Saturday, January 3, 2015

          We've reached part 3. How to defeat the enemy: Writer's Block.
          If you can't write you're either stuck in your work in progress, or out of new story ideas. If you empty your mind and watch a few good news shows, you probably can fill that hole up pretty quickly. But real writer's block comes from several places and most are deeper rooted. 
          Burn out is what stemmed mine.  Where does burn-out come from?
          Trying for perfection: Ugh. If you're a perfectionist and want your characters to have a perfect life, a perfect crime, a perfect solution, a perfect relationship you're doomed. There are few perfect books and those probably exist in the mind of readers rather than their authors .  I can think of hundreds of reasons each and every chapter of my books don't work. Sometimes I'm even right. Perfectionism is a pest and a blight on the creative mind. Write that "shitty" first draft and correct what doesn't work later.  Some writers have worked on drafts multiple times--ten, twelve, I've heard thirty-five and, I think that was Stephen King.  Or, so I heard. Outlining and working on character sketches help too.
          I think fear is another. Fear of learning the awful truth--that you're really a lousy writer/author.  Your story idea is lame, overdone, boring, uninteresting to the multitude of would-be fans.  Question: Is it interesting to you? My guess is, if it's not, you're not likely to get through the first chapter.
          The grammar police strikes:  "I can't construct a readable sentence."  You use too many ly adverbs (there, I said it) You have misplaced point of views, or some other character got their thoughts in the way, you're grammar sucks, your editor, mother, father, best friend, husband and would-be agent or publisher will hate it. In other words, fear of disapproval and failure.       
          Or worse, fear of success. "Oh my God, what happens if I am published? I know nothing about the writing business.  I'm a marketing failure or "what's marketing?"  Selling my book? Speak in front of groups? Network my book? Gasp! I don't have the money for a publicist. How do I know all this? Just ask me. I don't have money for a publicist either.
           An other biggie: I don't have the time. My job gets in the way (mine did).  My kids and/or husband, mother, father , siblings won't leave me in peace. Or "I'd write if I could, but I can't, so I won't." So, we procrastinate another day. Of course, we have to make or structure time to write. Some writers work hours before their world gets up.
          How do we overcome WB?  Let's get to the root of the blockage. I think my two most obstinate blockers are fear and the perfectionist syndrome.  That's strange, because I'm more of a generalist by nature.  Here are a few ideas  I've heard or read about. (or thought about)
          Write. That's right, write. Anything. Maybe keep an alarm clock handy and time five minutes of writing garbage. Even one word over and over, what you did that day, what your dog did that day, what your kids want to do that day. Or write a blog. Why do you think I'm writing this blog? Because, I'm trying to get over my own WB.
          If possible, set a scheduled time to write. I think it's a good idea, but I don't stick to it. Perhaps if I did--maybe ....
          Read a good book. Many authors fear another writer's voice will get into their head. Probably not so much. Not if you read many authors. Your own writing style is still in the cobwebs of your mind.  
          I have a few craft books that, when I choose to read them, inspire me. Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott and Ernest Hemmingway's On Writing are wonderful motivators. I need to re-read both of them.  Get our your favorites:  Mine are: Synopsis by McCutcheon, GMC, Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Dixon,  Finding Your Voice by Edgerton, Writing the Breakout Novel by Maas (yes, the agent) The Writer's Journey by Vogler, On Writing by Stephen King and How I Write by Janet Evanovich. The list goes on and on.
          What about reviewing another author's book maybe in another genre? Reviewing is research and entails writing, not to mention, getting your name known. 
          Watch a good DVD in your genre. I watch Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Nero Wolf, horse videos, HRTV and old Dracula movies and find ideas from them all the time. I got my initial idea for LOD from Dracula and Transylvania, but the story changed so much, the only bloodsuckers you'll find are drug dealer-terrorists.  (and no, I'm not giving away the plot. They're introduced fairly close to the beginning.)
          Jeff Goins, in his blog about WB wrote play as a distraction and a way to clear the mind. I disregarded that idea, until I realized I play computer solitaire and Yahtzee games all the time. They help relax and stimulate my mind. Really, they do.
          Other ideas might be to brainstorm ideas with a critique group or friends. You don't have to use their ideas  if you don't want to, but it helps build momentum. Only downside, you have to listen to their story ideas too.  If you keep an open mind, some of them might be pretty interesting.
          Do other activities. But watch how long you do that. My other activities took me four years of writing downtime.  Here's one. Clean your house. My house never looks better than when I'm writing. Type a sentence, do the dishes. Type an outline, make the bed. Do a character study, clean out the pantry.  You get the idea.
          But, mainly write. (see a recurring theme here?)  Freestyle, garbage, writer's block, a short story, an outline, your grocery list, your goals for the day.  Like talking it out, writing can be cathartic.  Don't worry about what you write.  Turn off that internal editor that worries about ever word and write.
          Worry will come after you've submitted and wait for a reply. Even then, take away the anxiety and write the next book.
          Speaking of goals, next time we discuss setting goals for the coming year.
Happy writing


Sandra Nachlinger said...

GREAT suggestions for overcoming writer's block. Thanks for reminding me of all those wonderful writing books gathering dust on my shelves. I'll start with BIRD BY BIRD and see if it helps!

Patricia A. Guthrie said...

I love Bird on Bird. I should have re-read it a few years ago. Maybe the dreaded WB would have disappeared.

Thanks for your comments.

Micki Peluso is the author of "And the Whippoorwill Sang" said...

Pat, you outdid yourself with the reasons for WB and now I'm exposed since I have all of them. I know one thing, I've written long enough to stop making the'how to write' authors rich and stick to what I do best.