Beating Writer’s Block: Writing a load of shite again

I haven’t written much over the last eight months. I’ve been depressed and anxious and my creative mojo has been at an all-time low. During my Masters course last year, I often fantasised about all the writing I’d do once the course was over and my free time was free again.
Instead, I’ve written perhaps one short story that isn’t bad, and a few others that definitely are bad. And my stagnating output has made my mood worse – it’s made me feel guilty and directionless. Don’t worry, I don’t want to write a blog post about my most recent season of depression and anxiety. That would be terribly boring to read. Instead, I’d like to talk about something I’ve realised that just might get me out of this slump: taking myself less seriously and writing a load of shite again. Bear with me and maybe this blog post will help you get over your creative slump too.

At some point in the last few years I started taking myself – my potential as a writer – far too seriously. I think this was because I wasn’t in my early 20s anymore and I was starting to worry that my writing was doomed to remain a hobby instead of a successful vocation.  And I’d become a reasonably competent writer, which I think made things worse. I was pretty terrible when I started out, and so the little bit of finesse and skill I’d cultivated over the years had perhaps gone to my head. I think this probably reached its height when I achieved a pretty great grade for my Creative Writing Masters course.

This new higher opinion of myself has done nothing but slow me down and cause me to doubt new stories before they’ve had time to become something better. Now that I know I can write reasonably good short stories, anything I write that’s a bit crap in its early stages is swiftly abandoned. I’ve written so many beginnings over the last eight months – so many Document 1s that I didn’t bother saving. These poor budding stories might have turned into decent second or third drafts if I’d only persevered. But, in my impatience for them to be brilliant, I abandoned them. I think this is a terrible way to write. And it’s probably a terrible way to be any kind of creative person. It’s a little like a baker throwing their raw dough in the bin because they’re not sure whether or not it’s going to make good bread. At least prove that mother first! Then bake it. The loaf mightn’t be a looker, but you can at least spread butter on it and dip it in some tasty soup!

I need to get back to the good old days, the playful days, the accidentally plagiarising, cliché-ridden days. Back then, I wrote whatever interested me and I enjoyed writing it. Back then, I knew I was pretty crap and I approached every new writing project as a learning exercise. At some point, I stopped approaching writing as fun, as an exercise, and I think my writing, and my love of writing, has suffered for it.

I’m yet to test this hypothesis – as I’m snowed under with work – but I have a theory that completely resigning myself to writing a load of shite again will be key to getting out of this funk. If I know my next story is going to be shite and I’m not worried about it ever being good, I can start having fun again.  And I think writing should be fun – or at least satisfying. Shouldn’t satisfaction be a bare-minimum requirement for our passions and vocations?

I don’t subscribe to the ideal of the tortured artist. I don’t think anyone is a better writer or artist because they’re having a tough time. This idea is fetishised (mainly by serious young men) and I think it’s pretty damaging. I’m going to try to get over my issues by treating everything with irreverence. I need to battle against my ego and hobbling sense of perfectionism. I need to forget about the finished product and just enjoy writing stories again.

I typically cringe when I witness over-earnest public declarations of pain, grief, anguish, affection, passion, etc. So, if there was nothing for anyone else to get out of this blog post then I think it would have joined the ranks of the deleted Document 1s. But I think there is something of use here. I know so many talented writers and musicians that struggle to create because they take themselves and their creations too seriously. So, I think it’s about time we took the pressure off and started having fun again. Let’s all try to love the smell of our own creative farts – or to at least laugh at them the way we used to! It’s time to write a load of shite again.


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