How a Sex Book Helped Me Overcome Writers’ Block

June 28, 2022 § 14 Comments

by Louise Julig

In June of 2019, I went from writing 2,200 or more words a week for a solid ten weeks to feeling like I was reaching through mud to get even a few scraggly sentences onto the page. I’d gone from feeling free and uninhibited in my writing to blocked, stifled, dried up. 

The close to 25,000 words I’d racked up came during Joelle Fraser’s Thirty-Minute Memoir course, a memoir boot camp designed to get us generating lots of new material. Our daily writing goal was 300 words posted to the class forum Monday-Thursday, with a 1,000-word goal each Friday. The short assignments felt so doable, I was excited to sit down with my project each week. You can write anything for 300 words, right? By Fridays I looked forward to stretching my writing muscles for a longer push. When the class wrapped, I was sure the momentum would carry me. 

It didn’t. 

I tried giving myself 300-word-a-day assignments but couldn’t stay committed. I thought the post-class online community set up for our cohort would help—but the magic was gone. I felt like a failure. Didn’t real writers just put Butt In Chair and git ‘er done? 

At the time, I was also reading Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life. CAYA, as it is affectionately known, literally changed my life starting on page 2 (an experience I later turned into a piece for a storytelling show about a trip to an adult store to buy my first vibrator.) 

Learning about the dual-control model of sexuality — that there are sexual “accelerators” that send signals from your brain to your genitals telling them, “Turn on!” and “brakes” that send signals saying, “Turn off!” depending on what’s going on in your environment — was a huge light-bulb moment. That, and Nagoski’s explanation of context. 

Context is the reason recreating the external setup that led to great sex previously…doesn’t always work the next time. Just because a hot bath and watching Colin Firth’s pond swim in Pride and Prejudice made you want to have sexytimes before doesn’t mean it will again, if internally you’re stressed about work, had a fight with your partner, and/or are waiting on the results of that PCR test. What sets the stage for great sex is when you can put your foot on the accelerator and take it off the brakes by knowing your external and internal personal context cues. A hot bath and clingy-shirted Colin Firth might still lead to great sex if you’ve cleared the air with your partner, who also reassured you that you are more valuable than your paycheck and if the COVID test comes back positive you’ll figure it out together. 

I wondered if I could apply the same principle of context to my writing life. 

The experience I’d had writing during the class shared a lot with the best sex I’d ever had. I felt safe being vulnerable with my classmates. I lost myself in the writing. I wasn’t worried about how everything fit together, but just showed up as my most authentic self. And when I completed each assignment, I felt spent yet invigorated, excited to try it again. 

I made copies of the book’s worksheet pages for deciphering your own personal context cues, adding “writing” to the titles: “Sexy Writing Contexts” and “Not-So-Sexy Writing Contexts.” Then I started making lists. 

What pumps my writing accelerator? High trust with writing partners who are being as vulnerable as I am, lots of communication and positive feedback between us, and the expectation from someone else to show up (even up to five times a week.) Apparently I also like constraints—I mean, weekly deadlines.

What hits my brakes? Other writers not showing up or not being vulnerable, strangers in the room (in this case admins in the online community) and feeling like I’m doing all the heavy lifting with no feedback. 

The CAYA worksheets end with an assignment to identify what you can do to create “frequent and easier access to the contexts that improve your sexual [or in my case — writing!] functioning.” With the clarity I’d gained, I signed up for a paid, facilitated, memoir-only read & critique group run by an acquaintance. 

It worked. The group had all the magic ingredients and kept me writing. 

Signing up for that read & critique was one of the best writing decisions I ever made. The Come As You Are worksheets helped me use my personal context cues to my advantage—to actually identify what was holding me back, and what would help me start writing again. Doing this exercise also helped me realize I’m not a failure for not fitting the lonely-writer-in-a-garret mold of someone who can crank out volumes of words in isolation. 

It’s just that I like being watched. 

*

Louise Julig (she/her) is a writer from Encinitas, California whose creative nonfiction has appeared in Lunch Ticket, FEED, Crack the Spine, and The San Diego Decameron Project anthology. She has also performed at the VAMP showcase of the San Diego literary and performing arts organization So Say We All, telling stories about staring at people with food in their teeth, an epiphany at a summer camp dance, men telling her to smile, and her first field trip to an adult store.

Find her on both Twitter and Instagram as @LouiseJulig or visit louisejulig.com.

Tagged: , ,

§ 14 Responses to How a Sex Book Helped Me Overcome Writers’ Block

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading How a Sex Book Helped Me Overcome Writers’ Block at BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

meta

%d bloggers like this: