“Our hopes and expectations, black holes and revelations.” This lyric from the song “Starlight” by Muse repeated in my head this past week as I attempted to write my column for this week. It refers to the frustration of the creative process, specifically the all-too-common problem of writer’s block. Every writer has probably faced this at some point in their career, and I’ve admittedly struggled with it this week.
Now, when people think of writer’s block, the common perception is that it is a period where a writer cannot come up with any ideas. But there is a different kind of writer’s block that needs to be discussed as well: having too many ideas. This seems like a good problem to have, but it becomes frustrating when organizing one’s thoughts. Having too many ideas makes it hard to zero in on what to focus on when writing. It can result in writing that comes off as scattershot and trying to go in too many directions, something that most writers try to avoid.
It was this kind of writer’s block that I struggled with this week. I had a great topic that I had been pondering for two weeks and was excited to write about. I made a detailed outline with the main points I was going to talk about and even had some zingers ready, something that I don’t usually prepare before I write. It had the makings of a great column that would be both fun to write and informative for readers. But as I sat down to write earlier this week, putting my thoughts on paper proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. My problem was that I had too many ideas going at once. I tried five different introduction paragraphs but none of them set up the article the way I wanted it to. I felt motivated to write, but couldn’t properly express what I wanted to say. My creative flow simply wasn’t there, so I shelved the article for another time, only the second time I’ve had to do that here while writing at The Daily Campus. I found myself in the “black hole” phase of the writing process, my creativity swirling in nothingness searching for that spark.
What makes writer’s block frustrating for myself and other writers is that there’s no definitive cause of it. Since it isn’t an official medical condition, writer’s block can be traced to a variety of internal and external factors, including overthinking and distractions. There’s a myriad of other factors out there, but these ones particularly stood out to me. Overthinking about how I wanted to open and structure my article ultimately proved to be a detriment rather than a benefit. Some of the best work comes when you just sit down and write, letting the flow of writing take you on the journey.
I guess I’ve been distracted since coming back up to college. It’s hard to stay focused on a single task when you’re thinking about other work you have to get done, where you’re going for dinner or what you’re going to do over the weekend. While I’m generally good at staying on task and getting everything done that I need to, I’m susceptible to losing my focus when I can’t find my creative spark. It’s especially frustrating because I love writing and sharing my thoughts on current issues in a creative, thought-provoking way and I hate not being able to.
But out of these black holes of writing come the revelations, moments of brilliance that can’t be predicted. I’ve had times where I’ve been staring at a page for what feels like hours and then start frivolously typing away in a great awakening of thoughts. These moments are the most fulfilling as a writer since they’re so unpredictable. You never know when a revelation will hit, but there’s no better feeling.
The cycle of these black holes and revelations may be frustrating, but it’s a normal part of the cycle. My attempts to write the column I wanted too felt like the black hole phase, but writing this has been a therapeutic revelation. I love talking about politics and American culture, but the occasional personal column like this can be extremely satisfying.
Now “Starlight” is going to be stuck in my head even more than it already was. Great.