Help!! Writing Struggles

There’s something I’ve begun to notice during my senior year in college. As an English major, specifically Creative Writing, my focus is on fiction. But…

I never have been, and I’m afraid I never will be a good poet. I was in need of an extra creative writing elective, so I enrolled in Intermediate Poetry Writing. It has been the toughest, most humbling, and frustrating experience I could have imagined.

Here I am, an editor of the University’s annual creative writing publication, and I can’t even write poetry. Luckily I can recognize and appreciate good poetry, but when it comes to creating it, it’s almost as if I’m too literal minded.

Has anyone else had this experience? Conquered it? Still struggle with it? I could use some feedback here. What are some strategies you use to get the juices flowing? How can I get past my overwhelming urge to put prose on paper??

How to Feel

In workshop today, the class critiqued my new short story, and the response was mostly positive. I got an A on the story, AND my professor wrote in my critique that the story reminded him of Dean Koontz’s writing. I could barely fit my head through the door of the classroom when it was over. 😀

To read an exerpt of the story, go here

Just a Piece of Paper

Just a Piece of Paper

There’s nothing more frightening than a blank piece of paper. It’s the unsurety of it all really. What begins as something seemingly simple, like 28 or 30-something impossibly straight, horizontal lines printed across a blank slate has potential. That’s the scary part.

A piece of paper’s life span can be reduced to the time it takes someone to write two or three sentences, read them over, and hastily scribble through them before the paper is wadded up and thrown away forever. Those two or three sentences could have moved mountains, but they cease to exist in that one frustrated moment following conception and rejection.

A piece of paper can be the backdrop for the scribblings of a 4 year old or the inpatient doodles of an important executive. Which is more powerful? The four-year-old might grow up and one day find his/her scribbles stashed away somewhere safe, among many other treasures that were saved out of love. Those incoherent scribbles could be worth more than the executive’s $15 million deal he/she was negotiating over the phone as they mindlessly doodled. Nobody saves those doodles.

A piece of paper can hold a love letter, a thank you note, an invitation, an apology. It can be used to form relationships, mend broken ones, and just as easily destroy seemingly healthy ones–a folded up phone number left in someone’s pants pocket, or a letter meant for one person that falls into the wrong hands.

A piece of paper can be powerful, insightful, and inspiring. It can hold knowledge and allow others to learn and share in the knowledge of someone long dead, across the world, or just down the street. This knowledge can encourage enlightenment and betterment, and it can ruin people. Knowledge is power. People abuse power every single day.

A piece of paper can form a religion. It can hold powerful words that people will worship and be willing to die for. The paper can encourage people to be good, humble beings, or it can demand assimilation. It can promote self-acceptance or it can promote genocide.

A piece of paper can hold the deepest secrets of a teenaged girl–who she has a crush on, how her parents just don’t understand, and the fact that she thinks she might be ready to have sex. Another piece of paper a little further along in the same notebook may be stained with tears and realizations that came too late.

A piece of paper can be the only conduit for someone who’s suffering. They can put their feelings on that paper and then they can say they’ve shared them. They can use the paper to reach out for help, or they can use it to lie to their families and say everything’s okay. Some might even use that paper to say their final goodbyes and “I love you”s before they leave the world that has always been a hell for them.

A piece of paper can begin an epic journey, a heart-wrenching love story, a deeply emotional poem, or a hilarious comedy. People live and die on these pieces of paper. They love and mourn. They exist.

A piece of paper has potential… The potential to begin, end, mend, destroy, teach, create, learn, get lost, find yourself or something that’s been missing, hold memories–good and bad, and record lives–real and imaginary.

A piece of paper has potential, and it’s magical.

Writing in My Sleep – The Heroic Story of an Over-Worked and Under-Paid Muse

Throughout the course of my day, I spend a considerable amount of time performing the more non-literary duties of my life. During these off-duty activities, I will often find myself coming up with a clever opening line, character idea, story idea, quote, or something just completely random that pops into my head that I happen to find witty at the time.

This happens to a lot of creators, I think. We all come with these adorable little mini engines in our brains (I call mine Geoffrey) that tirelessly run in the backgrounds of our minds, behind everything else at all times, attempting to create. Every once in a while, it’ll spit something out while we’re folding underwear and watching Breaking Bad, washing the dishes, or tweezing stray hairs that have somehow managed to find their way to a part of the body they just aren’t supposed to be. What’s up with that anyway? I mean, it isn’t just me, is it?

Anyway. Where was I? Oh yes…

So I’ve made a habit of stopping what I’m doing, grabbing my phone or a notebook (whichever is closest), and writing these ideas down the minute I think of them because you never know when consulting the “Randomly Generated Thought Catalog” might come in handy or be your only option to combat the dreaded -stage whisper- writer’s block.

All that being said, imagine my surprise when I checked my phone yesterday shortly after I woke up and saw this:


My initial thoughts:
(A) That some kind of Alien lifeform had attempted to contact me using a crudely sketched memo on my Android.
(B) That a tiny Woodland elf had made his way into my home and attempted to add Keebler Tollhouse cookies to my grocery list, but being so small, he was forced to skate across my phone screen, explaining the horrible penmanship.

After dismissing these ideas as unlikely, I realized that I must have had one of my randomly generated thoughts and written myself a note in my sleep.

I spent some time deciphering the text, and it seems to say “something about how he tied his shoes. ” I have no idea if this was part of a dream I was having or if my unconscious self thought it would be a great character description… But apparently there was just something about how someone tied their shoes that inspired me to the point of being able to sleep-navigate my phone to the memo gadget and attempt communication with my conscious self.

Considering the effort Geoffrey went through to convey this message to me, I feel like i owe it to him to take this suggestion seriously and write a short story right away… With the first line being, “There was just something about the way he tied his shoes.” Maybe his habit of double knotting showed self-doubt.  Who knows? But I’m going to give it a shot.

I know by now you’re all on the edge of your seat. So stay tuned for the rest of the story….

My Literary Resolutions for 2015

While I almost never actually go through with resolutions, I think that, writing-wise, I could always benefit from resolving to do better. So all things considered, these are my literary resolutions for 2015.

1. I have a horrible tendency to only write when I have a lot of free time and the conditions are perfect… like when no one is home or everyone’s asleep, I’m in a productive mood, and I have several hours to spare, I will get everything together and sit down to do this super complicated chore.  But in reality, writing isn’t a chore, and it isn’t always complicated.  I want to get better at being able to write in small pieces. Just boot up the computer or get out the notepad and write.

2. Which leads me to number two. I want to TRY to write more by hand. I have carpal tunnel, and while typing is bad for it, handwriting seems worse. By the time I get through one page, my hand is completely numb. However, my Dr told me about some wrist stretches, and I’m going to give them a shot. While handwriting takes longer than typing, I believe it’ll help me be more concise in my writing and to learn that I don’t always have to go back and change that same word or phrase fifteen times to get it just right. Sometimes the first word that comes to mind is best.

What about you? Any New Year Resolutions literary or otherwise?

Anxious, Depressed, and Literarily Inclined

My initial intention was to create a cookie-cutter writer’s blog about books, writing, reading, more writing, and even writing about writing. However, at the last moment, a large part of me staged a surprisingly intense intervention with the smaller part of me. Differences were hashed out, a die was cast, and a compromise was made. If I’m going to put myself out here and attempt to portray an even remotely honest version of myself, I’m going to be real. No sugar, no candy coating, and no frilly decor. Just plain old, unadulterated me. So . . . Here it is.

This is my blog—a blog about real life, living with anxiety and depression, the ups and downs of marriage, and of course writing, reading, words, grammar, books I love, books I hate, and everything literary. Writing is a major part of who I am, but I’d be kidding myself and you if I pretended not to be dramatically affected by the other important parts of myself. Some may call them imperfections, and I’ll admit, there are times when I would wholeheartedly agree, but those imperfections make me who I am. As cliché as that is, it’s also true. Why do you suppose so many famous authors suffered from depression, anxiety, alcoholism, etc.? The troubled simply have more to write about.

That being said . . . I pledge to be brutally honest, even when it’s ugly. Especially when it’s ugly. Because somewhere out there, someone else feels the way I feel, somebody else is struggling alongside me, and maybe they have an intense passion for the written word as well. Who knows? Either way, if I had to choose between entertaining thousands and helping a few, I would help. Every single time.

So . . . I’m Brandy. Welcome to my blog. Welcome to my life. I’ll warn you; it’s rocky, but we have life vests. I will dedicate my next few blog posts to further introducing myself and the different challenges I face, and then we’ll get to the good stuff.