This started out as a nanowrimo-induced cry for help with writer's block, but has turned into a long, rambling, sad something else. I want to apologize for it, but I don't think I should. I think I've needed to say this stuff to an uninvolved, objective stranger, but I haven't found a therapist I like, so Groupthink it is. I put some gifs in for leavening. Anyway, tldr: I used to write and now I can't and I need advice on how to ignore the voice telling me I'm never going to be a good writer.

Between the ages of 6 and 36 (I'm 37 now), I always imagined I would be a writer. I wrote a lot. I wrote short stories, I wrote poems, I wrote letters, I wrote in a diary. The summer before we started 12th grade, my best friend and I wrote a 120-page novella about a couple of princesses. I wrote the beginnings of about 17 novels about shy, bookish adolescent girls with crushes on unobtainable boys. When I went to college, I studied music for a couple years (but still wrote), realized I didn't like practicing enough to be a musician, quit all my classes to watch movies for a semester, had a writing group with my writing friends, decided I would get an MFA, went back to community college to study English and take all the creative writing classes in the world, transferred to university with a very well-regarded MFA program, learned how to think, took more poetry and fiction classes with the excellent faculty, read a million billion beautiful things, graduated, took a year off to work and write and decide if I wanted to do fiction or poetry, applied to grad schools for poetry. My alma mater wanted me, Iowa and NYU didn't, so back to my old university I went.

Workshop was amazing. The other students wrote amazing poems and were insightful and articulate about what made writing work or not. I was intimidated. I didn't talk much in workshop because I didn't feel like I had anything to add. Still, people seemed to like me and my poems, and grad school was the happiest time in my life*.

A lot of what I wrote when I started the MFA program was small and funny in a melancholy way. A lot of what I was reading, from my peers and from the poets we studied, seemed bigger and more important, more meaningful, smarter, more capable of changing the person who read it than anything I wrote. I wanted to be important to someone, and my 6-line poem about a tall child in a family of jockeys wasn't going to do that.

I tried to write bigger things, and, to an extent, succeeded, but it was slower and harder** than writing the funny, little things that came naturally. One of my professors thought it was a mistake to push myself away from the poems that everyone loved. I had a responsibility to my readers. I thought that was bullshit at the time. How could I keep writing things that didn't seem important? I wish I had listened to him.


I wrote less, talked less, spent long weekends traveling to visit my terrible friend (see * below) in Tucson. I graduated and moved to Puerto Vallarta to live with my brother and finish my thesis. That lasted about three weeks, as my brother's girlfriend was an awful person and the couch in their living room was too short to keep sleeping on. I took the bus back to Tucson, where I participated in and enabled a lot of the self-destructive behavior of my terrible friend. We moved to Las Vegas. We were always broke, often high or hungover. We were fighting. We were miserable. I worked long shifts as a waitress, spent hours hanging out in bars and poker rooms, tried not to stop reading, or thinking, or writing, but generally failed. I turned off my brain for a few years.

I left Las Vegas and my terrible friend after I met a guy from Seattle online (OkCupid success!). I moved in with this guy, worked as a barista in a supermarket Starbucks, then in administration at a university, broke up with him after about three years and continued not writing. I spent a lot of the last 2 years since crying or wishing I was dead or both, not about the guy exactly, but about my failure to be a person who could be a functioning member of a relationship, and my average looks, my poor cooking skills, my filthy fucking room, my general mediocrity, my failure to live up my promise as a writer. The problem with my writing, and with my relationship and my life, is that nothing I thought of saying seemed (seems) worth committing to paper or sound, and further, that nothing I could be doing is worth bothering with because at the end of the day, I'll still be a lonely, mediocre person who isn't really important to anyone and who never will be.


Except I have this best friend in California. We met 12 years ago in a poetry workshop my last spring as an undergrad. We wrote emails back and forth for a little while then drifted apart. We started talking again just before I started breaking up with my ex (the intensity of my renewed friendship was not the reason for, but a catalyst for the breakup). We talk almost everyday, for hours at a time. He's an amazing person, smart and hilarious and interesting and a great writer. He's not entirely happy about himself and where he is in life, so he understands what is going on in my brain, and he does his best to help me deal with my self-loathing, telling me how talented I am and giving me practical advice. I know that I matter to him. Sometimes that makes things worse though. He thinks I can do things, he thinks I should do things, and I feel like if I don't, I'll be failing him as well as myself. Sometimes I want to end our friendship so I don't have that pressure on me anymore.

Here's the problem. My brain has been stuck in this rut. It keeps sending this message that nothing I can do or say or write is important. I try to just ignore that voice, but I'm so out of practice writing (let's focus on writing), everything I put on paper, or consider putting on paper, actually does seem trite or overdone or just plain uninteresting. I thought I would write some dumb chick-lit, sci-fi, romance novel this November for NaNoWriMo***, no pressure. It would be a draft of something. I could expect it to be terrible and I could use the freedom of knowing it couldn't possibly be great as a stepping-stone to figuring out how to do serious writing again. But I'm sitting in this coffeehouse with my word processing program open and an empty page and my immediate response to every thought that occurs is NO. Basically, Grumpy Cat is my spirit guide.


I need help evicting this voice. I don't want to sit in coffeehouses anymore crying about a blank page. Does anyone have any recommendations or words of advice? Secondarily, please tell me that it would possibly be interesting to read a hastily-written novel about a girl making a series of grievous mistakes in Puerto Vallarta, Tucson and/or Las Vegas.


*I feel like this is a lie I'm telling myself. In grad school, I broke up with my boyfriend of 5 years, I started to really discover what an anxious, frightened person I was (am), I was often intensely lonely, I began a not-quite-romance with a wonderful, awful, intelligent, self-destructive person that led to me making some of the worst mistakes of my life. But I really did love grad school for so many reasons.

**that's what she said

***the worst thing about NaNoWriMo is the word "NaNoWriMo."