Taking a step back to work

I’ve been trying to write a story for several months now, but the problem seems to be that I don’t quite know what to write about.  I know I want to write – I can recognize that feeling – but I just cannot for the life of me come up with something that interests me as a writer.  I’ve come up with little things “” snippets of fictional conversations between nameless characters, images of people performing certain tasks “” but nothing that I can turn into a 10-plus-page story.  It’s not writer’s block; I’m pretty sure if someone else were to lay out a plot for me and tell me their idea, I’d be able to write it out to their liking. It’s more like a deficit of decent ideas.

That’s not to say I haven’t written any stories since this idea deficit began.  Mid-semester, I managed to type out something decent, but that plot and premise had been stewing in my head for nearly three years.  It hardly counts.  I could write that idea because I already knew what it was; I already had it in my head.  Now, I don’t have any ideas to fall back on, and it’s frustrating.

It’s that time of the semester where I start getting stressed out by all the work I haven’t done, yet I am sitting here stressed out by something that I can’t even properly qualify.  It’s not just stories that I’m stumbling on, but poetry as well.  All the images I come up with seem stale to me, like a four-month-old, half-eaten bag of pita chips and expired hummus.  It just comes out feeling like something I’ve written before, something that’s false and overdone to the point where even I am tired of it.

I want to write about things that are disgusting.  I want to capture the filth that oozes from every pore of our modern world.  I want to call attention to our societal hypocrisies, I want to write about flesh twisting into grotesque shapes.   Maybe that’s my problem – that I’m too caught up in this one facet of the world.  But the real problem is that I can’t escape it, no matter where I look, I see dirt, and garbage, and horrid things and I love it.  Writing about these things in particular brings me happiness and makes me feel alive.

But now I feel that it’s eating me away.  This thematic hang-up is holding me back and preventing me from exploring it further, because I continue to look at it in the same way.  All signs point to me needing to take a step back, but if I step back too far, will I still be able to retain my connection?  It’s an irrational question; of course I won’t lose that connection to the obscene. It’s such an integral part of me that I couldn’t possibly forget about it, but at the same time, this question twists uncomfortably at my esophagus, because I am afraid.

Lauren Schroeter is a junior majoring in geology and religion.