Writer's Block As A Series of Haikus

I haven’t gotten any good writing done this week. I’ve got a novel in its first draft that’s a complete and utter mess, and I’m not sure if I can wrangle it into something decent or if I should just give up on it and move on. I’ve got half a dozen short stories I should edit, but they’re old and grey and don’t feel relevant anymore. So instead of just freaking out all morning, I wrote a series of crappy haikus to let off some steam. If I ever catch myself thinking “oh man, this writing thing is so easy,” I’m going to read these again so Present Me (which will be Past Me) can punch Future Me (which will technically be Present Me) in the face with words.

All my stories suck.
Is that my main character?
What’s the fucking point?


Cat get off my desk.
You’re blocking the computer
Stop being so cute.

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The Stardust

Sometimes, writing is fucking magical.

It would have to be, for any of us to go through it.

I think that all of us who endeavor to put words together into something worth reading have, at some point, come across a piece of writing that stuck with us. It was probably a novel that found itself into our young hands, the words burned across our minds for weeks to come. For me, it happened when I was rather young. I remember little about it, save that I was sleeping at my grandmother’s house for some reason. My father, who wasn’t around much at the time, was telling me a story about King Arthur and his knights. That’s the way I remember it, anyway, and that’s the way it matters. He wasn’t reading the story, mind you, but reciting it from memory. If that’s not a shining example of the power the written word exerts over our feeble mortal minds, I don’t know what is.

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The "Whiskey" in "Whiskey and Stardust"

I don’t remember exactly why I named this blog the way that I did.

Except that I was trying to go for something evocative. The tag line, “The Hard Stuff and a Bit of Magic” came after. I came up with it on the spot while I was getting the logo designed, a simple job I paid for on Fiverr. There was a field asking for a tag line, and I realized I didn’t have one (and that I needed one). Whiskey is hard liquor, and Stardust is kind of magical. That was really the extent of my thought process.

But over these past months, I’ve thought about what that tag line means. There’s a certain dichotomy between “the hard stuff” and “the magic,” a dichotomy inherent to the art of writing. And although I’ve only taken this writing thing seriously for a few years, I’m shock full of opinions (I know, surprising). I don’t claim to hold any position of authority, beyond the fact that paying for a website means I’m at the very least entitled to shouting my opinions into the void that is the internet. Tonight, that shouting will be centered around the “Hard stuff” part of that tag line.

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Read What I Wrote

I just finished my first read-through of my second novel, and I need to get my thoughts down. I think I’d also just like to show that this process, this whole journey-thing I’m on is anything but a straight line.

Reading this novel was a roller-coaster. It was the first novel I wrote with zero planning beforehand, since even Saviours of Falharest had been floating around my brain for a couple months before I started it. It shows. Those 176 pages are full of half-baked ideas and characters that act strangely (also some characters that should just straight up not exist). It took a lot out of me to write this way, and reading it over, I’m not sure if it was worth it. There were so many moments during this read-through when I thought “maybe I can’t do this writing thing after all.”

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Happy Fucking New Year

My 2019 resolution is to stop whining about how hard it is to be a writer. And to get published.

I want to start the year off with shit that I’ve learned over the last year. This is not necessarily meant as advice; I don’t have any idea what I’m talking about. It might help you if you’re in my position and you feel alone. If nothing else, I think it’ll be hilarious to look back on this when I am published and things are finally going smoothly.

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What's a Young Writer to Do?

It kind of feels like I’m trapped under ice right now. I’m treading water, chiseling away at this thick slab above me, hoping to just see a crack form in it, just something I can squeeze my fingers into. Or just my voice.

I can see feet through the ice, though they’re just hazy silhouettes, and I know they’re people I want to see and be seen by. But when they look down, they just see white.

I’m being dramatic (just a tad), but this is what it feels like to be a young writer. You do the things you have to do (write everyday, put your work out there, build a platform) but you just keep thinking there’s got to be something you’re not doing. Like there’s this secret thing no one’s telling you, this hole in the puzzle that, once filled, unlocks everything else.

My goal’s to be a published writer. That’s not cutting a crack through the ice, that’s breaking through the whole fucking thing.

I’ve got the writing everyday thing down; I’ve had to stop myself, because I’m writing too much new stuff and not editing any of it.

I’m putting my work out there; I’ve sent out a bunch of short stories, amassed my first 10 rejections (a whopping ten!) My book’s out there, popping up in the cluttered inboxes of tired agents just looking forward to the holidays (who isn’t at this point?).

I’m trying to build my platform. I’m not as diligent with it as I should be, but I just never feel like I have anything to say. Whenever I put words to web page or face to camera, it feels like I’m just whining when I have no right to. I want to provide value, but I’ve got little of value to offer. So I just kick that can down the road, when I know I should be doing more.

I’ve Googled (motion to replace the verb “Googled” with “Skyneted”?) “how to be a published author” every single day for weeks now. I’m following the steps outlined in all the blogs, trying my hardest to hone my craft, but it all just feels like a shot in the dark.

I know that, once I get just a taste of reward, some pat on the back, I’ll be energized for years. It’s just frustrating to wait for that first pat, the first “good job, kiddo” that confirms you’re not wasting your goddamned time. Because yes, I love what I do. I have a passion for it that has no equal in any other field. I love putting words to paper more than anything else. I breathe characters and sweat stories. But fuck, sometimes I just feel like a pacified toddler with a tablet in hand. Yes, I’m not so miserable since I started writing every day, because I have this space where I can really thrive. But I’m spinning my wheels in a bubble. I’m writing all this stuff with no concept of how good it is, how publishable it is. My chisel is getting rusty, and the ice just seems to get thicker.

All that said, I know what the real problem is. I’m impatient. I’m hyper-aware of my age and my ten-year high school reunion is coming up and I feel like I have nothing to show for the last decade of life. And I know it’s all a trick my brain is playing on itself, like it enjoys wallowing in misery more than making actual progress. I wrote a novel. Start to finish, first draft to final(ish) edit. I’ve got the first draft of a second novel done too. I’ve done a lot. But it’s like spoken word in an empty hall; hearing your own voice in isolation makes you question the point of the thing.

I know that once that crack starts to form, I’ll give it everything I’ve got and I’ll bust through that ice. I know it takes time, but my chisel’s getting rusty and the cold’s made my muscles stiff.

Interesting

If you’re particularly eagle-eyed, you’ll notice there hasn’t been a podcast for several weeks.

I swear I’m not just lazy.

I’ve been feeling unmotivated to work on new podcast episodes, and there’s a pretty simple reason why. I wouldn’t listen to them. Marketers talk about providing “value”, how that’s the most important thing you can give a customer if you want your marketing to be heard. For an author (or aspiring author), having a podcast is a way to develop a platform, to gather readers. The basic premise is, if your podcast is good, you’ll already have people interested in what you’re going to write before it’s released (and if you’re a new writer with good numbers, you’re more more marketable for publishers and agents).

That was the reason for starting the podcast, and the blog. I wanted to reach people, give them value. Eventually, I wanted to leverage that into readers for my book. I’ve been working on building a platform for a year and a half now. It’s slow, and still small, but that’s not the issue. The issue is I don’t feel like I’m providing any value. Initially, I tried to give insight on what it’s like to work at something like this, a creative field where it feels like no one’s on your side and competition is intense. But everything I’ve said has felt like easy, common-sense stuff that doesn’t need to be rambled about over a 15 minute episode. I’ve also tried to document what I’m going through, rather than giving advice.

That didn’t work either. I think writing can be boring if you’re not already interested in it. There’s a magic and romance to the thing, but the actual act itself is pretty boring. I wouldn’t stream myself writing because I wouldn’t watch a stream of someone typing for three hours. Since writing is kind of boring, and that’s all I’m doing, I don’t have much to document. I’ve been doing almost nothing but writing and rewriting for the last year and a half. I haven’t started querying, because I’ve got nothing to send to agents yet, I haven’t been fielding anything from publishers either. I’ve just been sitting in the dark, writing stuff.

Nothing interesting there.

That said, I think it’s important to be grateful for what I do have. I want to thank everyone who has listened to the podcast, and the few who have told me they enjoyed it. I’m also deeply grateful to those who have shared words of support. The podcast isn’t gone for good, I’ll rework it and come back with someone fresher, more interesting. I’m just at this threshold where I kind of have to figure out why I’d do it.

The internet is already full of writers, most more successful than I am, with dozens of videos covering writing advice like “show, don’t tell,” “set the scene,” “write a great plot twist”. They all look the same, and a lot of the advice is copy-pasted from video to blog article to podcast and back to video. I don’t want to add to that pile, and I’m not qualified to teach other people how to write anyway. I’m still figuring this shit out and there’s a lot left on the pile.

So where does that leave...everything? Well, the novel’s nearly finished, and I’ll start querying soon. November’s just a week ago, and November brings NaNoWriMo. I think I’ll start on my next novel then. I plan to keep writing books and keep throwing them at agents until someone buys something. I’m thinking of keeping some kind of video diary as I go through NaNoWriMo this year. I want to do a daily thing, but we’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in what I’ve written and what I’ll be writing in the future, watch this space. If anything crazy happens, it’ll be here first.

Thank you to everyone who’s followed so far. I won’t disappoint.