Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why I Can't Write

Out for workshopping and lattes with a group of fellow writers last night, we got around to discussing why we weren't getting our work done. All of us work wildly different hours-- from hectic freelance schedules, to full-time jobs, to part-time work with long commutes. And though I suppose we could have all been using that time to write, instead of using it to dissect our lack of creative output, I reached a conclusion: my writing superstitions are preventing me from actually writing.

Yes, I'm busy. I work, I'm in school, I have multiple projects on multiple burners and a chaotic personal life that has spiraled into even great chaos since the beginning of 2012. But truth be told, I have the time to write. I like staying up late and could be writing at 10pm. But I don't. Because my rituals surrounding writing have gotten so strict that they prevent me from taking advantage of those random little pockets of time that appear.

Most importantly, I have to be at a cafe. And preferably Red Horse Cafe near my home in Brooklyn, NY (please don't stalk me! I need all the time I spend there to be writing focused and not stalker-avoidance-focused!) I also need a hot drink. More than that, I need it to be my first hot drink of the day. This means I will occasionally deprive myself from coffee for HOURS, just so that when I sit down to write, it is my first hit of caffiene. This is a terrible, relationship-hindering, nap-inducing superstition that is based on nothing. I also need to have at least three hours of free time, prefer to be showered and hair-straightened, and cannot be hungry.

Oh yeah, and I like the table to myself. When some poor soul wants to share the table with me, I might as well pack it in right then and there, because I will be too flustered to write anything worthwhile.

My neighborhood cafe closes early, so once 8pm hits, I'm out of luck. I will, in desperate times, write in my apartment, but the work feels stale, and lacking in joy. It doesn't feel like actual writing, without all the ritual. And I don't trust myself to do good work, without all my superstitious hoopla helping out.

So what's a girl to do? Develop new, evening-friendly rituals? Or give in to the pull of superstitions and accept that my quirks make me a charming and neurotic writer? Have you ever had luck in abandoning superstition and ritual in order to become more productive? And is the joy still there, even if the rituals aren't?


  1. I hear ya! I need to be at my fave booth at Panera Bread with a cup of hazelnut coffee. However, I recently de-cluttered my office area at home, so I am getting some writing done there. But come Saturday...Panera, here I come!

  2. Loved this! Completely get it. I think because we don't really understand how creativity works, we are all bound to surround it in superstition -- if I do “list of silly things” it will come. I'm guessing its not that much different than making sacrifices to the gods. Maybe with time, you will trust your creativity more and need that desk to yourself a little less? I haven’t gotten there myself yet, so I’m struggling along with you. I can share a desk and write on my second, third, or fourth cup of coffee, but when the sun starts to set, I can no longer write. Daylight savings time is my best friend.

  3. That's an interesting idea, that it's a trust thing. I do think I want inspiration and creativity and the actual writing to FEEL a certain way, and when it doesn't FEEL that way, I'm disappointed. Have you guys listened to Sara Zarr's new podcast? She's addressing things like this in her talks with writers on creativity, and I'm finding I feel less like a crazy person when I hear the whole range of expectations and rituals etc. good stuff. =Corey