On Writing Things for Stuff (or, How I Didn’t Do That Last Weekend but Am Doing So Right Now)

Cake, mmmm…

Last weekend I set a goal of finishing a blog post for Skepchick and writing a new post for this here personal blog thing. On Saturday night, I sat down in my office and started poking at the things on my computer screen. But my roommate was hosting a birthday party in the living room, and at some point the cake and the merriment were just too enticing to ignore. There went Saturday.

On Sunday evening I gave it another shot. It seemed like a good night for writing—my boyfriend was also in his office writing; the temperature was perfect; there was a kegger next door a few feet from my office window, but the fan in my office did a pretty good job of drowning out the party sounds; and I didn’t have anything urgent happening to draw my attention from the task at hand.

I finished neither post. I wasn’t feeling inspired, and I didn’t want to create sub par writing.

The Skepchick article required a bit of research, so I spent a couple of hours reading articles before I started typing. (Hey, I want to make sure I get things right if I’m writing for a skeptical audience!) I composed a few paragraphs, but at some point I was just too sleepy to continue. As for this blog, I promised myself I would write something soon. Later. Really.

Yesterday on Facebook a friend posted a link to a Tumblr post by Dan Harmon in which he dispenses advice about overcoming writer’s block. After expressing sympathy, he gives his first recommendation:

Alcohol lowers your inhibitors across the board. The same magic that sometimes enables you to start crying about your Dad for no reason can also enable you, briefly, to admit that you hate what you’re trying to write and why you hate it, and what you would therefore love to write. And if you can write down these epiphanies in the sweet spot between euphoria and blackout, ten percent of the time you’ll have a new approach to your current job. Booze, however, is the Agent Orange in the war against writer’s block. It’s graceless, it’s ungodly and it’s not just foliage you’re damaging. There’s prices to pay. Forever.

Which reminds me of this infamous comic from xkcd:

Writing after drinking is something I’d never done before, so I decided to give it a try. Last night, three beers went down the hatch—for science!—before I sat down. I ended up with a post that I couldn’t in good conscience make live, titled: “I’m Sorry, I’m Having a Hard Time Caring About Your Baby Bump.” It recalled recent conversations with my pregnant sister. (I see why Hemingway said “Write drunk; edit sober.”)

Tonight I went to dinner with the boyfriend, a professional writer, and had three beers with my delicious barbecue. We talked about writing and how much he hates to write when he doesn’t feel like writing. Yet it’s his occupation! He does it anyway, somehow, even when he’s not in the mood.

After we got home I sat down at the computer again, resolving to pound out whatever popped into my boozy brain. So this is what I came up with: I wrote a meta-post about writing. But I’m not going to make a habit of drinking when I write. In addition to the obvious downsides, it’s too hard to find that productive zone, and sleeping sounds really good right now…

Besides hitting the hooch, that Harmon guy had some other good advice:

If you’re ever going to be a good writer, then you probably tend to be afraid you’re a bad writer. Instead of trying to prove you’re good, try to prove you’re bad. At least the ball will start MOVING on the field. I always tell young writers, “start proving to yourself how bad you are.” Make a joke out of it. Write a draft that you know you’re going to throw in the garbage, or show to your friends for a laugh, a profanely irresponsible piece of shit draft that in which you absolutely fight for the team that you REALLY believe in – the one that says you stink. Pretend your Mom keeps asking you “why don’t you just finish something,” and write the thing designed to shut her the fuck up. THIS is why I don’t just do it, Mom, because it would look like THIS, this thing that SUCKS. Show her. Don’t even waste time on it, the faster you go, the more it will suck and the more you’ll win the fight against yourself.

So I’m not even going to wait until I’m sober before I edit and post this. Take that, Mom, you bitch.

P.S.: My mom is actually quite nice most of the time. (Sorry, Mom!)


8 thoughts on “On Writing Things for Stuff (or, How I Didn’t Do That Last Weekend but Am Doing So Right Now)

  1. You are waaaaay too judgemental–I love this post! I’ve loved all your writing! Just spew the words up and then walk away from it. Edit it the next day. Or week.

    BTW, your mom is beautiful, and good call on the baby bump post. (although I really want to see it…..)

  2. I finally finished the Skepchick post late last night and got it out there today!

    As for the Baby Bump Blog, it’s funny — since I made it private, I can see it when I log in. But I can’t put that up! If my sister ever finds this blog and reads that post, she might not forgive me for a long time.

    Maybe I’ll wait until after she gives birth before making the post live. 😉

  3. I second the vote for babybumpblog!

    The best advice I know about writing is to write something every day no matter what….
    that also happens to be the same advice that I regularly fail to follow (and always to my own self-loathing, self-pitying, and self-flagellating regret!)….
    regardless of the fact that I know that it is, in fact, the best advice that I know about writing.

    and,congrats! and,goodluck,debgod!

  4. Good job. It can be hard to start writing, but I find it gets easier the more you do it. If you force yourself to blog every day or two the inspiration and words start to find you. You also have to just do it for yourself. Don’t worry what other people think – if they like it, that’s good, but that’s besides the point.

    The worst for me is if I get into a couple days, weeks, or (worst) months without posting. Then you feel like you have to apologize for writing (mostly to yourself), and you also (again) feel like (a) everything important is being said, and (b) that how you’d say it will not be as eloquent. It’s a vicious cycle. The point is to just write, comment on a few news stories, and put your ideas out there.

    Soon enough you’ll be a fully-qualified blogger!

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