Potential

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There’s nothing quite as intoxicating as potential.

Whether it’s the heady excitement of a new relationship, or the mind-spinning birth of a new idea, that hinted-at potential draws us in, hooks us, and keeps us coming back for more.

When I ended my unproductive writing session the other day, I knew nothing had come of it.  Radiohead had failed me.

And yet, for the rest of the evening and during the next day, a single phrase I had written kept popping into my head.  “I can’t do anything with this,” I thought, and pushed it aside, but it was doggedly persistent.  Just that one phrase, repeating in my mind, over and over until–

IDEA.

I was stunned into disbelief at first.  Plot ideas are few and far between for me, and I hoard them like precious gems.  This new story idea seemed almost completely unrelated to the random phrase that had been circling my thoughts for two days, but I’ve learned not to question the strange paths my mind sometimes takes to get to its destination.

So now I have it.  A lovely, shiny idea of my very own.  The inspiration I’ve been wanting, needing.  These early stages are always so exciting–the possibilities seem endless, and your new, tiny bud of a story has so much potential contained within it.  Anything could happen!

But I know that potential can only take you so far.  Eventually the glitter begins to flake off, and the shiny thrill of it grows dull and stained.  What was once a retreat into a paradise of possibility begins to feel a whole lot like work.  And it’s at this point that you can either give up and move on, eyes wide and on alert for the next fresh start; or you can take a deep breath, narrow your focus, and push through the ennui.

I’ll admit that I’m not such a pro at powering through the tough stuff.  Master of half-baked ideas and brilliant plans and unfinished projects, it’s the seeing-it-through that always gets me in the end.

I’ll have to scrape together some of this ‘discipline’ everyone is always talking about and see if I can actually realize some of this bottled-up potential after all.  That’s the key, isn’t it?  Discipline.

Well, discipline and caffeine.

 

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Overcoming the Deficit

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I call myself a writer in my head.

Of course, ‘aspiring writer’ would probably be more accurate.  I’ve never been published and I don’t get paid to write; but that’s how I think of myself–as a writer.  I have a writer’s soul.  Writing is the missing piece I was searching for all those years; it’s the thing that makes me feel most alive, most fulfilled, most like me.

And yet.

I’ve never been consistent at writing.  (I’ve never been consistent at anything, to be completely truthful .) I’ve never finished any of the stories I’ve started.  I’m ashamed to admit that, because most of my writer friends are quite prolific, and have a spread of finished projects to prove it.  I feel as if I don’t deserve to call myself a writer, because if you dared me to prove it I’d come up empty-handed.

I get blocked way too easily.  Most of my ideas have never made it past the incubation stage because the second I hit a snag or a problem I can’t readily solve I freeze up.  I suppose it’s a lack of confidence.  I don’t believe I can answer the questions I’m faced with, or fix the glaring issues, or figure out where the hell to take the plot.  I read the work of writers I’m in awe of and think, There’s no way I’m smart enough or creative enough to come up with something like that.

I know that one of the keys to writing is…actually writing.  Something.  Every day.  Forcing yourself to sit down and put fingers to keyboard, or pen to paper, and produce words.  Not waiting for the ever-elusive inspiration and (in some cases, even more elusive) motivation to strike, but pushing yourself to overcome the inertia and start.

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A couple days ago I decided I was going to write something, dammit, so I sat down at my computer and typed.  45 minutes later, I had a bunch of useless snippets and a weirdly descriptive scene about blood and concrete.  (I was listening to Radiohead.)  Annoyed that I hadn’t managed to strike up a spark of brilliance, I texted my bestie.  (Am I allowed to use the word “bestie” if I’m over 15?)

 

h:  why is writing so haaaaaaaard marissa?

m:  i knooooooooowwww it’s the worst

 

Solidarity.

At least I have a faithful writing companion:

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Hobbes takes a “balls to the wall” stance on most issues.

 

So, other writers: how do you do it?  How do you push past roadblocks?  Where do you find inspiration?  How do you overcome the deficit and produce something when the ‘idea well’ is so parched it couldn’t grow a cactus?  Help a sister out and share some writing tips.  Tell me about your process.