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 I can't write anymore. 
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Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 11:51 pm
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Post I can't write anymore.
I just can't. I don't know why.

I love to write, but lately I've found it more and more difficult and intimidating to sit down and actually get any real writing done. At one time I was happily working on academic essays for school, poetry, tentative screenplays and even piecing together a novel and it was no sweat. I felt best about myself when I was able to sit down and let the language flow and see what came out when I could let the creative part of my mind take over. But something about this past year changed that.

I guess it started with school. Since I enjoy writing, and because it's something creative that I can perform on my own time and convenience instead of having to rely on others like with filmmaking, I decided to make English my major and began taking as many creative writing and literature courses as I could. For a while I viewed it as a welcome opportunity to refine my skills and improve in areas where I had less experience, but this past semester was the most arduous of my college career so far. I had two very tough literature courses, both with extensive and demanding reading requirements, plus a political philosophy course with its own abstruse texts and an elective, all of which ended up being reading and writing intensive. The busier I got, the more my composition suffered and I began making grades that I consider inadequate for where I feel like I should be in terms of aptitude, especially when compared to past achievements that have always come effortlessly. These grades weren't bad by any means, but it was still a major blow to my confidence and now, for some reason, every time I sit down to write anything, whether it's a research paper or a casual email, I'm overcome with anxiety, which harms my performance even more, and that in turn damages my resolve and forms a downward spiral in which I've now found myself trapped.

As far as I can tell, this alteration in my mindstate began when I declared a writing major and made the decision to become more well-read and more capable as a writer. It's like as soon as I made it official, I started to feel pressure that wasn't there before, and it's due to my own expectations of what I feel like I should be capable of. It's always been like this for me. The same thing happened when I started seriously pursuing filmmaking. When I feel like it's contigent on me to produce results and to be good at something that will define me, I get encumbered by my own scrutiny and dissatisfaction. I've always been my own worst critic, but now it's actually become a detriment because I'm so frozen with uncertainty that I can't get anything done. And I don't know how to overcome my own literary stage fright.

Anybody ever experienced anything similar? I'm tired of tormenting myself but for whatever reason I can't get over this anxiety.

Edit: By the way, it took me twenty minutes to type this message.

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Mon May 30, 2011 8:45 pm
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Tue May 31, 2011 5:06 am
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Post Re: I can't write anymore.
It's easy to let stress get the better of you, especially in situations like yours. May I suggest taking a break from any non-school related writing for a few days? Sometimes removing yourself from the situation for a moment lets you clear your head.


Wed Jun 01, 2011 12:45 am
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Post Re: I can't write anymore.
Hate to say it but personally I think there's something to be said for not making your passion your vocation. I came out of film school and went straight into freelance video production, and two years later I hadn't produced one video that was mine. Doing it full time on other people's projects sapped my energy for working on my own films, and I just got tired of it altogether after a while. So I detoured off into web & interactive development for the next 5-6 years and only really started getting back into filmmaking a few years ago - pursuing it almost entirely as a hobby this time & doing mostly my own projects. The upshot of that is that a lot of filmmaking opportunities are coming my way now, but because I'm not dependent upon them to pay my rent I can turn down ones that I'm not really excited about. Of course I still have to juggle my time to do both the film work and the paying gigs, but I find it much easier now that they don't overlap significantly.

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Fri Jun 03, 2011 8:30 pm
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Post Re: I can't write anymore.
Totally been there. I haven't even pushed anything into actual production stages since Contour. Only recently did I start anything real, for similar reasons. I had a long 5.5 year span of fulltime jobs and nightly attempts at writing good things. Nothing stuck. Then a huge change happened that really messed with my head and something popped out that I cared about. It sounds lame for me to say "wait for the moment", but a major event plus a random idea I wrote turned into my project. The whole time has been pure anxiety for me too. It's not exactly relaxing to write, is it?

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Sun Jun 05, 2011 8:21 am
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Post Re: I can't write anymore.
It definitely isn't, especially once you've set a precedent of success for yourself or others. For me it was a short story I wrote last semester. It was an ambitious project for me and required many more hours and much more focus and experimentation than I had put into any previous work, and everything just sort of came together and the result was one of the best pieces I've written to date. But after it became acknowledged as such by my professors, classmates, friends, family, coworkers and everyone else I sent copies to, I began to feel like the next thing I wrote had to be better or longer or more creative and from that point it wasn't about creating fun ideas through words, it was about performance.

There are probably a lot of situations involving transition to higher levels of perceived performance that are comparable in breeding anxiety: job promotions, professional sports drafts, subsequent works of an artist who has enjoyed some acclaim. But for me it's my own expectations of myself, which is infinitely tougher to cope with.

I'll figure it out. In fact, just making this thread was cathartic, in a way, as verbalizing your doubts sometimes helps you rationalize them and makes it acceptable to be imperfect.

Cluff: I've been trying to implement that very strategy. In the end I do think it's better to come off as unique than to be the greatest writer (or filmmaker or martial artist, etc.) in a conventional style, so I don't worry too much about my academic writing capabilities. I figure if I'm able to find a creative style that's distinct, then it's going to stand out even if it's less sophisticated.

Kindler: Done and done.

Divergent: The thought occured to me a few days ago while registering for classes for Fall. Not that I would be confined by an English degree, which are fairly versatile and able to serve different industries, but by constantly surrounding myself with writing in the context of school and profession, necessity, success, grades, career, that type of mentality, I may be souring myself to a process that should be about freedom and expression. It's a little late to jump ship now, but grad school may change my focus, and if writing as an activity can't always remain sacred, at least my own creative works can be salvaged by acting as comfort and escape from more tedious literary duties.

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Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:47 pm
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