The Groundhog Day Syndrome

Posted on May 9, 2013 by Damon H

Does this scene from Groundhog Day seem familiar?As a professional content writer it’s not unusual to find yourself stuck in a time loop. Get up, get out of bed, drag a comb across your head (sure, most of us skip that part), Columbian coffee, comfy chair, computer, work—as The Beatles would say, that’s a day in the life. Our writing schedules are as drill sergeant rigid as a nine to five at the office park. While we long to celebrate the freedom and flexibility of the freelance life, many of us find ourselves repeating the same day over and over again. We’re like Bill Murray in the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day.

On the surface, Groundhog Day is a film about a man who is forced to re-examine his life, the same day playing out again and again until he finally gets it right. Dig a little deeper and it’s an existential comedy that has more in common with the absurdist plays of Samuel Beckett than a traditional laugh track romcom:

“Do you know what today is?”

“No, what?”

“Today is tomorrow. It already happened.”

Beckett, indeed.

After churning out article after article, the weekly word count resembling some astronomical figure that only a mathematician would be comfortable dealing with, writers get stuck in the same type of grinding time loop that other professionals constantly complain about. By Wednesday, you’ve hit the proverbial brick wall. By Thursday you wish you had a boss to tell off, because chewing yourself out in the bathroom mirror looks a little loco if you happen to live with someone. By Friday, you’re wishing there was still such a thing as T.G.I.F. An no, the chain restaurant doesn’t count, but chances are you’re heading there for a cold one anyway.

For many writers, the Groundhog Day scenario doesn’t just resolve in a happy, life affirming conclusion like it did in the film. There are no universal tips for what to do when The Grind strikes. A writing rut can last for weeks, and that’s when things really begin to get interesting. In no time at all you’re not only Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, but you’re also Jack Nicholson in The Shining, typing all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy over and over again.

Is the Groundhog Day syndrome just another variation of writer’s block? It could be. Still, there are days when the words flow freely and easily, and there are days when you feel like a dredgeman (or woman) slowly swamping through the muck of the Everglades during the Great Depression. And then there are days when you swear you’re eternally spinning the same top 10 list.

Writer’s block is more like that 1987 comedy with Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal: Throw Mama from the Train. There’s even a scene in that film when a character is trying to develop an opening line for a story:

The day was hot
The day was very hot
The day was hot and very sticky.

Yup. Just like Groundhog Day, we’ve all been there too.

Damon H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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