How to Write When You Can’t, or: Defeating the Kobayashi Maru

This is another of my somewhat lazy blog posts, but I think it’s a good reflection to put up here, especially given my silence in the blogging world this week. Again, this has been copy and pasted from my weekly inspirational newsletter. Contact me directly if you are interested in receiving the emails.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since high school. I was the weird kid in high school, shunted to a corner because my classmates didn’t know how to handle me. In college I started to fit in better, but I hadn’t exactly learned even the level of social skills the other acting majors had, and I didn’t really fit in there well either. I changed my major, lost touch with my friends (since they were still theatre people and were incredibly busy), and lived my senior year in my room. After that I spent several years battling with some toxic relationships, and have only really started to get my feet under me in the past year and a half—owing a good chunk of that to my graduate school work and fellow classmates.

But that doesn’t make the anxiety go away. It doesn’t make the years of social training go away. And when most of that training is only inside my head, believed because I’ve made myself believe it…it gets even harder to get rid of. And those are the days like today—where I laid in bed until noon because I didn’t want to get out of bed. The days like yesterday, where I had myself convinced that I’d never accomplish anything productive. The days like Monday, when I seriously felt like finding a semi to run me over would make everything better. I’d feel bad for my partner—my friends—especially my parents. But they’d move past it. They were the strong ones. They’d find a way…the way I couldn’t.

Needless to say, I didn’t find a semi, and I’m still puttering around. But that mindset makes it very hard to write. I’ve been staring at my manuscript for days now, knowing that I’m probably five to seven thousand words away from the end. From a completed draft that I can start rewriting again, and maybe have something really shiny to show my mentor in June. But I’m not getting any farther. In two days, I have written exactly 240 words.

…It’s not like I don’t know this scene. This is the third or possibly fourth edit of this book. I know how the scene needs to go. But I can’t write it. I can’t write anything. Everything that comes out of my fingers is junk, and I just want it to burn. So instead I bury myself in video games and television. (After all, I need to catch up on SHIELD so that I can go see Winter Soldier, yeah? Kid’s gotta have priorities.)

So how do we find ways of writing through all this? How can we push ourselves away from the three seasons of Supernatural to catch up on, or the myriad video games we haven’t played yet, or the fascinating art of cleaning up our disastrous room?

I’m not sure. I wish I had a better answer. Because no amount of my other methods have worked. I’ve managed to sit and think and dream, but get no words down. I have a lot of excitement…and no drive. So how can we harness that? Is there a key? I’ve been talking to one of the higher-ups at the Office of Letters and Light (now I believe called by the same name as their crowning project, NaNoWriMo) about our lack of drive. I wrote 100k words in November; where is that now? What she told me was this: “I wish I had my November drive, too. Life is throwing wrenches lately, so I’m mostly watching everyone else write this month. Don’t let the novel glare! Hide it under something. You’re the boss.”

We all have trouble. We all fight with something. My protagonist has more things to fight against than I could imagine, and he’s still trying to push on. He’s still trying to save himself. He’s still hoping for a brighter future.

Maybe we should all take a leaf out of that book.

This week’s prompt: Write yourself finding your way out of an impossible scenario. Maybe you only thought it was impossible; maybe someone told you it was; maybe it’s supposed to be. But get your way out of your own Kobayashi Maru. And make that victory count.

Ready, everyone? Make it so.


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