Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: How To Fix Writer’s Block

Claire Rice invites you to read this list out of order. It may either feel like she’s spiraling out of control or into it.

How_To_Fix_Writer's_Block

I am experiencing the most serious writer’s block I’ve ever experienced in my whole life.

There is a large part of me that wants to follow that sentence with a picture of a microphone drop and leave this post just like that. This is because I think that sentence is one of the truest things I’ve written in the last year.

It’s not that I haven’t been actively putting words on pages and forming beginnings, middles and endings. It’s that I’m not sure what I’m writing is true. Or, no, that’s not quite right. I believe that I underneath my writing is a larger hidden truth that is not being said. A confusing and muddled truth that I don’t have the words for yet. Over that truth I’ve written fictions and …

See? I’m doing it again! I’m being purposely vague. Except I’m not, at least I don’t think I am. What is it I’m trying to say? I don’t know. This is the block.

I even started writing “The Enemy’s List” because I wanted to be a truth speaker. I thought to myself “I’m a person who tells it like it is or, at least, I tell it like it is in my mind and I deal with the consequences later.” I imagined “The Enemy’s List” as a truth space. And it is. I don’t think I’ve told lies or said things I didn’t mean or even pandered to anyone. But, still, there is some filter over my writing that feels less than honest. I can feel that there is something underneath the words that is what I should really be saying, but I’m not.

List of Possibilities
In an effort to try and push past this block, I’m going to try and be vulnerable. Honest. Open. Fearless. One of these things might just be the thing I’m trying to say, but I’m not saying.

Enemy’s List
I love it. I love it so much. Also, note, this is not an ongoing list of my enemies. It is an ongoing rant about things that upset me, weird me out, unsettle me, or piss me off. In writing this blog I don’t feel as if I creating my own Nixon style enemies list, but instead adding my own name to other people’s lists. I realize that I might step on toes, upset an apple cart, and may add unwelcome adjectives to my name when I’m spoken about. The thing is, people might say those things about my directing work and my playwriting already. Those things are just as much my truths as the essays I write. I started this because I began to feel as if I was building a reputation as a “shit talker” (well, at the very least rude) or they type of person you go to if you want to bitch about this or that. I’ll lean in and participate. I’ll play devil’s advocate. I’ll nod my head and dig into it with you. I figured I might as well capitalize on it.

I Hate Lists
I love lists. I love Cracked.com and Buzzfeed and AV Club’s Inventory. I hate that it means the only way to write on the internet is through a scan-able, easily digestible, neatly organized list. It makes me feel dumb. It makes me feel like there is no other way to write. It makes me feel like I’m talking down to you. It makes me feel like I’m inviting you to pick and choose from my thoughts like a buffet. That they may be tangentially connected, but that a part could be lifted from them the list will still be intact. Like a mixtape of my thoughts, you can read the first to get the gist and skip to the end to get the most important bit and feel like you’ve taken it all in. I love lists for all the reasons I hate them. I am conflicted as shit about this.

I’m Just Bitter
I look at some of the playwrights and directors who are my age and I see them finding a level of success that seems to be just out of my reach and it galls me. What choices have I made in my life that have lead me to this moment? Who’s fault is it that I am not where I want to be? Could it be the overpriced education failed me? Could it be that I didn’t go to a top tier school? That I didn’t come into this independently wealthy? That I’m a woman? That I’m from San Francisco and not New York? That I’m terrible? That I don’t try hard enough? That I’m not good enough? Maybe success is a green light on the other side of a lake. Maybe it doesn’t matter what I do, what accolades I get. Maybe I’ll never feel like I’ve “arrived” or I’ve “broken through”. Maybe I can’t because I’ve chosen theatre and there is no longer any such thing as success in theatre. Maybe I’m so bitter I’m one of those people that lashes out at everything and I blame everyone else and every “system” that is keeping me down.

Fuck You
Sure. Maybe I’m bitter, but that doesn’t mean the Actor’s Equity website doesn’t suck or that I don’t have a right to my opinions.

I’m Not Bitter
I have no doubt in my mind I would have the opinions I have regardless of how “successful” I was or wasn’t. Also, except for this mental block and the existential crisis about truth or whatever, I feel pretty good about where I am. Sure, not great. But what can you do? I’m conflicted as shit about this.

Ugh, This Sucks
Where is the truth? Am I at it yet? Is this even interesting?

Because I Want to Say It, It is Worth Saying
That is tantamount to: Because I have access to the internet I have the right to act like an asshole on message board because you can’t see me. I also have access to a stage and actors who are willing to participate in saying things for me. There’s a lot of power in all those things. Have I fully realized that power and what it means? Have I take the responsibility for it and honestly weighted the impact of my actions? I don’t know. Worse, I honestly don’t know if you are either. I sat through half a show last night and didn’t know why I was there, why anyone else was there or why the show. Why the show? Why the show? So I left at intermission because I didn’t see any reason anyone should have stayed. I didn’t owe anyone my attention or understanding.

When I Say It, You Need to Listen
It hurts my feelings when people walk out of my shows. I want to call them stupid. I do call them stupid. I blame everyone else. I get angry. I am hurt. I gave these people a gift and if they walk out it is because they didn’t try hard enough. I can’t and shouldn’t spoon feed meaning to every audience member.

I Am Conflicted As Shit
Where is the truth? Am I at it yet?

The Story I Want To Write
The circumstances surrounding my sister’s upcoming wedding may just be the plotline of an independent movie or a “white people dinner party” play. This is a truth. I want to write it. It will make a good and entertaining story, one that I’ve already told several close friends. It will be important to me. It will be my truth. It is also not mine. My character would be bystander to the events. I don’t have the “right” to this story, because the story belongs to the living people whom I love who are living through it as we speak. It will also no longer be true the moment it hits the page. It will be edited and finessed for entertainment. People without clear objectives will be given higher stakes. Character types will emerge. Clichés, stereotypes, and my one subjective world view will supplant the real people. It will be work shopped and judged and walked out on and critiqued and rejected. I will write a true story about me and the people I love and it will be rejected. It will be categorized and filed away. It will be made an example of and it will be ignored. And it will be true and it will be false and it will kill me to write it. It will also make me feel better. It will hurt the people I love. It will not be left in a drawer to rot because that isn’t why I write. I write to be heard. This isn’t a fun hobby. This isn’t an addiction. This isn’t an ego boost. This isn’t therapy. It won’t make me feel better to have written it because it will be “out”, but because it is true. It is my truth, even dressed in all the false layers of fiction or memoir or style or form. This is my truth and I can’t bear to have it in your hands and I can’t bear the thought of not giving it to you.

All the Stories I Want To Write
It isn’t just that one. It’s all of them. That one is just a good example. A fresh example. But it’s also true. In the past year I’ve written things that I thought were good, fun, entertaining or any number of things. They did what I wanted them to do, but where they true? Where they my truth? Where they a truth I was willing to stand behind and defend? Where they worth having been said even if they were true? What is my metric here? How were they false? Why am I unsure? I used to say that when art scares you, that is when you should do it the most. But…really? You know…really? I mean. Maybe it means I shouldn’t write it.

Is This Even Interesting?
I am conflicted as shit about this. My heart is racing. My head is light. I’m hiding in my home. I’m sleeping too much. I may be having a medical emergency or I may be having the weirdest longest anxiety attach of my life. This is a lie. This is an exaggeration. This is closer to the truth then you know. This is a play-by-play of my life. Do you deserve to have that information? Do you want it? Should I care about what you say? Am I starting a conversation or am I yelling on a soapbox? Do I have to pick one?

What This Isn’t About
Don’t talk to me about writer’s block. This is a truth block. This is a wall of self. A crisis of voice and intent. This is a self-examination of the worthiness of what I’m putting out into the world. All the things that I am: Bitter. Angry. Confused. Unsatisfied. Argumentative. Contrary. Poetic. Subjective. Delightful. Funny. Insightful. Empty. Damning. Distant. Unsettled. Uneducated. Over-education. Stupid. Intelligent. Conflicted as shit. Fucked. Condescending. Complicated. Defensive. Offensive. And trying to find the moment when it just exists. This voice. This person. The one who is no longer defending my right to say want I feel, but just says it with the authority that I have granted myself.

I Don’t Know
I really don’t.

I Am Conflicted As Shit
Fact.

If you are feeling the need to give me advice on getting over “writer’s block” I want you to know that I’ve googled several advertisement laden lists that are both wonderfully insightful and disturbingly stupid.

This one is good: http://thefuturebuzz.com/2008/12/03/how-to-overcome-writers-block/

This one is great: http://io9.com/5844988/the-10-types-of-writers-block-and-how-to-overcome-them

This list is mostly the same as any other, but the last tip is a so unbelievably weird it had to be reprinted here. No judgment here. Whatever gets you through the day. Thank you Brian Moreland, I look forward to being more hydrated if nothing else. http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/7-ways-to-overcome-writers-block

“If nothing else works, I resort to my number one, lethal weapon to cure writer’s block: the Glass-of-Water Technique. Before bed, fill up a glass of water. Hold it up and speak an intention into the water. (Example: My intent is to tap into my creative source and write brilliantly tomorrow. I choose to be in the flow of my best writing. I am resolving my story’s issues as I sleep and dream). Drink half the water and then set the half-full glass on your nightstand. Go to sleep. When you wake up the next morning, drink the rest of the water immediately. Then go straight to your computer and write at least an hour without distraction. This may seem a bit out there, but give it a try. It works! Do this technique for three nights straight. It gets me out of my writer’s block every time, often the next morning and definitely within 72 hours.”

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6 comments on “Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: How To Fix Writer’s Block

  1. AnotherUnknownActor says:

    Claire, you’re just awesome. In a different time and place, I’d be chasing you like Apollo chased Daphne.

    Anyway, with respect to “I’m Just Bitter:” Well, sort of. Ish. I started acting as a profession a tad later in life than most, so in a way I get the at-this-point-in-my-life concept—the difference being that I am not in the exact equivalent of your circumstance, not by a parsec. It’s the what-decisions-did-I-make thing. You see, I KNOW what decisions I made, and I even know why I made them, which often isn’t all that therapeutic by the way. What peeves me is that I am weary (the polite term) of explaining it. It’s like when I was all of 28 with a shiny new accounting degree I got asked by CPA firms why I waited so long to be an accountant. The correct answer (which I did not supply) is “Fuck you and the shit-caked bantha you rode in on. I don’t owe you a goddam explanation for ANYTHING I did or didn’t prior to setting foot on this campus. I am right here, right now, and that is all that matters.”

    Maybe I should write a theater blog or something.

    • Is that what you want, to have your own blog? I have to ask because I’ve noticed your comments on the website’s last few blog posts and they seem to veer less toward open dialogue and constructive discourse, but more towards bitterness and resentment.

      I won’t pretend that I know who you are nor the full circumstances of the events in your life – that would be condescending and patronising. You mention that you had a less-than-favourable experience during Olympians and – again, I don’t know the particular circumstance(s) – and it makes sense that you air that grievance in the forum where many of that festival’s organisers congregate on-line. But your comments often read less like legit questions about the mechanisms of the Bay Area theatre scene (your question of how to get into the AEA was good one), but more as if you have a chip on shoulder with which you want everyone to be made aware.

      What’s the deal?

      • AnotherUnknownActor says:

        The biggest problem with this medium of discussion is that it doesn’t convey the quiet and gentle tone of voice I’d use if we were speaking to one another in person. Any road, all I can say is (1) after encountering many proverbial walls and fences and locked gates over the years, I feel I have earned the right to be a little testy, (2) once my performance was over I felt relegated back to the status of Rank Outsider but that could very well be only in my head, and (3) despite all that, you’re correct, and I should unquestionably tone it down.

  2. sftheaterpub says:

    Stuart here: Unknown, I don’t think you’re being told to quiet down, though I can understand how you might be reading it that way. I think Charles is saying, “This is an open venue, and you’re being very public about your dissatisfaction, but also too vague for anyone to truly have a helpful response.”

    Not every situation or scene is going to work for everybody, but Theater Pub and Olympians (of which I’m a founder of both) has always done it’s best to be as inviting as possible, and to create avenues of direct communication between company/festival organizers and the audience and participants. If you have any concerns you’d like to voice about your experience, I’m always open to hearing them at sfolympians@gmail.com.

    Meanwhile, you are more than welcome to continue to post here, but maybe you will get more satisfying responses if you try being a little more forthcoming about your experience and what you would have liked to be different rather than sort of vaguely but pervasively accusatory, which is how your posts can come off, even taking the tonal problems of the internet (which are many, I agree) into account.

    The permission to speak freely is also an imperative to do so. 🙂

  3. […] aforementioned “I’m not sorry I told my story” piece, to Claire Rice’s attempts to lay her heart open and get at the root of her writer’s block. (Freudian slip alert: I originally typed […]

  4. […] try to progress as an artist. Some days it feels like nothing is working. I could totally relate to Claire Rice’s efforts to break through her writer’s block. These whole last couple of weeks has been like pulling teeth […]

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