Death to Stock Writing Prompt #1
The obstacle & the path: what’s your biggest creative challenge, and how do you overcome it?
When I was in grade 3, I wrote a story about a giant donut that rolled through a town, creating mass destruction to whatever was in its path. The pieces of the story that did make it to my staple bound book were descriptions of the townspeople having to rebuild after this donut, which came out of nowhere, created such havoc in their little community.
What I remember most about the exercise was not the story itself, but the criticism my teacher gave me when she called me to her desk to deliver my grade. “While this story is very fun, you are not giving me the whole picture. You see the story in your mind, but seem to be having difficulty explaining what exactly it is you are envisioning. I don’t know what you’re thinking in there,” she said as she tapped my forehead. “This story is not just for you. There are so many gaps that need to be filled and because of that, the story is read as sloppy and incomplete.”
I am a storyteller; I know this much is true.
The struggle of incomplete concepts is something that has tainted my work over the years. Even now at age 28, I’m hyper-aware of this issue. For example, I have this bad habit where instead of fully developing a concept, or jotting it down in my notebook for later, I spend five minutes writing up a quirky observation, full of grammatical errors and plot holes and send to my friends or followers via texts, Twitter or Instagram. We all have a laugh; they shower me in appraisal, and then minutes later it’s over. Instead of fully developing it, I’ve traded it in for the immediate gratification of telling an antidote. Another piece, another storyline, another journal entry gone because of my straight up laziness. I am my own worst enemy. Writing doesn’t come easy for anyone, but I treat this gift, this incredible, powerful tool I have as if I don’t need to polish it.
I’ve done this with a lot of things in my life. I did it with singing, I did it with alto saxophone, I did it with piano… The easier it is for me to pick something up, the faster I tend to drop it and run in the complete opposite direction. Sure, struggling with the dark thoughts and voices of anxiety and depression are huge benefactors into why I self-sabotage. I fear that putting 100% into myself is just a waste of time. It’s as if I don’t want to take that leap and because of this, I’ve wrapped myself comfortably in the dark shawl of self-doubt. But aside from things I cannot control, I know that working on “me” is not a strong suit of mine. And because writing is such an important part of my life, it becomes one of those daily projects that I decide to put off. Those same burdens that make me wake up at night heart pounding, anxious about the sea of things that I need to change about myself. Writing has just become another wave that pulls me under.
Because I constantly find myself crashing into this wall between my imagination and my typing fingers, it’s easy to become discouraged. Being truthful, my biggest fear is knowing that I’ve dropped writing cold turkey for months at a time, despite it being my primary source of income for the past seven years. And with this recent layoff from the agency, I’m terrified that if I do not push myself to write every day and to exercise my brain, I will not only lose this tool that has not only given me a steady paycheque for my entire adult life but also my self-identity.
Originally published at quirkywhitegirl.com on February 18, 2016.