Writer’s block sucks.
I will be the first person to admit that I am a tremendous procrastinator, and that very same procrastination occasionally lands me in a spot that may or may not be attributable as writer’s block; it may be that I’m just so obstinate about actually starting on a project that I mistake that moment of “oh, shit, I have waited WAY too long to get this moving…” for another, more insidious type of issue.
Did I ever mention that I’m writing a book? No, really, I am writing a book. I’ve had the practical intent to write this book for so many years now that I’ve lost track of the original reason for writing it. I have yet to figure out what type of book, or to devise a plausible story line, outline, or line of defense in case the first draft is miserable and no one else ever wants to read the darn thing. Totally and completely incapacitated by writer’s block on this one, with no relief in sight.
It’s not just writing where I find myself caught in some strange form of paralysis – it happens with other creative pursuits that I enjoy. For instance, I learned — ok, taught myself with the help of a book and some YouTube videos — to sew, on an actual sewing machine, five or so years ago. I was in the Costco, of all places, and saw a sewing machine and decided that I absolutely had to have it. Never you mind that I had a sewing machine, perhaps a perfectly serviceable Singer model, stuffed in a moving box with a handful of crumpled up newsprint, and that I had been toting that box around with me for nearly 20 years.
I’m all tied up in knots.
I’m a decent sewist, not likely to win any awards for neatest hem or straightest seam, but I am capable of doing all manner of home dec projects and I’ve had mild success with dresses, skirts and the odd blouse or two. I’m not really a pants person, but Julie Starr assures me on Instagram that I, too, can make these fabulous palazzo pants that appear so fetching on her in photos. And that I can make them in a single afternoon. I’m thinking she doesn’t know all that much about my ongoing love affair with the seam ripper, but that’s another post for another day.
My writer’s block on the sewing front, at this moment, happens to involve a pair of chairs that I wish to reupholster again. This will be the third time in two years that I’ve ripped off the fabric; the first reupholstery was a two tone that really was lovely, but just didn’t fit with our new sectional, requiring me to pick them over like a vulture working a carcass in order to redo the front parts. My original thought was that the backs were great, so I opted out of two tone and into an all over one fabric option, and now I’ve decided that the backs have to be changed.
I am absolutely dying to do a fiber art collage piece – two of them – for the backs of these chairs. I’ve gone so far as to cut out what seems like hundreds of small quatrefoil shapes from a myriad of different fabric scraps, thinking that I would do a ’tile mosaic’ from the fabric on a drop cloth base, and then sew/quilt the whole bit before upholstering the chair backs.
And then I started thinking that maybe I’d just paint the drop cloths and use them for the chair backs. And then I saw some super cool black and white striped fabric in the new IKEA ad last week, and that was my original idea – black and white back fabric, but more in the mudcloth style if possible (if you are starting to think that I am constantly looking for things that don’t yet exist, you are absolutely correct) – and this has resulted in a giant case of analysis paralysis, which is, to my way of thinking, a giant contributing factor to writer’s block. And then I saw the squirrel… and thought, “hey, wouldn’t little squirrel prints on mudcloth in black and white be great, I could do that on Spoonflower in no time at all…”
Getting rid of writer’s block is never easy, and I am beginning to think that it’s sometimes impossible. I still haven’t gotten a handle on my book, and in addition to the chair fiasco, I’ve also got a growing stack of thrift store canvases and frames that are intended to be used in my new art collage business.
If you’re not laughing so hard you are about to pee yourself at this moment, I don’t know why not.
I often sit around and wonder at my own insanity, at least when it comes to starting fiber art and art collage and custom art upholstery and a second print shop with those cute little sayings like “It’s going to be a GREAT day!”, or “living my best life”, in various font faces and typesets on throw pillows and mugs and downloadable wall art. Like, I’m somehow going to find the time and energy to do these things simultaneously, all while keeping my current work schedule going. Oh, and don’t forget that I’m still going to have time to go sailboat racing, and do a bit of traveling, and that sort of stuff. And my book, don’t forget that.
It’s quite possible that the best laid plans of mice and men often lead to writer’s block. Or perhaps its the borderline ADHD symptoms that I exhibit with some frequency; it’s really hard to ascertain the cause just be examining the effect when you take a closer look.
Three things that normally break writer’s block.
Force the issue. Oddly enough, having a deadline is the number one way to force work product. It may not be perfect, hell it may not even be the second best work I can produce, but I will get the job done if I am facing a time constraint that cannot be ignored or rescheduled.
Prompt attention to detail. I am all about the use of prompts lately, and it’s because I’ve started participating in a few different challenges that require all the participants to work from the same starting point. Whether it’s an image that is used for a collage or it’s a description for a UI design brief, I am really happy to have some sort of direction that has real boundaries.
Scheduled engagement. Yes, it’s like the forced march to the gallows on occasion, but when I book a time slot that is specifically for a task (like this blog post, for instance), and I refuse to allow myself to do ANYTHING ELSE during the time – no email, no phone, no social media, no snacking, no dog walking, you get the idea – then it forces me to focus on the task and I can usually overcome the writer’s block. Again, maybe not my absolute best work, but every painting isn’t the Mona Lisa either.
Not out of the woods yet.
Using procrastination as a way to deal with writer’s block leads to a positive outcome in other areas. My cabinets, shelves, and drawers are meticulously organized, my laundry is always folded within a couple hours of tossing it into the wash, my kitchen sink is perpetually empty, and just this morning I pulled everything out of one of my linen closets and my OCD joyfully folded, and refolded, and then folded again, a set of vintage wool blankets that were begging to be packed in vacuum seal bags and reorganized in the closet.
Let’s face it, the blank page is daunting and it’s also the hardest thing to overcome. Oddly enough I can sit around and daydream an infinite number of possibilities – some of them down to the last detail – but when it comes time to put pen to paper, needle to fabric, glue to that stack of images culled from magazines and thrift store books, well I just can’t seem to get on with it.
I really do want to write that book.