Hello, lovely writers! It’s Whitney here, and I’m incredibly excited to introduce our next guest contributor, Bri Spicer. I’ve known Bri since we were writing center tutors together at the University of Central Arkansas, and since then I’ve marveled at her artistic talents.
After our UCA days, Bri received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She currently lives in Arkansas with her husband, two dachshunds, and far, far too many books. Bri notes that she will read anything from classics to comic books, pulp science fiction from the 1920s to French feminist literary theory. She is currently working on a literary science fiction novel set in the far future and centered on a young librarian and her allies as they combat the sinister plots of a fascist galactic oligarchy.
Doesn’t it just make you want to read it right now?! I’m waiting impatiently for an Amazon pre-order button, myself.
I’ve talked about Writing Crises before, and below, Bri discusses her own and shows us how to break the writing silence.
This January marked five years since I’d written seriously. After I graduated with my MFA, I moved home, got married, bought a house, and found a job.
Life took over.
Gradually, insidiously, unnoticeably, I convinced myself that, while I had gone to school for seven years and received two degrees in writing, I did not have a single, blessed clue what I was doing. I told myself that writing wasn’t even really that important and that the world wouldn’t miss out if I decided to never write another word.
But starting in 2015, the more I watched the news and watched the political landscape fray at the edges, the more unbelievably strange the world became, the more a story I sketched out in graduate school began to take shape.
By the time 2017 rolled around, I couldn’t ignore the steady-as-a-heart-beat conviction that I was swallowing down a story I was supposed to write, words I needed to speak. So, I gathered what ideas I had for the story along with what courage I could manage and plunged headfirst into writing a novel.
Since then, I’ve written over a hundred pages and haven’t looked back. As frightening as this whole process still is – I still feel like I’m in freefall and routinely wonder what on earth I was thinking when I decided this project was a good idea – I have been able to pick out a few lessons that will help other writers find their voice in the middle of a writing silence.
Fake Out Your Fear
First, I had to act like I was fearless when I started writing to push through my own mental litany of, “Oh my God, what on earth is this? What are you doing?” I was scared, but ultimately, the thought of not making the work was more deeply unsettling to me than the thought of failing in my initial attempts.
Writing as if I have way more courage than I truly do lets me make mistakes and learn what can work for plot and character. Previously, perfection was preferable to progress. Fearlessness, daring to actually make the work, opens up avenues for the story I haven’t seen before.
Believe That You Have Something To Say
I had to let myself be inspired by my work and the fact that I was even making it. There are plenty of voices out there in the world that will tell you that you have better things to be doing with your life, Serious and Important Things, so let your voice be one that encourages you in your endeavors.
The world we live in is old and full of awful things, but the idea that we can make something beautiful, something new, something that can say, “Here’s one way this old world should be different!” is radically inspiring. In the face of our world’s terrible history and all the systems in place that say that this place can’t change, and, in fact, shouldn’t change, art is a definitive method of resistance and inspiration.
Surround Yourself With Brilliance
Third, once I started the work, I chose to surround my book and myself with people who support me. If you live or work with people who care about you, but show no interest in your creative endeavors, that’s all right. Sometimes, that’s just the way things shake out. But search out two or three people you respect, whose opinions you value, whose intellect rivals or outshines your own.
Writing a novel is a marathon. These people will be the folks on the race sideline, handing you water, giving you CPR, calling an ambulance for you, and cheering you across the finish line where you’ll collect your medal, take a break, and then start all over again as you revise.
Once you find your people, send them your work. It is terrifying, I know. Speaking from experience, the minute you send that email with your work attached, you’ll need a brown paper sack to help you stop hyperventilating once the panic of what you’ve just done finally sets in. But once the panic passes and you can think clearly, you realize something important. You just made your art and sent it out into the world. And, now? You know you can do it again.
So, be fearless, let yourself marvel at the fact that you’re making work, and require yourself to grow every day by surrounding yourself with fellow artists who are running ahead of you and encouraging you to keep up.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced when returning to writing? And what lessons did you teach yourself to break out of your writing silence? Let us know in the comments down below!
And also let us know if you want to be a contributor like Bri! We’d love to hear from you and see how much you have to contribute to our growing writing community.