Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Repairing the Internal Writing Machine

Today's post comes from MFAC alum Ann Quiring*.  She writes to us on the very real problem of losing the urge to write and how she was able to overcome it.

A few years ago, my internal writing machine, the spark we all need to get our butt in that chair, shut down. System failure. I just couldn’t put words together anymore. I quit my writing group. I stopped attending local kid lit and Hamline MFAC alumni events. I hid from questions about my writing, because I felt ashamed of my answer.
Hamline taught me to find the heart in a story, and fortunately, my writing journey has a hopeful ending.

The reason for my writing breakdown was rooted in a critique for a novel I had worked on for a long time. I know what you’re thinking: Ann, we have to be able to hear tough critiques as writers. We need thick skin. I know. But this critique cut into my writing soul like no other response I had heard before. I can’t explain why; it just stopped me from even thinking about a revision, or a new project.

So instead of writing, I read. I devoured literary fiction, mysteries, memoir, and short stories. Reading is a natural way to fight writer’s block, and my reading led me to finding a new genre. I had enjoyed every mystery I read, so last fall I took a Crime Fiction Writing class at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. This class helped me dissect the mystery novel and inspire my writing in a new way.

I also started tutoring writing at The Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, a local non-profit dedicated to supporting young students with writing and homework. Tutoring brings me joy every week; the kids inspire me to work harder on my own writing. Recently a young student of mine wrote two pages about a chair in the room. If she can crank out two pages about a chair, I can surely write two pages a day.  

This month, I’m taking a Gothic Horror Writing class taught by MFAC alum Jackie Hesse (she is a great teacher). Now I really don’t like gothic horror—I faint at the sight of blood—but I thought the class would complement my mystery writing and teach me a few things about suspense, and it has.

During this time of rediscovery, I started writing a young adult mystery novel, and I just shared the first chapter with some fellow writers. I am writing again. Sharing my writing is still as terrifying to me as a gothic novel, but it’s also home. I’ve found comfort in writing again.

If you find yourself stuck, try something new and different. Take a sewing class. Jump on a trampoline. Discover new people in your community. As simple and clich├ęd as it sounds, it worked for me.

*Ann Quiring likes to brag about being in the very first (and in her unbiased opinion, the very best) Hamline MFAC class of 2009. She lives and drinks a lot of strong coffee in Minneapolis, MN. 


  1. What should I do about my troubled teen?
    programs for struggling young adults

  2. Yay, Ann! I'm so glad you found your mojo again! The world is a better place with your words in it.

  3. Sista, I been 'shot' moe times than you can imagine, and drowned, and suffocated, and hanged (comitted suicide), and ODd... yet, Jesus saved this sinfull mortal and I come-out swinging as I got my black belt in '99, bay-bee. And dats da troof, brudda. While I didn't descend into Hell for my mortal sins, I did ascend till I saw the Celestial City from far away. Wanna heer bout it??

    Lemme fill-you-up withe efficacious epiphany, the avant-gardeness and necessary wisdom to achieve Heaven, dear, if ya desire Heaven (many pee-ple dont, preferring to stay 'laissez-faire' [i dont care] till their deathbed).

    If 'freedom lies in being bold' (Robert Frost), doesn't pushing-the-envelope also result in the Elysian Fields of Utopia? If I'm the sower, we plant the Seed; if I'm an artist, we RITE the symphonies heard Upstairs ☆IF☆ we accept His lead withe orchestra...

    Wanna find-out the fax, Jak, in a wurld fulla the 'power of cowards'? Wanna wiseabove to help a 'Plethora Of Wurdz' [POW!] which are look'n for a new home in thy novelty?? Yay!

    Q: But [gulp] can anyone tell me the difference between K2/IQ? A: Nthn. In Heaven, we gitt'm both for eternity HA! Need a few more thots, ideers, wild wurdz (whoa, Nelly! easy, girl!) or ironclad iconoclasms?

    VERBUM SAT SAPIENTI (Latin: words to [the] wise): As an ex-writer of the sassy, savvy, schizophenia we all go thro in this lifelong demise, I just wanna help U.S. git past the ping-pong-politixx, the whorizontal more!ass! we're in and wiseabove to 'in fin sine fin' (Latin: in [the] End without End -Saint Augustine).

    "This finite existence is only a test, son," God Almighty told me in my coma. "Far beyond thy earthly tempest is where you'll find tangible, corpulent eloquence". Lemme tella youse without d'New Joisey accent...

    I actually saw Seventh-Heaven when we died: you couldn't GET!! any moe curly, party-hardy-endorphins, low-hanging-fruit of the Celestial Paradise, extravagantly-surplus-lush Upstairs (awww! baby kitties, too!!) when my o-so-beautifull, brilliant, bombastic girly passed-away due to those wry, sardonic satires...

    "Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the Heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightousness as bright as stars for all eternity" -Daniel 12:3, NJB

    Here's also what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague.

    Go gitt'm, girly. You're incredible. You're indelible. Cya Upstairs. I won't be joining'm in the nasty Abyss where Isis prowls
    PS Need summore unique, uncivilized, useless names?? Lemme gonna gitcha started, brudda:

    Oak Woods, Franky Sparks, Athena Noble, Autumn Rose, Faith Bishop, Dolly Martin, Willow Rhodes, Cocoa Major, Roman Stone, Bullwark Burnhart, Magnus Wilde, Kardiak Arrest, Will Wright, Goldy Silvers, Penelope Summers, Sophie Sharp, Violet Snow, Lizzy Roach, BoxxaRoxx, Aunty Dotey, Romero Stark, Zacharia Neptoon, Mercurio Morrissey, Fritz & Felix Franz, Victor Payne, Isabella Silverstein, Mercedes Kennedy, Redd Rust, Phoenix Martini, Ivy Squire, Sauer Wolfe, Yankee Cooky, blessed b9... (or mixNmatch)

    God blessa youse
    -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL
    the war AGAINST women,