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.