Why is Starting to Write Always the Hardest Part?

3 Dec

As as a historian, there are two aspects to my profession. Obviously, we are expected to teach, and that is what I got into the business for. I really like to talk about history, and that’s what the classroom is all about. However, we are also expected to write and publish articles and books. This is where I am lacking. That may sound weird since I am writing a blog, but I am hoping that this will help loosen up my writing in other areas. I can never get started. I had a terrible time with my Masters thesis because I could never figure out how to start it. It rolled out as soon as I got going. I also faced the same problem with my Doctoral dissertation. So, here’s the question? Why is starting to write always the hardest part? Does the subject not inspire me enough?

I wrote a short story once. The whole thing just came to me all at once. It was running like a movie through my head, and I had to get it out. I wrote and wrote until there were 60 pages. It was about a couple whose daughter had been abducted and murdered. As a result, the marriage struggled until they moved to a faraway city. There he became a detective who specialized to finding lost children. I won’t tell the whole story here, but, suffice it to say, it was the only time I was inspired to just sit and write with the length and detail I need for my profession.

And, here is the thing. The story came to me while I was listening to one of my favorite songs, “Badge” by Cream. Each line led me to a different part of the story. I even used the lyrics throughout the story. They are not used in order. I took a song; rearranged it; and made something else out of it. If you don’t know the song, then here are the lyrics:

Thinkin’ ’bout the times you drove in my car.

Thinkin’ that I might have drove you too far.

And I’m thinkin’ ’bout the love that you laid on my table.

I told you not to wander ’round in the dark.

I told you ’bout the swans that they live in the park.

Then I told you ’bout our kid, now he’s married to Mabel.

Yes, I told you that the light goes up and down.

Don’t you notice how the wheel goes ’round?

And you better pick yourself up from the ground

Before they bring the curtain down,

Yes, before they bring the curtain down.

Talkin’ ’bout a girl that looks quite like you.

She didn’t have time to wait in the queue.

She cried away her life since she fell off the cradle.

I have no idea what all that means, and I don’t know where the story came from. I only wish that something could inspire me to write history as well as that song inspired me to write the story – the only story I have ever written. I even wish I could write another one of those.

In an attempt to find inspiration for another story, I downloaded an app called Inspiro. It comes up with phrases or scenarios to spark the imagination and maybe a narrative. However, it’s kinda dumb. As an experiment, I will crank up the “Scenarios” section and show you what comes out.

1. a sheep involved in a love triangle with a weasel (I wonder what the third animal is.)

2. a violent real dickhead sitting in the library next to your neighbor (This has possibilities for a serial killer story I suppose. The cause of death could be suffocation by condom.)

3. a real dickhead doing a slo-mo “beach run” towards a lighthouse keeper (A phallic symbol running toward another phallic symbol. The lighthouse keeper needs to hope that he is not the third in this love triangle.)

4. an Elvis impersonator loving a politician (Now, this has some possibilities. I imagine the politician being Nancy Pelosi, but she is beneath Elvis impersonators on the “importance to America” scale.)

Now, a few from the “Muse” section.

1. careless locksmiths with Danzig (Danzig was/is a great band. I can see locksmith’s losing their keys while jumping and shouting to “Mother”.)

2. lugubrious jackets up your ass and around the corner (What does lugubrious mean?)

3. potbellied spies possessed by a demon names Pazuzu (Hey, this is good. Think about an old Sean Connery and an old Roger Moore being taken over by demons and getting in a fight with Max von Sydow.)

4. mummified drawings as a punch line to a bad joke (What do you call Egyptian tomb filled with marijuana? High-roll-glyphics)

Not very inspiring is it? Maybe I’m still stuck with nonsensical lyrics to classic rock songs. But, what am I going to do about writing history?

The search for inspiration continues.

4 Responses to “Why is Starting to Write Always the Hardest Part?”

  1. squiznit December 3, 2011 at 06:57 #

    well your obvioulsy very passionate about writing.. I love historians and there minds, Im currently doing extension history at school and I am going through “what is history” and reading all sorts of essays by historians that you probably know.. History (even though I’m very passionate about it) is a tough subject to get motivated to write something, so I agree 🙂

    • Tennessean-Historian-Blogger December 3, 2011 at 17:03 #

      Thanks for your comment. History is a tough subject, but it is an interesting subject as well. Your project sounds very interesting. Let me know how it goes.

  2. broadsideblog December 3, 2011 at 12:04 #

    If it’s not inspiring, you won’t be able to write it. If you’re really passionate about X, curious to know more and eager to tell the world about it, writing will come much more easily. Maybe you’re burned out by too many years of formal education?

    I find journals and contemporary documents fascinating. When I wrote my first book, about American women and guns, I was deeply moved by the real stories of women living alone who had to learn to defend themselves, or homesteaders. Hearing their voices made “history” very real to me.


    • Tennessean-Historian-Blogger December 3, 2011 at 17:01 #

      Thanks for your comment. Burn out is definitely an issue in higher education. At least, it is for me. As a researcher of the American West, I would rather be in the landscape than in the office. Prostitution in mining camps is the focus of my research, and your book sounds like something I would enjoy reading.

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