I Fought Writer’s Block for Days, & All I Got Was This Lousy Food Baby

Well friends, summer is drawing to a close, but I still have a couple more guest posts lined up for your reading enjoyment. Today’s post is coming from Heather Bender, a fellow hope*writer, but more importantly, a fellow GIF-lover. It’s no secret that I would (and could) communicate solely with GIFs and still get along just fine in life. Which is saying a lot, considering I’m a writer. Heather is funny and open, and whether you’re a writer or not, you may relate with her quandary.

Enjoy!

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Amber and I met through Hope*Writers earlier this year, and we quickly found that we spoke the same bizarre twin-language of GIFs and pop culture references and the holy trinity of Poehler/Fey/Wiig and TALKING IN ALL CAPS about our various insecurities around writing. So, when Amber and I started messaging about guest-posting earlier this summer, I let myself have a zero-chill (© Amber Salhus) awkward fangirl moment:

Amber Salhus!
Is putting me on her guest post schedule!
Because she thinks I’m a “good fit” for her audience!!
OMG OMG OMG!

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OK, so fast forward to a few weeks later, when I had to actually prove it, and write.
Yeah. About that.

Thursday
I promised Amber that I’d have a post ready by Friday. Tomorrow.
Total word count: 0.

I am right this very minute stress-eating potato chip crumbs out of a paper cup and staring blankly at my laptop, desperately casting for a topic. Hint to future guest posters: Do not read the other guest posts in a misguided attempt to determine an original angle for your piece. You will only become more convinced that you have nothing interesting to add. That lack of self-confidence will crumble into despair once you realize you’ve eaten all the potato chip crumbs.

I’ve been thinking about this post for weeks, but not writing it. Because, you guys, I’ve also been busy procrastinating on other things! I have my own blog to ignore. I also have a mountain of laundry, a 10-month-old who has decided that not being held 24/7 is NOT HIS JAM, and something in the fridge that’s only getting furrier. Amber should probably get in line, because I’m busy being bad at life and writing.

Just kidding, Amber.
I love you.
I’m just cranky because I’m all out of potato chip crumbs. And ideas.

Anyway. Post promised by Friday.
Still hoping for inspiration to strike.
And it’s well into the PM’s on Thursday.
But wait: they’re East Coast PM’s, which means it’s, like, Tuesday in Oregon, right?
Nope. Also Thursday in Oregon.
And also very much into the PM’s.
$@#%.

*****

Sunday
Yep. Sunday. Still nothing substantive.
At least I have the skeleton of a post.
By skeleton, I mean I have those words up there, a few GIFs, and a vague idea of where it’s all headed. And a big bag of dill pickle popcorn because writing is hard and salt is delicious.
And, graciously, a Monday extension from Amber.

*****

Monday
MONDAY MORNING.
IT’S DUE TODAY, DUMMY.
It’s getting real. And so is writer’s block.

The words tumble out in random, loosely-connected fits and starts, lazily assembling across the screen like hungover sailors returning from shore leave. 965 words stumbling into clumsy sentences. No worries, words. Take your time. IT’S NOT LIKE WE’RE ON DEADLINE.

Monday morning turns into Monday afternoon.
Dinnertime slips into bedtime.

One by one, the boys abandon me for the lure of assigned summer reading. My husband eventually joins them after deciding that maybe it’s not much fun to sit next to me on the couch as I type, backspace and re-type random phrases, compulsively grab handfuls of Reese’s Pieces, and heave sighs of disgust.

Word count: Still 965.
Still randomly assembled.
Still hungover.

Panic ensues.

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“Don’t stay down here all night,” calls Matt from the stairs.
“OK, I won’t,” I say. “Sleep well, sweetie.”

*****

Tuesday, 2:30 a.m.

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Why, writer’s block? Why?
Why must you strike just as I’m preparing to write a piece that I’ve been excited about all summer? Why must you ruin my solid flow of late with 965 words of torturous, derivative, ham-handed nonsense?

Writing real is hard. Writing funny? Even harder. Attempting to write real and funny about your weird real self? Will kill you dead. You find yourself vomiting out your awkward little soul into your blog, then sculpting the clauses and paragraphs and punctuation into something that kind of makes sense. Chiseling out all the extraneous reallys and actuallys until you’re less convinced that everything is awful and you’re a talentless hack who should probably stop writing. Now.

Then you let that little arrow hover over the Publish button for a while and try to avoid a nervous breakdown as anxiety sets in. Because maybe you aren’t funny at all and you should immediately stop all this nonsense, or better yet, drop your laptop off the nearest cliff so no one else catches the hackyness from sharing your keyboard. You also decide that hackyness is a word.

But then, because you are fearless and brave, you do it. You click the button, and convenient automated processes release your work to the world. You start second-guessing before you even let go of your mouse. But it’s too late to take it back now. You’ve done it this time, you think. 1300 words on poop to inboxes and social media feeds everywhere. Well done, HB. Well done. ::slow sarcastic internal clap:: All you can do is wait. And hope.

The paranoia and self-doubt take over right after you check to ensure that everything went out the way you wanted it to, because THE WORLD NEEDS 1300 words on poop. Facebook, as usual, used the wrong image. Twitter truncated your cute little lead, although that one’s on you for going over 140 characters. And you’ll do a manual link through Instagram later. You could probably tie all this together in Hootsuite or something, but that’s, like, one more thing to learn and this whole hustle approach is getting beyond annoying when you BARELY HAVE TIME TO WRITE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

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It’s okay, though. You have a new follower!
And that follower is a co-worker.
A Vice President. In Human Resources.
And you just wrote about your kids and poop.
You bring an empty box to work just in case.

Just when you are entirely convinced that this is your Last Post Ever and your blog is going to die and you never not once went even kinda-viral, it happens: the view-count bar slowly stretches upward, and comments drift in from a small cadre of readers. Your tiny tribe: the ones who always show up, no matter what you turned out this week, using words like “LOL” and “in tears” and “I can’t wait for the next post.” Someone new from your writer groups reads and loves it enough to subscribe. Other new faces pop up to share related stories.

The co-workers who read your blog stop by your office to share their favorite parts.
You can put that empty box away.

34 shares and 21 subscribers. Five writers want to submit for your series.
Maybe that’s enough for right now.
Maybe it’s working after all.
Maybe you’re not so bad at writing or life.
Now go celebrate with the secret gummi bears hidden in the back of your desk drawer.

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Heather Bender cheerfully over-commits to life from her messy home in the tiny state of Delaware, which she shares with her husband and four children (the home, not the entire state). Between junk-food binges and episodes of writer’s block, Heather shares about life, family, and other disasters over at heatherdbender.com. This is her very first (and maybe last) guest post. And this is her all-time favorite GIF:

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You can find Heather all around the internet at:
www.facebook.com/heatherdbender
www.instagram.com/heatherdbender
www.twitter.com/hdbender_blog
heatherdbenderblog@gmail.com

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