Burned Out

What happens when you can’t write anymore? I feel so burned out by everything that I have to do—final exams, final papers, final projects, graduation. Every time I sit down to write at a computer I feel myself fill up with so much dread. I have all these ideas and then I open my laptop or journal and they all leave my brain. I stare blankly into the void that is a blank Microsoft word document until I inevitably fall asleep, open Netflix, or shut my computer in frustration. Even writing this challenge blog is, well, a challenge. It takes me five minutes to write a sentence. Just now, it took me thirty seconds to remember the word for minute. What’s happening to my brain?

            My parents tend to tell me that I look too much at the big picture, that I need to focus on what’s right in front of me and what I can do now. But how can I write when I suddenly remember I have to book my plane ticket to New York City for my senior showcase or that I have to choreograph a new dance for said showcase or that my other paper is due tomorrow or that, oh my gosh, I’m graduating in two weeks? The excitement of it all is somehow also burning me out—I am overwhelmed with the amount of work left to do? How do we sit down and write through it?

Working Together

I have no time. Does anyone else have some they can give me? It feels like I sit down to do work and then all of a sudden, I have to get up again to go to another meeting or class or rehearsal. Sometimes I can make time for myself, but since I’m collaborating on my capstone project with my good friend Allie, we have to find time together. And together, we have none. Maybe half an hour at 2:30am on a Thursday, but that’s about it. So how do we make time to work together if we have none?

            Collaboration has long been one of my favorite parts about being creative. I love working my peers to make something new. Working with Allie is not work—she’s incredibly smart and super fun to work with. The challenge is finding time to work together! This capstone project has been a study in how to work together without being together; how to produce work independently that somehow fits together well. It has really changed my perspective on how collaboration can work and what it means to collaborate on something. Thank you, Allie, for being a part of that journey!

To Plan or Not to Plan

I’m a planner. I like to know everything that’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and who’s going to be in attendance when it happens. I schedule my days often down to the minute: when I wake up, when I eat my breakfast, when I leave for class, when I can take a break, when I do my homework, the list goes on and on. I’ve found that planning lets me lead the creative life that I live, as if scheduling time to be “creative” makes me focus more intensely during a given period of time.

Recently, I’ve run into the problem of the unknown. I know that in creating and working on a project inevitably means that things will change, plans will have to be revised, and much of what we originally planned will be something different in the end. I’ve realized recently that when such change presents itself, I have such a hard time adapting to it. I sometimes feel this need to cling to my original ideas or plans and can be very resistant to adapting my plan to fit the needs of an ever evolving project.

I think I’ve had to change my mindset—that some ideas are not meant to stay the course. That some creative impulses are meant to get you from step one to step two, nothing more. That success is not necessarily measured by whether or not the idea “works” but rather if it led to a new idea or direction. That it’s okay to have a very different outcome that you planned to.

On Rituals

The hardest part of writing for me is the start. There are so many beginnings in the process of creating—beginning to move toward my desk and journal, beginning to open my pencil case to find exactly the right pen to use, beginning to set my writing space up the way I like to, beginning to open my journal, beginning to put my pen to paper, beginning to find words and thoughts and ideas. Getting myself to my desk is the hardest part of the battle. I have the ritual, it’s my mind that’s in the way. I try to combat this difficulty of beginning by taking away many of them all together. I have a ritual of stripping away things I view as obstacles in my path toward putting my pen to paper. I plug my laptop into its charger. I stack my journals neatly on top of each other; I take out a single purple pen and line it up neatly with the edge of the journal. I fill my water bottle, place it within easy reach of my right hand. I turn my desk lamp to the exact angle that I like it, so that the light filters out from under its shade without bouncing light off of my computer screen. I push my chair into my desk. I turn the lights off. I go to sleep. When I wake up, hypothetically, I am ready to write. 

            But writing for myself in the morning is somehow exponentially easier than knowing what I write will be read by others. I am crippled by this fear of an audience’s judgement—even if I know it’s someone that loves and cares about me. I am curious how ritual could play a part in minimizing this fear, or how others deal with it.

Your Turn Now :)

The gateway to writing class has been a highlight of my semester. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t always prepared for class. I didn’t always know what was going on. But the community of people that I found here and the freedom that this class gives you in the writing process are both incredible. I am so excited that you get to experience it now too. Here are my words of wisdom (take with a grain of salt):

Don’t be afraid to take risks. The concept of experimenting with one piece of writing over and over again might feel silly or scary or both. Use these experiments as an opportunity to try things you think are crazy, or far-fetched, or unexpected. We’re here to try things that are crazy or far-fetched or unexpected.

Get over any qualms you have about speaking, reading, and sharing your own work in class. I promise you, T will find a way for everyone to read. She will.

Make friends with your class. They’re the ones that will tell you write all your blog posts and write silly notes in your book at the end of the semester. They’re the ones that will give you the greatest ideas for revision, and the ones that you will go out of your way to take class with again next semester. Be able to call them friends by the end of class. It will make all the difference in the world.

 

Have fun 🙂

Reflecting on Experimenting

In my first two years as a dance major, I was required to take dance composition courses every semester. In the first semester of the course sequence, we learn that there are rules and tolls we can use when we’re making a dance:

retrograding

changing the facing

playing with tempo

fragmentation

re-ordering the movement.

These changes are physical, and, as a result, tangible–it’s your own body that you’re editing. The experiments for Writing 220 have helped me realize significant change in myself and my voice in a not physical way. I’ve had to figure out some writing “rules and tools” for myself in a writing sense. They are not as tangible as they are in dance sometimes, but they are equally as important.

What I learned most from freshman composition and these experiments is that it’s okay to be a beginner again. It’s okay to not really know what’s going on or what’s due in class or what a good thing to say during workshop is. But it’s important to trust your creative voice and to follow where it leads. This is not to say that it’s perfect or brilliant or eloquent. But new growth begins in the absurd and unexpected. And a lot of work has to be bad before it’s good. Experimentation will always be part of the process.

Choosing My Final Project

Choosing my final project was a fairly simple process. While I loved all three experiments I did (genuinely so, I’m not just saying that), the first one that I did was the one that resonated with me the most. I chose to continue in the genre of the photo essay for my final project for a couple reasons:

  1. ) While I sometimes try to hide or minimize it, I am a dancer. I am constantly looking for other passions and identities so that dance is not the only major part of my life, but I am a dancer. Exploring dance from a different perspective, then, made the most sense and was the most intriguing to me.
  2. ) Because dance is a visual and physical art, it seemed most logical to capture it from that perspective. A photo essay would allow me to capture indescribable moments while also inserting my own voice.
  3. ) The first experiment I did was the most personal to me, and I believe that passion drives creation and creativity.

And so, my final project for the gateway course will be a photo essay exploring sustained trauma in dancers. It was definitely something I should have seen coming yet was still surprised by; I’m looking forward to be continually surprised in the process.

nearing the end

A photo essay.

A lyric essay.

A play.

These were my three experiments this semester in the Writing Gateway course. Each presented its own challenges and rewards, and each were vastly different.

In the dance department, we are required to take four semesters of dance composition. In our first semester, we learn that there are “rules and tools” we can use when we’re making a dance:

retrograding

changing the facing

playing with tempo

fragmentation

etc.

Those changes are personal, physical, and, as a result, tangible–we’re changing and composing on our own bodies. These writing experiments have helped me realize that same kind of significant change in myself and my voice. Each experiment that I chose to do was in a genre that I knew little to nothing about, which, in a way, was freeing. I was free to explore, free to try, free to fail.

What I learned most from these experiments is how to trust my creative voice; this is not to say that it’s perfect or brilliant or even eloquent most days. But new growth begins in the absurd and unexpected, and a lot of the work we do has to be bad before it’s any semblance of good.

Writing Right Now

Some days it’s easy to believe that I am a writer. The words I write have meaning, conveyed in articulate, smart, witty ways that people might enjoy reading. The words I write have meaning that is important. The words I write mean something to someone, somewhere.
Over the past half a semester, I have been challenged as a writer to believe in the words I write and the meaning they carry. On the days that it’s quite hard to believe that I am a writer of value, of worth, of importance, I find what I compose to be jibberish. It’s hard to believe that you yourself are a writer if you don’t see the value in what you’re trying to say. It’s hard for me to believe that I am a writer because I don’t always believe that I’ve earned that title.
However, what I’ve been challenged to consider is that the title “writer” is not necessarily something to earn, but rather something that is a given part of you. I can be a writer even if my class journal entry isn’t intensely profound. I can be a writer even if the draft of my essay won’t win a Pulitzer. In fact, I am a writer because of those works; they inform how I write and compose and communicate now. Right now.