How to Get Back Into Writing

As a writer, you’ve probably heard a lot of people say that you should write every day. This is more or less true; even if it’s not for a long time or if you barely write anything, the practice of making time to sit down and write is critical to make writing part of your natural daily routine (because let’s face it, as much as we love it, it is work, and we don’t always feel up to it).

However, there’s going to be a point when you have to take some time away from writing. You’re going to sit down for the nth time, stare at a screen for 20 minutes, and realize that you’ve got nothing, and returning to your computer time after time isn’t going to change that. So take a break. It’s healthy. It’s necessary.

However, there’s also going to be a point where your break doesn’t seem to end. You keep telling yourself you’ll start writing again tomorrow. You keep convincing yourself you still have nothing to write about. You scare yourself into thinking you don’t have what it takes to write well.

Getting back into writing can be tricky. It’s a lot like getting back into a regular exercise routine. You want to do it, but you don’t want to start small and build yourself back up to where you were before you stopped exercising. After all, you were pretty boss on the elliptical’s highest setting. To start on the lowest one again can be demoralizing, especially when you want to get back to where you were.

Unfortunately, if you’ve been away from writing for a while you might have to ease yourself back into it. Unless you’ve been struck with inspiration to write about something in particular, you could be as lost as when you stopped. That’s fine. We all get lost sometimes. The important thing is you want to at least get back into the habit of writing. To start things off, you can try some writing exercises. They might seem a little beneath you, especially if you’ve been a writer for a while. But remember that you’re also reading a post on how to get back into writing after a frustrating break, so hear me out.

Writing exercises aren’t meant to be long-term projects, and that may be exactly what you need at the moment. Maybe you’re frustrated because you can’t write anything that you want to perfect in the long run. So why not work on exercises then? They start and end in the same session, so there’s no commitment or emotional investment involved. They’re simple prompts used to work your writing muscles. Think of them like warm-up exercises. They’re meant to ease you into a much bigger challenge, not replace your exercise routine completely. You can find plenty of daily writing prompts if you search online. Some are even presented in your news feed if you follow them on social media.

Speaking of writing exercises, have you ever considered writing shit? You might have thought you’re already writing shit and that’s why you needed a break, but you were probably trying your best. Have you ever considered intentionally writing shit?

One of the best exercises from my college workshops was to write the worst thing I possibly could. Write 1-2 pages of the worst you can possibly do. Drown your exercise in cliches, poor dialogue, overuse of caps and punctuation, not enough punctuation, misspelled words, and anything else you can think of. It’s a lot of fun, and it will help you see what makes bad writing. It may even make you feel better about your own natural writing.

You’ve also probably heard of the egg timer technique. If you haven’t, it’s when you set an egg timer or another device to a specific period of time, and you do nothing but write during that time. No checking E-mails, no social media, no bathroom, no distractions whatsoever. This is a really good way to get back into writing without getting too intimidated. Set a timer for 20 minutes, 10 minutes, hell, even 5 minutes and write something. If you feel like writing after time’s up, you’re more than welcome to, but the point is to give this dedicated amount of time your undivided attention. Again, it’s like regular exercising. You can start small and build your way up as you grow accustomed to the routine.

Once you’ve gotten back into the swing of things, try thinking about what kept you in your extended break for so long. Did you get bored? Frustrated with what you produced? Try mixing things up a bit. You probably have something you specialize in. For me it’s fiction. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out and you feel like if you can’t write in your own zone, you can’t write at all. If that’s the case, try writing other stuff. Try poetry. Nonfiction. Write descriptions of things you notice outside your window. Keep a journal and write about your life. It may not be what you want to write, but it does help you continue writing, and you’ll still improve your craft along the way.

Don’t forget to read different stuff, too. If you find yourself writing the same thing again and again, maybe it’s because you’ve gotten too comfortable with reading the same stuff again and again. Go to the library and pick out the first thing you see that you would normally never glance at. (Yes, I’m encouraging you to judge a book by it’s cover. Don’t pretend like you never have.) At best, it’ll make you a more experienced reader. At worst, you’ll hate it, but at least you can still learn something from it. You can analyze it and see what made it a bad book. Again, that helps you as a writer.

At any rate, the fact that you want to start writing again is a good start. Just don’t forget to act on it. Start small and work it back into your life. Don’t focus so much on writing stuff you want published, focus on getting familiar with writing again. Then you can go back to hating what you write. 🙂

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Spring is over. Oh no. How did this happen.

It’s the last week of spring.

Huh.

I don’t want to sound like an old person reminiscing about where the time went, but I could have sworn spring just started. But according to the calendar, spring’s been around for a good 3 months now. Same length as any other season. It started at the same time, and it’s ending at the same time. No surprises.

So why is this a shock to me.

Granted, I feel as though I say this at the end of every season. Part of me is convinced I’ve reached the age where I start saying generic, small-talk phrases when I have nothing else to comment on. (“Can you believe spring’s already over? Herp-a-derp-derp-derp I’m such a boring adult. How about that new Dunkin’ Donuts that just opened down the road?”) But another part feels that spring actually does seem shorter than the rest of the seasons. So let’s look at why that may be before deciding whether or not I’ve transformed into a boring adult.

First, let’s compare holidays. Winter’s probably the king: there’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day (yes, they’re two different holidays), Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m sure some other holidays I couldn’t remember. Fall’s got Halloween and Thanksgiving, which may not seem like a lot, but both of their respective months involve a lot of decorating and prep work. Summer’s got the Fourth of July, which honestly doesn’t leave the same impact as most other holidays. But like I said last week, summer sort of feels like one long holiday anyway.

Spring’s got Easter. I guess. Easter’s fun when you’re a kid, if you hunted for eggs or got baskets, but it’s lost a lot of its charm over the years. It’s like spring said, “Hey, I don’t have any major holidays, so here’s a freebie. Use it as an excuse to see family.”

So maybe one reason’s because there isn’t a lot to look forward to in spring. Sure, everyone can’t wait for it during winter because they’re sick of the cold. But I don’t think a lot of people actually take the time to enjoy the warmer weather before it actually gets too hot or humid. Then they’ll complain and say ridiculous things like “Can you believe spring’s already over? Herp-a-derp-derp-derp I’m such a boring adult. How about that new Dunkin’ Donuts that just opened down the road?”

Here’s a second theory: spring doesn’t really have a season-long image, does it? Sure, we can all think of budding flowers and perfect weather, but how long does that really last? A week? Two? Seems like it. I used to take pictures of the blooming foliage, and I can confidently say there’s a narrow window of opportunity to capture something that truly represents spring.

Photo0047

Spring has the unfortunate responsibility of being about 40% winter, 40% summer, and 20% spring (those numbers might be a tad exaggerated). But still, this means a season of both snow and humidity, shoveling the driveway and mowing the lawn, and using both the heat and AC. Sure, fall has this problem too, but at least the fallen leaves stay on the ground long enough to give it its own identity. Spring’s like being a teenager; it’s trying to strike a balance between its previous and following stages of life, and no one knows how to deal with it.

I feel like I need a third point before I can close out this argument. Let’s see. Hmm. Do I dare blame college on yet another thing?

Well… I know every school is different, but the spring semesters at both my colleges ran from January to May. Let’s say late April to early May is ideal springtime. What exactly is a college student doing during that time? Don’t know about you, but I was losing my shit as I was buried in research papers, term papers, portfolio revisions, and last minute projects. Sure, I saw spring. While driving. Or looking out the window. But was there any time to enjoy it?

For some people, yes.

… I wan’t one of them.

And by the time the spring semester ended, spring was pretty much into its summer phase. You could make the same case for fall semesters but… I don’t know, to be honest. True, students also miss out on a lot of fall things… but…

Umm…

Hmm. I might be grasping at straws now, desperately trying to find some sort of small talk to extend this post.

… Can you believe spring’s already over? Herp-a-derp-derp-derp I’m such a boring adult. How about that new Dunkin’ Donuts that just opened down the road?

Summer Memories

Summer is such a strange season for me. I have a lot of negative memories attached to it, so if you read my post about seasonal bad memories, you might think I would generally dread June through August. But strangely, no. And lately I’ve been wondering why.

To start, I guess I can compare summer to the other seasons. Winter used to be my favorite; I prefer cooler weather, so I guess that would make the most sense. Christmas used to be my favorite holiday, and I would always look forward to the holiday season. It felt like a big welcome party for the rest of winter. But after high school, winter’s slowly been annoying me a little more each year. The end of the fall semesters in college (i.e., the holiday season) was always filled with an enormous amount of work that never seemed to end. Getting into the Christmas spirit was difficult when I had to worry about getting multiple projects and term papers finished on time. Working retail drove the nail in the coffin, and now I generally dread Christmastime. And snow… well, I’ve already written about that.

I feel like I always look forward to spring, but end up being extremely disappointed by something before it ends. Most of the time it was heartbreak, but in high school I was always fairly sad at the end of the school year because I wouldn’t see a lot of people for a few months. Fall, in all honesty, should be my favorite season. It’s arguably the most colorful and the temperature’s at my most preferred level. But it’s often when I’m the most nostalgic, and that usually puts me in a melancholy mood. I also dealt with a lot of anxiety in regards to starting school again, and I wasn’t able to enjoy a single fall throughout college because of it.

Summer just seemed… there. Like I said, I have a lot of negative memories attached to summer, especially during high school. A lot of arguments with my best friend, a lot of fights with other friends, and a lot of unexplained frustration accompanied many of my summers. Maybe that’s why it just seemed there; I kind of just… blocked it out.

But I don’t know. Lately summer hasn’t bothered me as much. It’s strange, but I almost want to say I’ve started looking forward to it. I haven’t been thinking about those negative memories for a few years. In fact, I’ve been remembering a lot of positive memories about the summer.

I went to a lot of places with my family. We went to Six Flags Great Adventure at least once per summer. Our school would give us a summer reading sheet to fill out; if we read enough, we would get free tickets to Six Flags. So naturally, I remember a lot of trips to the library. They’d have people read to the kids, and after we’d search for books to borrow. I remember experiencing a lot of Goosebumps books this way, in particular Egg Monsters From Mars, The Beast From the East, and The Cuckoo Clock of Doom (although I only remember what the last one was about; I guess the covers are what I remember most).

I have some memories of visiting the boardwalk a lot, too. I’m sure we were on the beach at some point during those trips, but I remember the boardwalk more. I recall walking the shore streets to actually get there. My mom didn’t want to pay for parking, so we usually found an empty spot on the street several blocks away. Honestly, I don’t blame her. Parking at the beach can be a bitch, and how are we supposed to know how long we’re going to stay? Do we risk putting in too much money and lose it if we leave early? Or do we risk not putting in enough and getting a fine if we stay too long?

There were always a lot of flashing lights and sounds from all the boardwalk games. There were a ton of prizes I wanted to win. South Park became very popular in the late 90s, and I really liked how all the characters looked. Even though my parents wouldn’t let me watch it because I was too young, they let me win some merchandise. I have a couple of key chains with the boys on it, I think I had some wind-up toys or figures, and my mom even won me a fairly large Kenny doll. Yup, my mom won me a toy from a show she wouldn’t allow me to watch. Kind of weird, in retrospect. But I guess not as weird as the time when she won me a Red Dog doll from the Red Dog beer line.

Hmm. Perhaps mom wasn’t always the best influence. Anyway…

The arcades were also really fun. Aside from The Simpsons Arcade Game, I don’t remember playing a lot of specific video games at the boardwalk. I’m sure I tried out those jet ski simulation games, the racing games, and the on-rail shooters, but nothing in particular comes to mind. As much as I loved video games, they were strangely the least appealing part of the arcade for me. I don’t know why, but I remember being drawn to a lot of crane games instead. They always had prizes I desperately wanted but could never win (that talent belonged to my sister), but I would always invest my money in the “play until you win” games so I could at least walk away with something. Ski ball and air hockey were also a lot of fun. Hell, any game that gave me tickets was appealing in its own way. I remember wanting to save up enough so I could get myself something really cool, like a Game Boy or a bike. Sadly, I could never get that many tickets. Still, it was nice to dream.

Speaking of video games, summer was special. I usually just played with my best friend next door (different best friend than the ones mentioned above who I fought with) for most of the year, but during the summer our cousins visited more often and slept over a lot, so we played a lot of multiplayer games. I still clearly remember being in his room with his cousins playing Mario Party 2 and trying to figure out how to play Mario Golf. I also remember playing Pokemon Stadium a lot, as well as Pokemon Snap and Pokemon Puzzle League. It’s a little weird because I don’t remember playing these games at any other time except summer, but we played the main Game Boy ones throughout the entire year. We also played a lot of Super Smash Bros. For whatever reason, that always seemed to bring a group of people together.

I remember renting a lot of games and movies, too. There was a cool video store in a nearby shopping plaza that we often walked to. I rented a handful of games, but honestly, the only one that immediately sticks out was Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Again, I have a pretty clear mental image of me and my next door neighbor playing the game in his room when I slept over one weekend. We played the game all night while his room was decked out like a tent.

Did anyone else do that as a kid? I don’t know if I got the idea from somewhere or I started doing it on my own, but one summer I started tacking up bed sheets to the walls to make my room seem like a tent. I put comforters on the floor, took all the extra pillows and blankets in the house, and made a cool camp-like hideout in my room. My parents didn’t like it, though. It was fine for us kids to come in, but it wasn’t really built for adults. But my best friend and sister liked it so much, they started doing it too, and I guess we decided to transform our rooms every summer. It sounds silly, but… there was something oddly comforting about it.

Sleepovers always seemed to happen in the summer, and at the time it was really exciting. To be at someone else’s house at night and first thing in the morning seemed so bizarre, but it was foreign and fun. Like, “Hey! You brush your teeth before going to bed, too!” Or, “Wow! You eat cereal out of a bowl just like I do!” (No, I’m not sure why things like this fascinated me. I was a strange kid.) I don’t know why it was something that happened almost exclusively during summertime. I guess parents had their hands full, taking us to different places in an attempt to keep us out of trouble, and making us somebody else’s problem for a night was their own little vacation.

You know, freedom and opportunity seem to be recurring themes here. The anxiety of school was out, my parents took my sister and I to a lot of fun places we wouldn’t normally go, and I’d spend more time with friends. When school was let out for the summer, it felt like I could do anything I wanted because I essentially had no responsibilities. Obviously things are different now, as an adult. I still have to go to work, like any other part of the year. And I’m no longer a student, so that sense of freedom at the end of the school year doesn’t exist.

Or does it? I used to dread summer because of some bad memories associated with it, but for the past few years I keep recalling my positive childhood memories. Something about the summer just seems… well, laid-back. Like maybe that’s the whole point of summer. Hell, even adults seem a little lazier during summertime. They tend to relax and see other people more instead of whining about how they’re tired after working. I don’t really have a reason to, but the approach of summer still makes me feel this odd sense of freedom and possibility.

So I think, overall, I’m actually looking forward to the summer. I don’t have any major plans but… well, maybe that’s the point.

 

Let’s Talk Books – Hyperbole and a Half

Warning: Spoilers

A couple of months ago, I was looking for interesting books in Barnes and Noble when Hyperbole and a Half practically shouted my name from a nearby display table. It’s yellow cover, youthful font style, and depiction of a roughly drawn girl that appeared to have taken a shitload of crystal meth easily piqued my interest.

I opened the book and glanced through the pages. I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of strange nonfiction/humor/picture book hybrid I found myself in, but I loved what I saw. I read one of the chapters and couldn’t help but grin like the lunatic on the cover. I would have bought it on the spot if it wasn’t a humor book (my experience with humor books has usually been bad to meh; so many are either written by funny people who can’t write well or by people who take one good joke and stretch it for too long). Granted, this one seemed different, but I didn’t want to take the gamble. $18 is a lot for a paperback. Still, it’s been something I’ve wanted to check out for a while, and I always seemed to find my way back to it on subsequent trips to the book store.

Well, while I was food shopping last week, I made a last-minute decision that I needed something funny to read. I’ve been struggling with a lot of personal crap lately, and I really, really needed to laugh. I finished buying my groceries, went to the Barnes and Noble, bought Hyperbole and a Half

… and didn’t regret anything. 🙂

I honestly don’t know what I can say about this book without actually showing it to you in person, but it’s been on my mind for the past week and I can’t stop grinning whenever I think about it. I need to say something. It’s been the first book I’ve read in a while to stick with me after I’ve finished reading it. Twice.

Well to start off, the art definitely makes the book stand out. It’s incredibly simple, very silly, very rough, but… it’s so good. Again, it’s kind of hard to describe without actually showing you, but believe me when I say it compliments each story perfectly. Allie Brosh’s art of storytelling is a treat, to say the least. It’s the kind of narrative that works well when spoken aloud, but is just as effective when written out (something I find not many people can do successfully). Again, the accompanying art helps. I honestly don’t feel like the book would be nearly as powerful if it was just pictures or words on their own. They both combine into this amazing entity that kept me laughing the entire time.

Each of the stories she tells stands on their own, as well. The book is divided into 16 separate stories (2 of which are 2-parters), and while I definitely have a stronger affinity towards certain ones, I can confidently say each one is great in its own right. Whether she’s discussing her childhood (desperately trying to eat an entire cake, competing in a showdown to see if she can drink more hot sauce than her dad’s friend, or abusing that obnoxious toy parrot that records what you say and plays it back), raising her dogs, or everyday situations, each story feels relatable, to a certain degree.

What do I mean by “relatable?” Well… you know how in New Girl, all of the characters are adults, but they’re still having trouble with finding a good career, struggling with relationships, and taking care of themselves? Or how the parents in Modern Family have this youthful charm that can put them on the same level as the kids? Or how YouTubers like Mike Falzone or How To Adult tackle issues about life responsibilities while catering to nostalgia and other familiar mannerisms?

I don’t know how to explain it, but modern media is presenting us with a lot of content that focuses on how to be a proper adult while poking fun at the shortcomings we experience when trying. Hyperbole and a Half is no exception. Brosh brings a variety of relatable topics to the table, like eating nachos for dinner, trying to take on more responsibilities than you might be ready for, and resisting the urge to be a dick when the situation calls for it.

Hmm. I think I just made being a 20-something-year-old sound really, really immature, like all we want to do is refuse to grow up. Trust me, Brosh does a better job at explaining it.

But let’s say you aren’t a 20-something-year-old. Maybe you’re an “actual” adult, and you have your shit together. Would you be able to get anything out of this book? Well, I’ll still argue that it’s hilarious, but humor is subjective and I think I’m definitely part of the intended audience.

However, I know a lot of my readers like my posts about mental wellness. If you’re one of those people, read this book. This is not a self-help book. This book will not offer you cures for things like anxiety and depression. But trust me when I say there is content in this book you’ll most likely appreciate. And I will say this: Hyperbole and a Half has the single greatest way of describing unexplained depression that I’ve ever seen. I’ll leave it at that.

You know what’s one of the greatest things I found out about this book? It’s a collection of blog entries. As a writer, I was so happy Brosh was able to turn her blog into a book. It’s a huge accomplishment, and I’m proud to own a book that originated from something someone wrote online. It’s also given me some inspiration on how to approach my own blog. I’ve wanted to try posting some art lately, and this book definitely made me consider trying it out sometime soon. After all, this blog is called Some Type of Artist, right? Maybe it should have some… art.

At any rate, I would definitely recommend reading this book. If you have doubts, at the very least go read the first few chapters in a book store. Check out Brosh’s blog, too, if you can’t find it on the shelf (although holding the actual book in your hand is definitely my preferred reading experience).

Go. Go check it out. GO!

Info for my edition of Hyperbole and a Half:

  • Published 2013 by Touchstone
  • Paperback, 384 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-4516-6617-5