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.

Oh, Hey! I’m Published!

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 11.21.58 AM

You know that book I was going to be featured in? Well, it’s officially available for purchase!

You can order it directly from the publisher here, or if Amazon is more your style, you can order it from them here.

I worked quite hard on this piece, and though it’s hard to believe that I got published in this book full of super talented writers, I also know that my hard work paid off, and I’m thrilled to see that I’m talented enough to be among them.

As a reminder, the piece within the book focuses on some feelings around my mother’s passing, and how things will be different, moving on. I could say more, but that would be a spoiler!

I’m so thrilled that the book is finally available for y’all! PLEASE feel free to let me know what you think about the piece!

My Writing Is Getting Published!

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 11.21.58 AM

So you know how I was talking about the fact that I’m going to have some writing published in a book, soon? Well, that book is now available for pre-order! The book itself is a collection of excerpts from Arizona-based writers, in both fiction and non-fiction genres. I’m not only excited to see my excerpt in a solid, tangible book, but I’m also very excited to be featured along so many other talented writers!

The excerpt I wrote for the book discusses some feelings I had around my mother’s passing. A parent passing away is such an interesting (and yes, painful) time for introspection, and pondering about how life will be much different due to the fact that they’re gone. I had some complex feelings surrounding her death, and it was not only cathartic for me to get these words out into the world, but was cathartic to turn these feelings into a strong piece of art. I really did put my heart in it. I wouldn’t have submitted it if I didn’t stand strongly behind it.

If you’re interested in pre-ordering this book, here is the link that you can use to get a copy of your own! It will be out on October (date here), and I can’t wait for you to read it!

Some Well (Or Ill) Timed Imposter Syndrome

I’m not the only writer who compares himself to others. I’m not the only creator who feels like his creations are worse than they actually are. In the world of artistry and pulling ideas out of your head to turn them into a creative piece, looking at your finished product (and at times, your work-in-progress) and thinking “this is a pile of garbage” is just a part of the process. It doesn’t have to be, but it usually is.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been slinging out a bunch of hot, smelly garbage when it comes to writing. I can smell it even before it hits the blank document, and I immediately discourage myself from the idea that anyone else would even want to look at it. It’s been hard, because every time I finish the grueling creative process with my writing, I get such a damn rush that I can’t get from anything else. So feeling like everything I’ve been doing lately is subpar, plus seeing the success of so many other writers, makes me feel like I don’t have what it takes to let my creativity shine. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m quite ecstatic to see others succeed, especially when they’re other queer writers. However, I start to feel like I need what they have in order to succeed, and I talk myself down into thinking that I’ll never have it. Nevermind the fact that what they have and what I have can exist at the same time and be equally as successful; my brain thinks I just won’t make the cut.

This all changed when I just recently received this email:

IMG_2987

Okay well, I’m exaggerating. Not ALL of it changed, but it did take me a little bit out of the immense imposter syndrome I’ve been feeling for a bit. Like I don’t know if I actually deserve the success I get because I don’t believe I’m at the level of other successful writers.

I keep going through these motions of being a writer where I feel like the talent just isn’t there, like people are just saying I’m a good writer because it’s better than saying I’m a bad one. Even receiving this email (which, don’t get me wrong, I am THRILLED about it), I feel like I’m still just some run-of-the-mill gay writer on the Internet.

This publishing house wanted a short, 1250-word excerpt for their collection. I could have just combed through my old projects and sent one of those out, but what did I do, instead? I busted my ass to write a whole new piece from scratch. I didn’t have to, as I didn’t have that long of a time to write and edit a whole new piece to send to this publication, but I did it, and that work paid off. Yet, I still feel like it didn’t actually happen. Like maybe it’s going to slip away, somehow. How, exactly? I don’t know, but I keep feeling it.

Regardless, I’m trying to stay on the lighter side of it. This is my second publication I’ve gotten in to! That’s huge! I wouldn’t have been given this if there wasn’t talent in what I do. I worked hard for it, and I know I deserve it, and as long as I keep reminding myself of that, I know I can move forward and continue to put that energy into something bigger and better, so I’m going to do what I can to ignore the imposter syndrome, and keep writing the way I know I can. This may sound all kinds of cliché, but gurl, I just learned that I’m getting published. I can get a little sappy and cliché if I want to!

And believe me, I’m just getting started. I have bigger ideas that I will for sure be putting some good energy into, so once this imposter syndrome stops being so damn loud (which may never happen, but I’m feeling optimistic while writing this), the world will see just how mighty my pen can be! (Not a euphemism, ya nasties.)

A Geek in the Community

geeky-shots-687872-unsplash (square)
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?)

Empty Wells

Coffee shop productive (in post)
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

I’m just going to blurt out a bunch of stuff that I’m thinking because I’ve been super unproductive and I need to at least write SOMETHING this week that makes me feel like I haven’t been incredibly lazy (when it comes to writing, at least. I know I’ve been working hard in other realms of my life.) I’ve been waking up about two hours later than I normally have been, and I feel like that’s been spiraling into how I run the rest of my days, and I’ve honestly been hating it. I used to be great at just getting myself out of bed, but lately, I’ve been like “eh, let’s close our eyes for another 5 minutes,” which then somehow turns into another hour and a half. I can’t say I’m proud of this, but I try to give myself the benefit of the doubt by suggesting that my body needs that extra sleep. For what reason? I don’t know, but listening to your body is important. However, I now feel like my body is taking advantage of me.

I have writing projects I know I need to get done, but like most of the writing projects I’ve been working on, there’s a fair amount of emotion that goes behind it, and those emotions haven’t been easy to confront. I keep thinking “is it too soon to write about this?” But those thoughts are so often combatted with “if I don’t write about it now, then the feelings just won’t be the same.” Which, I guess both are true, but all in all, I feel like this is all just a subconscious excuse to stall. Why am I stalling? What is there to wait for? I’m not getting to success any faster by staring at a mostly blank word document and hoping I can get words to appear. I have to put the work in, and I have to do whatever it takes to just get that work done.

But…of course, there’s another side to that. These last few weeks, I haven’t been in the mental headspace of allowing myself some relaxation. About a month ago, I was doing well at telling myself “okay, just ONE episode of Jessica Jones, and then you have to get to work,” and that was keeping me on a pretty good track. Lately, every moment of my day has been filled with me thinking “okay, you have to do this right after you’re done Twitch streaming, today,” and subsequently, trying to fill every moment of my day with trying to stay productive. It’s kind of been driving me crazy. Sometimes I feel like my mind is just trying to tell me to stop, relax, and give myself a damn break before getting into the work I need to do. Maybe I need to listen to that.

But it’s hard, because I also feel like I haven’t been productive, despite organizing and running a month-long charity campaign on my Twitch channel for The Trevor Project (which is still happening), which alone has been enough work to be considered a job. When I’m not working on that, I’m sitting in front of my computer, trying to be productive by sheer willpower (with little to no results), so lately, there hasn’t really been a moment where I’m just…relaxing, simply for the sake of it. I’ve valued balance for so much of my life, and now, I’m trying to sweep that under the rug. Maybe that’s been a detriment, a product of the environment I was raised around that doesn’t agree with my brand of adulthood. I was taught that being busy means being productive, and that relaxation was a privilege granted when you’ve been busy enough to earn it. While I believe in staying busy to be productive, I also heavily value my time where all I’m doing is something that requires little to no productive effort. Though, whatever the reason is, I know me best, and losing touch of that has started to make me slip into a version of myself that’s hindering progress.

I don’t like being my own worst enemy, but as a content creator, that can just be part of the job description. For so long, I’ve fought between “I just want to relax for a bit” and “I’m not being productive enough,” and I’m realizing I need to finesse that combination in order to create some progress. I sometimes punish myself for taking breaks when I know I have a lot to do, and for sleeping in when I wanted to be up earlier, but maybe that’s part of what’s hindering, well, everything. I put this pressure on myself to hopefully avoid the pressure someone else may put on me, but I’m starting to feel like I’ve been going about it the wrong way. Willing myself to squeeze words onto a word document, when all my body wants is just forty-five minutes to escape reality, might be what’s drying the well of productivity to the point of cracking. A moment to just breathe might be what I need in order to re-fill it.

I guess this is when someone would say “treat yo self.” Make sure you’re treating yourself for the hard work that you do, because you deserve little rewards throughout your week. Keep yourself motivated, and know when the well is empty. Find healthy ways to fill that well. Kick ass. Repeat.

Was this Dan’s Plan, All Along?

Just recently, I went on a small vacation to Universal Studios: Hollywood. The trip was a bit sudden, and I wondered how I would feel about being on it at all, but I’m glad I went. I really needed to get the hell out of Arizona for a bit, and in turn, out of whatever creative funk has been plaguing me for the past few months. Do I feel cured of said funk? Not really, but I do feel like I’m on the road to a full recovery. Or something like that.

Something I can’t seem to stop thinking about is the few moments before taking the flight to LA. As we waited to board, I saw a man who almost became my boss and his wife boarding our plane. Let’s call him Dan. Like most other times you see people you’d rather not see, I felt that adrenaline rush when I saw Dan and his wife, as if I was about to enter dangerous territory. Whether or not it was actually dangerous is entirely arbitrary; my brain wanted me to believe it was. 

I had interviewed with his personal/professional development company for a social media position about a month after losing my job at the men’s underwear company. He made a name for himself by crafting these development classes, both video and in-person seminars, and he had an abrasive knack for motivating people to improve themselves, and the attitude he portrayed made it seem like he was the one doing it better than anyone else. Sure, I thought he was a bit arrogant, but he was good at his job, so who was I to say he shouldn’t be? I thought his advice was so non-specific, and didn’t take into account that everyone is different. It felt like he thought, at one point, “well all this worked for me, so I’ll take everyone’s money so that I can tell them that it’ll work for them, too.” Something was clearly working for him, despite how I felt about his content. He called himself “no-nonsense,” but I thought it sounded more like he had no tact. I tried to convince myself that I might have been wrong. 

My first interview with the company was with his wife and their secretary. His wife was late to the interview, and his secretary spoke like whatever they were brainwashing her with was slowly starting to lose its grip. They liked my ideas enough to bring me to a second interview, where I sat in their office and created posts for them. They liked my content enough to bring me to a third interview, which included going to a networking event that they were holding, actively updating their social media pages with posts related to the event, and…approaching strangers to ask them about their experience at their seminars.

I knew I lost the job the minute they asked me to do this. Mind you, I have no problems talking to strangers, but my introverted brain can only handle so many kicks into a social war zone. Not only was I still in the interview process for this company of people I barely knew, I was now being pushed to approach several people among a crowd of new faces for the sake of getting a job. Under all of that pressure, you would hope I’d turn into a precious gem. Though I didn’t come out of there looking sparkly and valuable, at least I didn’t turn to dust. However, they were looking for diamonds, not something resembling coal.

Something I must have repressed due to the nature of the people who owned this company popped up shortly after I saw them, though. I remember the night of the networking event, and I remember the conversation Dan and I had before I walked out of that event. He took a seat on the kitchen counter in the country club community center, and asked me what I ultimately want to do with my life. I felt like I was being tested. I saw the pen and paper in front of me, the question he asked in bold lettering, and I had studied the answer over and over again, but this time, I didn’t give the answer I knew I needed to give. 

I told him I wanted to write. I diluted my actual dream, but I still poured it into the reality we were sharing. I was anxious to share it, half because I wasn’t taking myself seriously enough at the time, and half because I felt his arrogance leaving so little room for anything else in the room. What I didn’t expect was him to pull it all back, and tell me that he saw something in me that suggested that, whatever I did with my life, he knew it would be great. I’d never felt that much space in a room for my dreams to just…exist

After he told me that they would call me tomorrow to tell me whether or not I got the job, I felt like I could finally see my path. Maybe he actually knew, or maybe he just wanted the news from the next day to hit me less hard, but everything seemed to fall into place shortly after that. Though I’m tempted to tell myself that I haven’t achieved the success that he saw in me, I think boldly stepping onto the path is the first step. I was anxious about seeing him, because I was anxious about the possibility of having to tell him that I lost the opportunity he could have given me, only for me to go months without actually gaining the success I told him I craved. 

What I initially failed to see in all of this anxiety is that even he knows that success comes in all different forms. I just need to make myself aware of this, too. Maybe it’s a slow start now, and maybe I don’t feel I have anything to show for it yet, but I also think wouldn’t have had to prove it, at all. There’s something already in me that’s radiating, and I have to believe it’s there just as much as everyone else. If Dan, an arrogant, seemingly self-centered business owner whose job is to know you better than you know yourself can take a minute to look into my eyes and tell me that he believes it, then I sure as hell can, too.