Burst of Insight-Writer’s Block Blues

I’ve literally been staring at a blank screen for hours. The words just don’t come easily; they get stuck somewhere in my brain behind my eyes and it feels like I’m trying to stir fudge with a chopstick. So, instead of writing the blog I’m supposed to be writing, I’m typing a stream of consciousness thread about how hard it is to think just to get words on the page. One Word Behind the Last!

Saying the words don’t come easily is an understatement. The words I need just don’t come at all. I want to talk about the Cypher System, Technopunk, or how I’m learning layout. I just want to talk or write about anything really but the fudge in my brain is congealing and hardening around the chopstick. Which of course alternates between bending dangerously close to breaking or slips entirely from my grip. My mental hand is sore from the effort and I’m tired.

Ideas are plentiful and teasingly just out of reach, like the sweet and tempting mass of fudge I’m still aimlessly trying to stir but my chopstick is stuck and bowing again which makes focusing on one idea for more than a moment seem impossible. So I stay on course forcing out word-after-word about how I’m struggling onto the page just so I keep writing.

It is worth noting that today is just one of many recent days where I’ve stared at my screen and stumbled along aimlessly turning out a mere handful of words for hours of exhausting mental effort. Yesterday, it felt like biking against the wind in a storm. Buffeted and slashed by icy-rainy wind my tires just never could find traction on the sodden pavement. The sensation followed me to bed and I awoke tired and sore from the continued exertions. 

As you may have guessed writer’s block rarely feels like a wall to me. Walls feel like truly insurmountable obstacles. Most of the time my writer’s block is more like writer’s strain. It’s a chore to put any words down but you have to slog through and put something down. Anything. 

I know deep down I need to relax. Try not to force it but that’s easier said than done because it is all about balance. And my writer’s block also comes from the other side of the spectrum. Those days I tip too far the other way and while the words flow easily enough I’m only able to focus for short periods of time. I’m distracted, flighty and procrastination prone. I’ll indulge this impulse for just a minute and get right back to work…but then there’s another distraction and another. Suddenly, I’ve wasted a whole day or enough of one and I buckle back down. . . and . . . Fudge!

Just because I know what patterns I’m falling into on these days doesn’t mean I’ll easily beat my writer’s block but sometimes . . . sometimes I can get myself knocked loose and turn the problem into a solution (like I just did for this stubborn blog). Unfortunately, more and more often lately as the pandemic keeps me from the outlets and contact I need most to stay invigorated I struggle with this more and more frequently. On the bright side, since starting this stream of consciousness blog an hour ago I think I know what I should be doing.

I don’t really fit into the Introvert  / Extrovert stereotypes. I have an unhealthy amount of social anxiety reaching out and talking to people can actually be hard for me which is certainly a clear indicator of an Introvert BUT I thrive on contact and positive interactions with people particularly, close friends which is why my day job is in retail management and customer service. I like being around lots of different people which is a common Extrovert trait.

It’s a contradiction that I often find hard to navigate. I don’t always reach out for help when I should because my introversion(?) keeps me somewhat distant (I’m not even all that good with social media) even when what I need (and know I need) is human contact beyond the three people I live with and the customers who get me through my day job. I need contact with my gamer friends. Playing games, talking games, or discussing the latest episode of WandaVision or the Mandalorian. Just sharing our mutual love of nerd culture and firing the sparks of imagination.

It’s very easy to cut oneself off. The internet often runs ugly once fun sites and communities are bitter and uninviting and those that still feel welcoming often spike my anxiety and I’ll delete posts. So, I guess I need to spend some time each day reaching out to my friends and contacts over all my insecurities and find ways to reconnect with the people and communities that matter to me and maybe I’ll reinvigorate myself enough to endure the pandemic doldrums and rediscover that place in myself where the words flow (if not easily) easier.

Full disclosure this isn’t a new revelation. But, I hope that acknowledging it so publicly (*anxiety spikes*) that I’ll finally listen to myself. *grins sheepishly*

So, thank you for indulging my bit of self reflection today. If you’re also having trouble staying engaged with writing, GMing, or other creative endeavors I hope that this Burst of Insight was at least a little helpful. And if you have a favorite way to keep your creative batteries charged and writer’s block at bay feel free to talk about it on the Know Direction Facebook page or in our Discord channel.

Burst of Insight

Andrew Marlowe

placed in the Top 16 of RPG Superstar in 2012 and 2014, one of the few contestants to get that far in the competition twice. Since then, he has contributed to many Paizo and third party Pathfinder products, including one of the network’s favourite releases in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, the Dirty Tactics Toolbox. Every other Tuesday, he will be sharing his Burst of Insight, with design tips for would-be game designers from a decorated freelancer.