How do you write? I mean, when you really have to get down the nitty-gritty, no doubt, if I don’t do this, I’m going to be screwed writing?
I feel like one of those horses you see attached to carriages, wandering around the downtown areas of cities – they have these black blinders on the sides of their eyes to make sure they don’t see things and freak out. I’m that horse – if I don’t put my blinders on, I freak out, get startled, and probably stampede over several small children.
I’m a big guy, don’t try me.
My blinders consist of a boring setting and my noise-canceling headphones. Not that I play any music on these headphone; nope, they’re just for the noise canceling. For someone like me who’s always hyper-stimulated, the only way I can write is by drowning everything else out. I used to believe that I could write with any sort of distraction, but over the past few years, I’ve realized that’s a giant ass lie I told myself so I could continue to watch cartoons while I wrote papers.
I make no differentiation between academic writing and other stuff. It’s all writing. It’s putting words to screen, paper, stone tablet, papyrus, whatever. It’s taking all of that shit you have wrapped up in your brain and spewing it out onto a page. Maybe someone else will read it, maybe they won’t. But it’s out there.
We’ve talked about the Brain before. He’s that asshole that sits behind my eyes, messing with me. He’s that friend you have that always hits “That’s what she said” at the most inappropriate times and decides that every moment is the correct moment to tell you your work was better last time. Well, when it comes to writing, Brain is probably the biggest asshole in the world. He always tells me my shit isn’t good enough. It’ll never be good enough. No one will like it, and fuck it all.
I don’t know how many of you know this, but at one point in my life, I was an “award-winning” writer. By that, I mean I placed 6th in a Texas state-wide expository writing competition. The contest was like many English class nightmares – a prompt, 2 hours, and some empty paper. When I was 17, I could write, write, write, and had no problem handing that in. No editing, no anything.
In college, I didn’t evolve. I thought I was hot shit, and I got my ass handed to me. I never tried to get better; I got slammed and shut down. That kind of thing stays with you, and after 4 years of college, 2 off, and 2 of grad, I’d completely screwed myself when it came to writing. I couldn’t do it; sitting down to type made me so uncomfortable that I’d have a violent physical reaction. Nothing I ever wrote would be good enough, nothing I ever created would be worth reading.
Now, of course, this was Brain talking. “You’ve fucked up, and you’ll keep fucking up. That’s what she said.” That’s all I heard. My lovely wife would tell me I was wrong, and my grades in grad school would tell me I was wrong – but I couldn’t hear it. It was awful. Awful, shit, nothing. Writing had become this scary, monumental task that I just. Couldn’t. Do.
So I started to fix this thing. I tried to make it not-so-scary. Writing was now officially a boring activity, somewhere in line with breathing, eating, and scratching myself in inappropriate places. Every day, I would write a little – academic or otherwise. For a while, I was trying to write a… let’s say “adult” novel. Sure, I bailed on it, but whatever, I was writing. It’s like building any habit, and now, it’s a boring part of my day. This right here is officially a boring party of my day.
Aren’t you excited to read it?
So this is how I write. I make it boring. And sometimes, I still get freaked out, and Brain starts doing shit again.
“This blog post is awful, why do you think anyone should read this?”
“You call that a draft? More like a crap-ft!”
“I could not, would not like your words, because they are literary turds!”
But now, I have a little more control over it.
If you’re having trouble writing (especially in an academic context), I recommend the book How to write a lot – it’s where I got a lot of these ideas, and it’s really helped me look at writing in a new way.