I hold “Downton Abbey” and the lure of illegal downloading equally responsible for my recent writer’s block. If I had not been catching up on season four that fateful winter evening, my computer would not have terminally frozen and taken with it my will to write anything at all. A certain rhythm is required in the maintenance of a writing “mojo” (smashing baby!) and though I realize a computer is not absolutely necessary to write, it bloody well helps. In positive news, I have had more time to watch Austin Powers.
Googling important things: including but not limited to how many dogs one can legally own in every state.
The thing is once I stopped regularly writing, I realized how much easier it is to not write anything than it is to write something. For those of us who have been living a bleak and computerless existence for the last six months, we are already well aware the first thing to go is the impromptu creative session at 3am. And that’s okay! I suppose. I understand periods of productivity naturally oscillate with those of lack. However, come June I once again found myself in possession of a real working computer in addition to ample time, no excuses, an August deadline, and all was right with the world.
Except for the fact that I found myself at a loss for words. Insert shock, awe, and potential relief from those who know me.
With my thesis deadline swiftly approaching, calling the timing of this mojo-loss situation “inconvenient” would be the under-of-all statements. Are you ready for me to stop saying mojo? Because I am a dad on a roll: the more you hate it the more I say it, so shush. Somewhere my friend Elise’s elderly black cat’s ears are burning because that is his name but with a capital M and a whole lotta sass (oh, be-have!).
I was getting desperate and in need of an immediate solution. What I found instead was a gross overabundance of proclaimed expertise on the topic. I decided to test out these suggested methods for curbing writer’s block and report back so that you don’t have to. And so “Project Mojo,” aka my June Year’s resolution (the dawn of a new holiday), and my daily documentation of this experience follows.
June 1: Research
I love research! What I have lost in my own motivation to write has been compensated for in Googling important things, including but not limited to Shaq’s penis size and how many dogs one can legally own in every state (no limit in Chicago, but they are considering changing it to five per household). This is especially true when I can do so from bed with tea and a headache: Happy June to me!
I figured I should create a list of strategies based on my lover and dearest friend after Mary J. Blige, the internet’s suggestions. Yahoo Answers unsurprisingly ranged from the obvious (read other’s works) to the bizarre (watching children…?).
Best Answer: I have concluded that writer’s block occurs when your subconscious mind knows that the material you are trying to construct is not pertinent, and will not be viewed as very interesting by your readers. SaturnMan · 8 months ago.
Many thanks SaturnMan for these words of sage advice.
Despite Yahoo Best Answer’s opposite of encouragement, I formulated a game plan: I will try a new suggested method every day this month and document the success of each. Prepare to be watched, children.
June 4: Create a good playlist
The importance of proper music in cultivating a productive work environment was widely lauded, so I shall begin here. This playlist must be enjoyable but not overwhelming. To the under 16 crowd, this mixtape should be fire. But a cozy kind of fire, in a cabin on some snowy mountain with a golden retriever lounging somewhere nearby. As in, mellow and easy to listen to, but also motivating. Heavy on the Frank Ocean and Sunny Levine, you know what it is.
You can find my playlist here:
June 8: Necessity of boredom
Who was it that said in order to write, you have to first subject yourself to systemic, profound boredom? Oh yeah, everyone, ever.
“To ward off boredom at any cost is vulgar.”
“A certain power of enduring boredom is…essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.”
It sounds increasingly more unappealing the more I think about it. Can’t really think of anything more boring than reading about boredom, and then writing about reading about boredom. Will resume tomorrow.
June 9: Getting bored, getting uncomfortable
I have decided to go sit somewhere with a notebook and write everything down that comes into my mind. It doesn’t have to be related to what I am seeing necessarily. For instance, I am writing this. Which seems unproductive. In positive news, my playlist is excellent; I wonder what Frank Ocean is doing right now.
Half of writing is observing material in the first place, right? I am ready to be inspired world. Inspire me passersby! Do it now.
Or now is fine too.
June 12: Interacting with the world, etc.
Day two being out, watching people and passively partaking in the human experience for the win! I showered today, so at least being out in public inspires that (you are welcome, Stockholm). I went to the library yesterday and checked out some books, as I know from personal experience that replacing television with books does seem to help cultivate a certain mindset conducive to writing. Something about the brain engagement, yadda yadda plus Crime and Punishment seems appropriate in this gloomy Stockholm weather. IT IS JUNE. Why. The aforementioned appropriateness is due to the somewhat punishing nature of writing, not because I am planning a crime spree.
June 13: Engaging with others’ works
Spent the morning reading blogs and articles to get inspired to craft my own, but it just made me feel less inspired than ever. Everything to be written has already been transcribed and there is nothing left for me to contribute ever. I want to stress watch eight episodes of “Gilmore Girls” and make soup.
June 14: Engaging with others’ works 2.0
New strategy: Spotify comedy playlists. It’s exposure to new and inspirational material, without directly correlating to what I wish to compose and therefore feels less threatening. Caught up on “The Daily Show” and John Oliver for good measure, naturally. Some might call this procrastination, and they would be correct.
Afterwards I picked up my copy of Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs because I have always identified with his writing style. At work a man comes in, shade-less lamp in hand and I make him a cappuccino that he quietly drinks by the window. Afterwards I feel compelled to write a story about the rest of his day. I feel the need to write. Hurray! I scribbled notes in the horrendous, miniature baby blue notebook emblazoned with a gold “K” my mom gifted me for Christmas, and after I returned home I pulled out my laptop and typed for an hour. It’s shit, but it exists.
June 15: Keep a notebook
My poetry professor mentioned one day that the brain functions differently when you type versus write on a page. I’m not sure as to whether this is true, or if it is which one is preferable, but for me I have always thought best on a physical page. Typing affords a more streamlined thought to page flow, but my thoughts are always more cohesive and dare I say “inspired” when I am writing on a page. Now, no one can read what I have written on said page other than myself but the sentiment remains. If the words aren’t coming to me on the blank word document, I have always found a switch to paper helps. The notebook to the rescue!
June 17: Maybe this is working
In the writing mood today! Excellent. I made coffee and began typing everything that came into my brain. Editing can come later. I made a list of things about this year that were just the weirdest, as well as the new iPhone updates that are unnerving. They are plentiful and include an app called “Hitta Vanner” on my Swedish phone, which means “Find Friends” via GPS, but I like to call “Murder Me Now.” It appears that this app tracks your location allowing others with an iPhone to locate you. It also keeps track of your menstrual cycle, which is creepy but also useful, but also creepy.
June 18: Allocating time
Since it worked so well yesterday I decided to allocate specific time to write. The first hour or so of typing never seems to render much of value, but is necessary. Like a warm-up before you partake in a physical activity, if you are into that sort of thing (gag me). I suppose writing takes time and therefore perhaps this is merely another manifestation of the aforementioned boredom. I employ the method of free writing while developing research questions for my thesis, just writing everything that comes to mind about science fiction and subjectivity. Turns out there is something to this William Burroughs-ing, minus the heroin. Coffee is consumed, and hours pass. Four hours to be specific.
June 24: Opposite day
After about a week of extreme productivity, I have hit a wall. All my advancement throughout this month seems to have landed me right back where I started mojo-wise. And with my despair returns the creepy uncle usage of the M word.
During these 30 minutes I Just Do It while wearing my Just Drunk tank top (don’t ask).
I decide to do the exact opposite of what I normally do. i.e. no coffee, I leave the apartment without making my bed (something I am fairly particular about). I allow my living space to remain a total mess and take myself to the movies. I buy popcorn and candy, and watch Star Wars. Just kidding, I would never do that. But I do go see Joy, which coincidentally is about an inspirational and vivacious woman. Yes, we are incredibly behind with movies in Sweden.
I still don’t want to write, but I feel like giving myself some space alleviates some of the self-generated pressure. I make dinner and don’t open my laptop all day. I call my mom to chat about her new shoes, and read the new Harper Lee book (which is the worst).
June 27: Reset
After a few blissful days sans writing, making people coffee and rotting my brain with shitty television and alcoholic beverages, I am ready to get my act together. It feels good to eat a vegetable, and vacuum my floor. I put away my laundry, tweezed my eyebrows, and bought new toothpaste.
June 30: Just Do It
I hate Nike and at least 75 percent of all physical activities. I generally hate doing most things I am supposed to do, and I truly excel at not doing them. That being said I am slowly beginning to realize the dread of doing a task typically supersedes the reality of the task itself. So I stay in bed to wrap up this experiment on the second to last day of June. I’m not sure what it feels like to have a “mojo” back: Maybe this is it.
I do know I am writing again every day, even if just a little bit and I that have a deadline in two weeks for a draft of my thesis. I wake up every morning, make coffee and set an alarm for 30 minutes. During these 30 minutes I Just Do It while wearing my Just Drunk tank top (don’t ask). I sit down at my computer and type because my thesis is due in a month and I don’t have time to dawdle. For 30 minutes I write and then take a 15-minute break.
I have been tricking myself into doing this a few times a day: right when I wake up, with a glass of wine on my balcony after dinner, when I get home from work, while pasta is cooking, when on vacation at my friend’s country house. Breaking it down into small, manageable chunks of time makes the whole project seem less daunting. It seems to me that fighting writer’s block is a perpetual struggle, one without any definitive solution. Sometimes I will not feel like writing, but once I begin the words come, and the longer I let the idea of being mentally congested dictate my habits the more stressed I become. So, for now I think I will “Just Do It.”