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Random Tidbit: Fever Dream

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When I was younger I had a reoccurring fever dream.

The first scene was a little girl and her grandmother eating at a table with a white and red checkered tablecloth and a small vase with a white flower in it.  All I could hear was the clanking of cutlery and some quiet classical music. Then it would switch to the second scene where these giant, sweaty, faceless construction workers were moving these huge concrete tubes around an endless shipping yard.  Everything was loud and industrial and there was dust in the air.  Then back to granny and her little charge, then back to the men and the muscles and the concrete. Classical music then thundering thunks and clanks.

It terrified me.

Because the girl and her granny were so small and soft and everything else was so large and hard. I felt there was no way they could survive in a world like that.  There was no place for them in all the enormity.  I was filled with a deep, aching and memorable existential angst.  How could they live?  How could any of us live?

When I was younger I didn’t recognize the feeling as existential angst so it only registered as terror.  But now I understand.  Sometimes I feel certain things are too small for this large world and I know what the dream was trying to illustrate: the impossible juxtaposition of our tiny, fragile existence against the infinite universe.

It’s interesting to know that my fears as a child aren’t unlike the things that gnaw at me today.

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Afraid to Speak

ImageI am currently writing a book that is a mix of both fiction and non-fiction.  In the book both Ben and I discuss gender and sexuality and offer our opinions on defining men and women and our own sexuality.

This scares me.

  Everywhere you look there are writers getting in deep shit for writing something contentious, for writing their true feelings or even for tweeting the ‘wrong thing’.  It’s a big bad world out there full of millions of people ready to leap on you for the smallest ‘misstep’.

This clearly isn’t new.  Before the legions of internet trolls and angry groups of activists there were people with pitchforks and torches and before that there were beheadings and scallopings and all manner of painful torment for people who just wanted to express themselves.

I certainly wouldn’t go so far to compare myself with great philosophers who have been murdered for speaking up, but I do know some of my opinions and feelings will be contentious and that worries me.

I’m not one to stay quiet, I never have been.  It’s caused me no shortage of stress of course and on many occasions I’ve been verbally assaulted for my views.  But I just can’t shut up.  I feel the need to say how I feel, say it loud and write it in books and try to get them published so everyone can read them.  It’s kind of a little self destructive I guess.  I mean I could pick something nice and safe to write about, couldn’t I?  But no.  I have to be interested in the things people get riled up about.  I choose to write about sex, gender, abuse, psychopathy, drugs, death.  I choose to write about topics that scare me or make me uncomfortable.

When I’ve really piped up and shared my feelings and thoughts I’ve been called many horrible names and had people go off on me, cease listening and just overwhelm me with their anger.  I’ve even been called a murderer because of some of my views.  But still I go back for more.

I don’t want to be afraid to speak but I am sometimes.  I’m only human, I care about what other people think of me and I don’t want to offend.  But I also want to be true to myself, I want to be honest in my writing and I don’t want to shut up just because the trolls might come banging on my door.

So what’s a girl to do?

Write.  Just keep saying what I want to say.  Because what other choice do I have?  I clearly want to venture onto contentious ground and if I didn’t I wouldn’t be me.

So here are my rules for self expression for those who want to speak up and are afraid to do so:

1) It’s alright to express yourself no matter what.
2) It’s alright to change your mind.  The things you have said in the past might not apply in the future.
3) Feelings are subjective and oftentimes neither right or wrong.
4) Try not to fret over people who refuse to listen or understand your perspective and feelings.
5) Philosophy and practicality are two different things.  It’s alright to discuss things from a top down view.
6) Just say it.
7) If you’ve changed your mind don’t be afraid to admit it.
8) Write, write, write!

How do you get past the barriers of being afraid to speak?

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Beating Writer’s Block

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In my experience, writer’s block means one of two things.  Either fear of moving forward, or being lost in the woods of your imagination.  I suppose it could just be a bad day too, but those pass more often than not without much ado, so let’s stick to the big two.

Tell fear to fuck off

Ben said a great thing to me once: ‘being angry is better than being sad’.  At the time I was trying to overcome a phobia (agoraphobia triggered by the subway) and it was the best advice I’d ever gotten.  So I started swearing at my fear, under my breath of course.  I tried my best to think of all the things in the world that made me angry and I got pissed.  I told my fear to fuck off and it worked.  Getting sad or low about writer’s block will probably only serve to send you into a funk that ends with you sitting on your bed, watching the ceiling fan and thinking about nothing.  But that’s just boring.  So before you get sad, get angry.  Try giving your writer’s block a few mental kicks and a little bit of rage then settle yourself down and…

Just write

Write anything.  It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the offending novel or story that got you into this mess in the first place.  Write a list of your favorite foods, make up a character and write about him or her, write about a day at the beach gone horribly wrong.  Don’t think too much, just write, no pressure for greatness, footloose and fancy free.  Once you get back in the saddle of free and imaginative writing, you’ll remember why you love it, I promise.

Don’t try to be amazing

While in the midst of this ‘just write’ trance, don’t try to be awesome, don’t try to write the next great novel or story that you want to have published by the New Yorker.  Just write because you love it and it feels good and real and wonderful.  Trying to be amazing is a fool’s errand anyway because everyone has different opinions on what greatness is, so it’s up to you to find out what YOU love, not what everyone else loves.  So after you’ve done the anger, then the free form joyful remembering why you love writing, it’s time to find your way again.

Make a map

Don’t be one of those people who doesn’t want to ask for directions out of pride or the feeling that you ought to just ‘know’ which way is west.  Make yourself a map.  If you’re writing a novel this will look an awful lot like a story outline and if you’re like me and writing a fantasy novel (yes my short story suddenly turned into a novel) then it will be an actual map.  Structure and form can often be helpful for writers, even if we’re used to flailing about and simply ‘being creative’.  Order is good, but remember you only make lines so you can colour outside of them.

So now that we have the big two covered, let’s take a quick peek at the other options for beating that jerky writer’s block.

Exercise

I know you’ve already done your 30 minutes of exercise today, because it’s healthy and you can’t just sit around writing all day long letting your muscles atrophy, but when writer’s block strikes, it’s time to get up and move.  Exercise is awesome for a million reasons.  It loosens you up, gives you time to think, makes you feel good and apparently, makes your brain bigger!  Holy cow, how awesome is that?  Go now!  Run or walk (preferably in nature as that has stress reducing benefits as well) and get your brain working for you!

Talk to someone

Ben is my muse.  We get endless hours of enjoyment from planning out my stories and novels together.  If I’m facing writer’s block there’s nothing like a half hour walk with my honey to get me back on track.  Find yourself someone you can trust and bounce your ideas off them.  Writing doesn’t have to be a stoic, lonely thing and there’s no shame in talking it through.

Have an adventure

Go out there and live, then come back and write about it.  The world is a big place, filled with inspiration and excitement.  If you spend all your time at your computer writing about life, you might just end up not having anything to write about.  Go live it up and don’t be afraid to take a moment away from your writing, it will still be there when you get back…I promise.

Okay that’s all.  If you’ve done all these things and still have writer’s block, perhaps it’s time to switch gears and start a new project.  Leave your old one behind and give it some breathing room, then come back to it in a couple of months and see if it still has legs.

What do you do to beat writer’s block?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!