even if it is less relevant to my degree.
But the most important thing about problems is not dealing with them; if I’m struggling to write and am in need of a break, the obvious ‘take a break’ solution is way too easy – as ever, I’ll keep posting on here, even if it drives me insane in the process.