How To Write Good Stuff

Tips For Fellow Angsty Writers: Part I

So I’m in this screenwriting class for my Creative Writing major, and needless to say, I’m still stuck on assignment number one: Come up with a great idea for a story. My professor didn’t even ask us to come up with an idea – oh no, he demanded we provide a great one. Naturally, I’ve been mentally tortured and crying over this agonizing task for days; my obsessive nature has (yet again) paralyzed my ability to achieve rational thought. I am stuck. No idea of mine is novel or interesting, ever.

What constitutes a great idea for a piece of writing, anyway? What is greatness itself? My stomach growls. Pondering this abstract, profoundly philosophical question, I turn to Tostito Chips, putting off the assignment yet again.

In fact, it seems that every time I sit down these days, I am met with the horrifying realization that I’ve completely forgotten how to write anything, let alone anything halfway decent. I work at the Writing Center, so naturally, I’m good at being critical, at least in a literary sense. I am hired, essentially, to succumb to my over-analytical nature. But my perpetual awareness of everything wrong in the world around me is quite crippling. I suspect this is what prevents me from writing anything at all until the last possible moment.

Deep breath, and begin. “The girl walked…” Backspace. No. Ugh. What a cliché. I need more fresh language (as my professor last semester would perpetually scold). Tell me something nice and interesting. Then I’ve got that eerie, devilish voice in my head reminding me that I’m a nineteen-year-old Jewish girl from New York and have nothing remotely interesting to say, nor an ounce of meaningful wisdom to offer.

Putting off the assignment for yet another moment, I’ve resolved to contribute a little something for my fellow writers. I’ll endeavor to compile a short list of tips that will hopefully remedy my writer’s block. I can’t tell you how to come up with the greatest idea ever, but I think I can help you start. These are some things that, when I run into difficulties writing, I like to remind myself of:

 

Rule #1: Just start. Do it.

Starting: absolutely the hardest part. Eradicating the presence of Facebook and I-chat from the screen, X-ing out of Safari and Firefox, opening up a blank word document, and beginning. Admittedly, I’m the biggest procrastinator ever, so – while acknowledging this hypocrisy – I’m going to suggest you do something, and you might find it challenging, but bear with me. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself you’ve done this before, and you can do it again. Stop focusing on irrelevant circumstances as an excuse not to write anything down (i.e. “I’m too tired/hungry/bored” or “I should come back to this when I feel more inspired,” or “It’s too loud in this room, I can’t concentrate!”). First off, it is extraordinarily rare (albeit beautiful) to feel 100% motivated and inspired to compose your masterpiece at the exact moment you should decide to start it. Don’t wait for something to just magically hit you – it won’t. But you can help induce it. Hence,

 

Rule #2: Come up with a formula to compel your fingers to move across the keyboard.

Mine is this: pick the emptiest study lounge you can find. Make a no-going-online-for-at-least-an-hour rule. Pop in some headphones and play some Radiohead/My Morning Jacket/Some-Other-Admittedly-Pretentious-Obscure-Indie-Rock band (preferably music devoid of words – they’re distracting and often depressingly eloquent compared to whatever you’re about to compose; anyway, this music isn’t for pleasure, it’s uh… background thinking noise). Chew some gum, have a reassuring cup of coffee at your side. And just go for it. And really go for it, you owe that much to yourself. Write a lot. Don’t stop.

 

(to be continued…)

 



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