Good Ol’ Writer’s Block

I’ve been in a bit of a writing rut, recently. Which is really, incredibly unfortunate, as writing is what I want to do for the rest of my life. However, the light is at the end of the tunnel! I can see a future where I’m not in a rut! Can you believe?

I have some big ideas and I’m the process of planning said big ideas. It’s been a little challenging to motivate myself to put these ideas into the world, due to a a large amount of self-doubt with a hint of depression, but the more I talk about doing it, the more I feel like the motivation is there to actually get it done. So maybe I’ll just keep spamming Twitter with how excited I am about this novel that I want to write, and eventually, it’ll just come into existence. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Anyway, in the meantime, I’ve been trying to keep my mind active with prompts and whatnot. I use a book called 642 Things to Write About when I need some sort of direction for warm-up writings, and one of the prompts asked what writer’s block feels like. All writers are far too familiar with the feeling, and with the deep rut that I’ve been in (which I’m almost out of, I promise), I figured I’d know exactly which direction to go in, with this.

So here you go. Here’s a little thing I wrote, and hopefully after putting this into the world, my writer’s block will be gone. (If only it were that simple.) Enjoy!


Writer’s block is like getting ecstatic about the cookies you have in the oven, only for them to come out burned and bitter. It feels like getting to the top of a roller coaster only for it to stop, and have to take the stairs all the way back down. It feels like watching words and stories fly through your head and around your body, but not being able to grab hold of them and put them onto a blank word document.

Imagine having all of these ideas, all of this drive, and all of this desire to see entire movies in your head become a piece of readable text, only to sit in front of your computer wondering why your fingers just won’t move. Wondering why your brain decided that, this very moment that you hyped yourself up to finally get shit done, is the moment it decided to quiet itself. You wonder how you can turn up the volume on the inspiration to drown out the thoughts that want to tell you how much you suck as a writer, but now matter how loud you empower your inspiration to be, sometimes, all you hear is “you have nothing interesting to say.”

Writer’s block is knowing you have interesting stories to tell, but feeling like no one is going to think the same. Writer’s block tells you “it’s over for you; this is it. You’re not going anywhere else with whatever it is you’re trying to write, so you better just stop.” It can be one of the most self-destructive forces out there.

But it isn’t always that way.

Sometimes, it just feels like you’re empty. Sometimes it feels like you’ve squeezed out all of your best work already, and there’s nothing else left. Can it possibly get better than the 2,000 word streak, where you were so deep into the story in your head, you looked back up at the clock and realize time left you behind? That feeling of elation can be so nice, but sometimes it’s so short-lived, when you feel like that zone will never be back in reach. You can write whatever words come to mind, and hope to stumble your way back into that zone, or you can step away from the computer and hope to find that zone elsewhere. It’s never exactly where you want it to be, and that can be frustrating when all you want to do is see words fly across the monitor.

What can I say about writer’s block other than “it sucks?” Not much, I guess. It just does. It’s crippling to get so excited to create, to inspire, and to tell a story that’s begging to get out there, only to feel like what you’re about to put onto the word document is purely vomit. It’s sucks to feel those walls appear all around you just as you’re ready to tell the tale, feeling like those words within you that were once incredibly inspiring now have no place other than within those walls. But we persevere, and we find ways to chip away at those walls. They can’t keep us in for long; our stories demand to be told.

Variety is Spicier Than You Think

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Photo by Lukas Budimaier on Unsplash

I’m gonna sound like the biggest nerd, but I’m pretty sure that most people already think I am, so there’s really no going back, now.

I had this idea to pan fry some sweet potatoes as a side dish for dinner, this week. A novel idea for me, as this would be the first time I ever bought fresh sweet potatoes to cook. A lot of my side dishes will include some sort of grain (usually brown rice or quinoa) and a vegetable, so I get in this cycle of eating the same meal archetypes all the time. However, I recently remembered that, oh hey! I like sweet potatoes when they’re a little salty and crispy, so why not make my own sweet potatoes? I usually get sweet potato fries because they’re so easy to just throw in the oven, but there’s like, added sugar and stuff and I’m trying to limit the amount of processed food I eat, so this seemed like the next best thing. A little more work, but I think it’ll be worth it.

Now, the sweet potatoes are sitting in my kitchen, and I’m getting so damn excited to cook them. Like, I’m unrealistically excited to dice them up, add some salt (and maybe some rosemary), and cook them in a pan. Yeah, total nerd.

It seems like such a simple thing to get excited about, but it’s better than, y’know, not being excited about something, right? Like, here’s this nerd on the internet rambling about how he’s really excited to cook some sweet potatoes, and maybe you might think it’s weird or annoying that he’s rambling about his pan-fried sweet potatoes, but certainly it’s better than hearing about why he’s sad all of the time. Not saying that he’s necessarily sad, but maybe he’s just had a hard time finding that spice in his life. Maybe a few sweet potatoes are what he needs to remind himself to change things up, every so often. 

I think we can find ourselves doing the same things over and over, not really inspiring ourselves to try new things. Parents encourage their kids to try new things not just to make sure they actually eat a vegetable, but also to add variety and excitement to their food options. Meanwhile, as adults, we can still find ourselves eating the same things, going to the same restaurants, taking the same trips, doing the same activities with friends; all of these things can be fulfilling, but sometimes it adds some excitement to know that you’re about to try something new. As long as it’s a new thing that gets you excited, that could be all you need to add some of that spicy variety to your life.

Go to a new coffee shop to get work done. Meet your best friends at a restaurant none of you have tried, before. Try a new vegetable. Try a new dessert. Try baking a new dessert (even if you think you’re terrible at it, you could surprise yourself). Explore a new city in your state. Do something you’ve never done before, but maybe have always wanted to.

Just get out of that zone of familiarity and try something new. Even if it’s the most minuscule thing you can think of, and as long as it’s bringing that excitement of trying something new, get into it. Do that thing. Even if it’s just buying some sweet potatoes and throwing them in a pan, start changing things up on regular basis. Give yourself things to get excited about.

Creating Happiness

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Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

Over the weekend, I had a late birthday party with friends at my house. At first, I felt a little weird about doing this, because it’s the house I’ve been growing up in since I was like, four years old. I still don’t even really consider it my house, even though it’s technically mine, now, and I think that’s a big part of why I felt it would be weird. The house has so much history, and so many design touches to it that don’t really speak to how I would make a house a home, so the idea of having a bunch of friends over in this space as if it were my own just felt strange. Not so strange that I thought about not going through with it, but strange enough to wonder what everyone else was thinking of it.

I easily could have gone out to a restaurant like most other people do, and we could have gone bar-hopping like most twenty-somethings do, but this was my party, dammit. I didn’t want to pile ourselves into loud, public spaces and have conversations we couldn’t even hear. I wanted to cram my friends into the living room and play party games on the Nintendo Switch while eating good food and drinking great booze, so that’s what I decided we’d do. It was just social enough to not exhaust this little introvert.

My other thought while planning this party was that, toward the end of my mom’s battle with breast cancer, this house was filled with terrible memories. We were all pessimistic, sad, and angry most of the time, caretakers were coming in and out of the house constantly, and the house was no longer feeling like home. I think the vibe from those memories still lingers in the house, and it definitely drags down the experience of living in it (trust me, I’m working on moving into a place of my own). Whether or not it was for me, or for the ghost of my mom, I wanted to do something to counteract all of those bad memories. My mom enjoyed entertaining guests, and so do I, so I decided to try and create some happy memories within this space.

And you know what? It turned out great.

I got some pretty delicious chicken, rice, and beans (and a BEAUTIFULLY delicious cake), bought a plethora of alcohol to choose from (even made a spiked peach tea) and had enough games for everyone to consider. Turns out, I actually really like organizing events like these. It was my first time doing a catering order, trying to figure out how much I would need to buy as far as drinks go, and getting the house all set up to have a great night. I had helped my mom with organizing some parties like this before, but this was my first time doing it all. I had a feeling it would all be okay, but it wasn’t until we were all sitting in my living room, laughing while playing some of the best party games (The Jackbox Party Pack 4), that I finally knew that it was all going well. A friend even told me that I throw a great party, so now it’s set in stone and you can’t convince me otherwise.

Overall, the birthday party did what I set out for it to do. It filled the space up with laughter, friendship, and love (that’s so corny, but I’m standing by it), and I think it needed that as some of its final memories. Even though I know I won’t be living here in this house the foreseeable future, I figured this could be one of many parting gifts that I give it before I say farewell. It had so many good, bad, important, silly, sentimental, uplifting, and heartbreaking memories behind it, and I wanted to make sure it at least ended this family’s history with it on a good note. There may still be many more memories to come for it, but at least I could contribute something that shined bright for more than just myself.

Thanks for checking out this overly sentimental and (hopefully) heartwarming post. I’ve grown more sappy and emotional as I’ve aged, so y’all are just gonna have to keep dealing with that. Sorry, not sorry!

Finding Importance in Birthdays

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Photo by Andreas Weiland on Unsplash

This year’s birthday for me has been agonizing, mostly in a “oh god, what do I even do?” kind of way. I’m always that person who forgets that their birthday is coming up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited about it, but it’ll usually be just two weeks before my birthday before I think “oh shoot, my birthday is coming up.” It’s never a calculated effort, but always astonishment at how quickly it comes (go ahead and make your sex jokes).

This year is a little different, though. This year is the first one without my mom, which I think I’m prepared to deal with. I say “think” because you can’t actually know until it happens. She always wanted to do something to make my birthday feel special. She started hospice last year the week before my birthday, and with the chaos of her going in and out the emergency room due to the breast cancer causing intense pain in her gall bladder, my birthday sunk into the background of everyone’s minds. Though that summer was all about making sure she was okay, she made it a point to acknowledge that we hadn’t really talked about what to do for my birthday. We eventually decided to celebrate by having a nice breakfast out with my brother, sister-in-law, and aunt. It was something we kind of just threw together, but something we knew everyone would enjoy. I don’t even want to dive into the rabbit hole of thoughts about how she knew that it would be her last birthday with me, but I know that had to have contributed to why she made sure we celebrated it.

This year, I had to actually push myself to make it important. 

It’s not that I’ve never planned my own birthday event by myself, but this year has felt noticeably different when it came to thinking about it. Aside from the passing of my mom making this birthday one of those “firsts” that you inevitably have to experience after loved ones die, there have been other incidences around this year that have contributed to this birthday feeling like it’s not worth celebrating. I don’t want to go too much into detail about that specifically, but those events have made it feel like I’m just not worth the time or energy. I understand people have their priorities, and I wouldn’t want to make someone feel like they have to move me to the top if that’s just not possible, but it would just be nice to feel important.

I lost my mom, and thus, a person in my life who did her damn best to make special days of mine the most special. I realize I can’t always depend on others to be responsible for that, but it was nice to know there was at least one person who would go through all of the motions to make sure we celebrated it the way I wanted to. Maybe this is why I still value birthdays, so much, no matter whose it is. I think this is why I knew, even if I didn’t feel that I knew at first, that I should still celebrate it on my own terms.

I’m hoping what I decided to do distracts me from all of the depressing background noise around my 26th birthday. Even my therapist strongly suggested that I plan something, and made sure I left her office last week committing to making those plans over the weekend. I don’t know that I needed her to say that in order for me to actually plan something, but I do think it allowed me to give it the importance it needed by just sitting down and figuring it out (and even messaging a friend to bounce around some ideas). Once I got past the agony of not knowing what to do, I was finally excited about what was to come, and I’m glad I finally got to that point. Board games, food, and alcoholic beverages with friends sounds like the kind of cozy, but thrilling vibes I’ll need for this birthday. Thank goodness for all of the forces in my life that inspired these plans.

I want this birthday to feel important, because birthdays are important. You lived for another year! You were healthy enough to get another year experiencing life, and that’s a damn good gift. Not everyone gets to experience as many birthdays as they’d like. Some know when it will be their last, and some pass, not knowing that their last one was the grand finale. My mom spent her final birthday feeling depressed about not being able to walk anymore, and wishing her life would just end. I didn’t blame her, but it wasn’t the “happy birthday” that we all wished upon her. None of us knew that all of her happy birthdays had been spent, but that didn’t mean we’d just let it come and go without trying to make it brighter. I didn’t know how much that would pull me into feeling that my own birthday could feel just as meaningless, but I’m actively subverting this by making all of them count.

Make your birthdays happy while you can. Give them the life they deserve. No matter how many you have left, they’re always important enough to celebrate.

A Geek in the Community

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Photo by Geeky Shots on Unsplash

I chose a username about 4 years ago, with the intention of making my presence based on me being just one voice in a community of diverse individuals. “AGeekintheCommunity” was supposed to be a way for me to assert that my voice was only one voice among the community (at that point, it was for LGBT+ topics), but it had a double meaning in the sense that I felt like I was a geek that traversed through many different communities. I wanted to try to portray that my voice is distinct, but not the only voice who has an opinion on the topic.

Though I consider myself a “geek,” which in my realm, means being incredibly passionate about a certain something (usually TV shows, movies, books, etc.), it was starting to feel strange trying to brand myself completely off of that. At first, it was easy to embrace that I would be a geek in any community I moved through (which, well, is still a little true), but it hasn’t been until lately that it feels like it shrunk me. It reduced me to being “just another face in the crowd,” as people say.

I know I’m just another geek in the community, but I don’t want to feel that.

Due to a lot of discouraging experiences, I’ve felt like nothing special for most of my life, and I don’t want those insecurities to start bleeding into how I present myself online, or the quality of work I put into my creative projects. I’ve known that I have a lot of talent to offer, but I have rarely felt that I do, and I know I need to break out of that cycle if I want to believe in my talents. Can a simple username change across all of my platforms be enough to make me feel the uniqueness that will inspire good work? I don’t know, but it can’t hurt to try.

Originally, the name change across all my social media was due to the trend of writers/authors using their real names as usernames, as well as the domain names for their websites as a means of making it easy for people to find their work. I was scared to do it at first, because it would mean going from a catchy username to just, you know, my name. I had been thinking about it months before changing, but always talked myself out of it, or listened more to the people discouraging me from doing it. The thought started nagging at me even harder lately, and I figured that it was just time for me to do it. It’s “Now or Never,” you know, like the Blair St. Clair song (she’s a drag queen, in case you didn’t know). I’m pulling myself together, and all that jazz.

I still love AGeekintheCommunity, but he’s not who I need. He got me started, but it’s my turn to lead myself into something amazing.

It was originally supposed to just be a thing I did for a more solid web presence, but I found something deeper in the username change. Maybe the hinderance that AGeekintheCommunity gave me was so subconscious, it wasn’t until I went through with the whole process that I see where it could have been holding me back. “JeffBrutlag” might be less catchy, but it’s me. It’s the identity I’ve lived with, and am learning to love. There is complexity, experience, and talent behind that identity that I know will do amazing work. I can put in the effort to make my identity pop; AGeekintheCommunity will always just be “a geek in the community,” no matter how good he is.

So look out for me on the world wide web, friends! Jeff Brutlag is ready to kick some metaphorical teeth in. He’s still a big geek, though, so don’t be too intimidated.

(The only place you may still see the username “AGeekintheCommunity” is Facebook, because apparently “Jeff” isn’t a word that’s “allowed on Facebook.” Their platform can go down in history as the first hater of my name change. That’s like, kind of cool, I guess?)

Let’s Get Therapeutic

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Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

So, I value authenticity and transparency in a lot of situations. Because of that, I’d like to keep it real with y’all. One, because I don’t want to be ashamed about what I’m about to talk about, and two, because I don’t want you to have to feel ashamed if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. So, well, here it goes.

I’m starting therapy, today.

A lot of people may read that and think “oh no! He must really not be doing well,” and some others might think “good for you, it’s awesome that you’re aware enough to know you need help with some of these issues!” And, well, both would be correct.

The thing is, I’m not doing well. For all intents and purposes, I’m doing okay, but there are a lot of anxious thoughts that get so overwhelming, that I eventually just start sobbing. I can only avoid thinking about them for so long before they come back up (on full blast) and start affecting my life in a way that harms productivity, and simply being able to just exist without feeling a crippling amount of feelings. No matter how logically I try to rationalize against my anxieties, the anxious thoughts always win, even though the logic could be absolutely spot on. But heck, it hasn’t even been a year since I lost my mom, I’m starting a whole new career that has no set step-by-step process for success, and I’m navigating the world of dating in the face of all of this grief. Who could blame me for being this anxious?

At the same time, it’s pretty amazing to finally just admit to myself that this is the step I need to take in order to feel more empowered. I’m such a mouthpiece for mental health, and I’m always preaching the message that you need to take care of yourself before you can make progress in your life, or take care of others, and it feels good to be doing something that I know will do that, for me. I’d always been a little hesitant about it, because I grew up feeling like having emotions made me broken, or that not doing well meant that I should be avoided. The several amount of times I heard people in my family say “leave him/her alone, they’re cranky” contributed to that heavily, and I don’t want to have that fear of loneliness due to what I’m feeling, anymore. I don’t want to feel pitied, and then left alone to figure out how to put myself back together.

It’s okay to not feel okay, and it’s okay to need professional help when it gets to be too much.

It’s like having a scab. It’s there, and you may not feel the pain in that scab all the time, but that doesn’t mean the wound isn’t there. For so long, I thought that maybe I was fine because I had gone a while without having really intense anxious thoughts. But like logic would have it, the anxiety just kept getting worse. This last week has been the worst I ever felt, and I can’t imagine what it would be like if it were to be any more unbearable than it is, right now. I don’t know what this appointment has in store for me, and I realize that all my problems won’t go away with just one session, but it feels amazing knowing I’m starting the healing process.

I’m talking about all of this because I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t get help. When we physically get hurt, we have no hesitations about going to the doctor. It’s so normal, so routine, and you only bat an eye at it because it’s a little scary to see your body in ways it doesn’t normally look. Mental health, like physical health, should not go untreated. If you feel like something is wrong, there’s no shame in making an appointment for therapy and seeing what they can do for you. You shouldn’t have to get to the point where your own thoughts make it hard for you to feel happy.

Thank you for listening. If it would help you to hear more about this journey, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m mostly doing this for myself, but if my experience in therapy can help anyone else, I would be willing to talk more about it in the future.