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 clichéd 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.