I’ve had a festering writer’s block this year, only finishing up two fiction pieces I started at the end of last year and pulling out an old memoir piece called Jagged Little Summer, which was one of the final works I completed in college. As all old work does, I had a palpable physical reaction upon revisiting it that was akin to a fight-or-flight adrenalin dump—intense aversion. I hated it and knew it was all wrong. This piece is a memoir, and there were places I didn’t want to go with it, things I resisted reveal.
So first I rehashed it vigorously. I worked it and reworked it for at least the past six weeks. I kept revisiting it and tweaking a word here, a phrase there. It slowly got leaner, then longer, then better, but still it needed some stitching up, it needed a little more flight. Finally, frustrated, I made myself leave it for a while. If I stared at it for more than about 15 minutes, I closed the document and did something else.
I read the piece into a microphone, then listened back to it. Recalling the time and events of the story and worrying about the deadline simultaneously, I felt my soul begin to bleed a little. I realized what I’d resisted saying in the piece—that I had reached a place of forgiveness but I was still infinitely sad. With that in mind, I wrote a beautiful ending and sent the piece off to The Pinch and a couple of other top-notch spots.
The element of a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise might not always work, but if you find that you are stuck, maybe a little pressure can help.