Overcoming Writer’s Block

May 8, 2008 at 10:04 am | Posted in inspiration, Meg, writer's block, writing | 8 Comments

Writer’s block for a writer is like a broken leg for a marathoner. You can’t do the thing that brings you stress relief, releases endorphins (anyone who’s written that perfect scene knows the ‘writer’s high’) or fulfills a life long dream.

Yet a runner can go to a doctor who can put the leg in a cast, and after an indeterminate amount of time, the leg will heal. Maybe some rehab is necessary, but most likely the runner will be back on her feet in no time. Back to training and reaching that goal. For a writer, there is no literary doctor. No prescribed healing tasks that will set it right. Nothing to guarantee a complete restore to health. So what does one do? What did I do?

First, I tried to push through it, but then remembered my personal promise to not force myself to do anything in life that wasn’t fun. Then I took a vacation, otherwise known as giving up. And I enjoyed it. For a while. I read, I watched way too much TV and I walked around aimlessly without that one thing that I did for MYSELF and for personal enjoyment. And I realized I missed it. I MISSED WRITING.

So the cast is off and I’m ready to start my rehab. I surfed the web, looking for sites to overcome writer’s block and I came across this great one: http://grammar.about.com/od/yourwriting/a/wblockquotes.htm

Writers on Writing: Overcoming Writer’s Block from Richard Nordquist http://grammar.about.com/mbiopage.htm. On the site, he captures numerous points in a writer’s career where writer’s block may interfere with the process and uses quotes from successful authors to help jumpstart over the hurdles. These are the ones that caught my eye, but I recommend you refer to the site for full details:

GETTING STARTED:
§ “The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.”
(William Goldman)
§ “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.”
(Paul Rudnick)

The easiest thing to do is not write- very true. There are all the things that Paul Rudnick itemized that you can do to not write. BUT, and this is a big but, if you are a writer, if composing sentences and scenes is in your blood, after a while, the hardest thing to do is not write. It shows in your attitude and behaviors. It hurts.

CAPTURING IDEAS:
§ “I carry a notebook with me everywhere. But that’s only the first step. Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”
(Sue Grafton)

I started doing this. Jotting down ideas, moments, descriptions of setting and people. This helped me realize that I was back in my writer’s head- seeing the world as a resource and it excited me.

COPING WITH THE BADNESS:
§ “We can’t be as good as we’d want to, so the question then becomes, how do we cope with our own badness?”
(Nick Hornby)
§ “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
(Octavia Butler)
§ “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.”
(Anna Quindlen)
§ “I think writer’s block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible. But as a writer, I believe that if you sit down at the keys long enough, sooner or later something will come out.”
(Roy Blount, Jr.)
§ “Lower your standards and keep writing.”
(William Stafford)

WOW- this section is what made me see the light. What hit me over the head and said, “You idiot! You let your inner fears stop you from doing something you loved!” I did stop writing, even this blog, because I felt my writing was horrible. I had let people read my last novel without it being polished and the feedback was nonexistent. I should’ve held myself back until I knew it was ready and showed it to someone who would give me feedback on what was right and what still needed work.

ESTABLISING A ROUTINE”
§ I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”
(William Faulkner)
§ “I have to get into a sort of zone. It has something to do with an inability to concentrate, which is the absolute bottom line of writing.”
(Stephen Fry)
§ “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
(Barbara Kingsolver)

With all life demands, I do find it hard to establish a daily routine when it comes to my writing. The idea of putting six pages together each day won’t work for me. Instead, I hope to carve out one day a week that I can concentrate on my latest work. Progress won’t be easy, but I can use other unstructured time to think, jot down notes and observe the world to further develop characters and scenes. That way, even though I only have a set number of hours each week to write, I am working on my story every day.

WRITING:
§ “My block was due to two overlapping factors: laziness and lack of discipline. If you really want to write, then shut yourself in a room, close the door, and WRITE. If you don’t want to write, do something else. It’s as simple as that.”
(Mary Garden
§ “If you want to write, write it. That’s the first rule.”
(Robert Parker)
§ “The writer’s duty is to keep on writing.”
(William Styron)
§ “Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun.”
(Daniel Pinkwater)

It sounds so easy, go write, but when you’ve fallen into one of the above traps, it’s not just about putting words on the page. It’s finding your inner confidence to battle the critical demons or carving out the time to join coherent sentences into paragraphs. Or maybe it’s figuring out the conflict that will tear your hero and heroine apart or even developing your characters. No matter what the cause of your writer’s block, I empathize with you and feel your pain. I promise the cast will come off eventually and when you are ready, you will be able to run again. And maybe even fly!

-Meg

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8 Comments »

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  1. and then? Cliff- you’ve left me hanging with the ultimate writer’s secret!!!!! LOL

  2. Harlan Ellison claims he’s never, in his long career, been afflicted with writer’s block. His secret? He writes until he gets to the middle of an exciting or dramatic scene and then QUITS…to be continued tomorrow. Works every time.

    Note: Please delete my previous, uncompleted message. I left the keyboard for a moment and some sprite–more likely one of my kids–must have touched the wrong button.

  3. Meg,
    Glad to see you are writing again! Another friend of mine retreated for quite a while so that she could protect her muse. While she was sequestered, she made more progress than she ever had and came back better equipped than she was before. I think there’s danger in putting your work out in the world before either you or it is ready. Sometimes it’s only through the trials of our own experiences that we come to the realization and know how to better handle the bumps the next time around. I am proud of you for bouncing back!
    -Jessica

  4. Meg,
    Welcome back to writing. Your post was excellent and full of good advice. Jessica and I have had this conversation–if you are thinking about your WIP, your characters, the next scene, etc., it counts as writing. Sometimes I think we’re all too hard on ourselves and expect too much. Baby steps lead to pages that lead to chapters which lead to a finished book.

    I’ve been in an unusual lull/funk of my own lately. I’m about a third of a way through my WIP and have just stopped writing. I’m not really thinking about it, either. Both of these things are rare and weird for me, but I’ve decided not to fight it. I’ve been busy with other stuff, such as launching the Casablanca Authors blog, so I’m taking the break and trying not to sweat the lack of productivity. Let’s hope it comes back! LOL

    Glad to have YOU back to where you want to be.
    xo
    Marie

  5. Great post -thank you!

    I’ve been struggling to get a writing routine together for years. With working and studying taking up the bulk of my time I find I only have the luxury of writing when inspiration really hits.
    Because of this I have two novels stuck in the limbo that can ever so loosely be described as progress.

    I dream of the day when I can consider myself a “professional writer” and am able, by necessity, to sit and write daily!

  6. Marie
    Thanks for checking me out and for the kind words. Glad to be back myself. Don’t worry about your own block. You’ve reached your dream with your first book coming out in September. Maybe your mind just wants to sit back and glorify in the moment. You deserve it!
    Meg

  7. Fishdoctor-
    Dont give up on that dream. Check out Nancy Haddock’s post on the path it took her. Dont give up! Maybe your focus needs to be on the studying and other life tasks and the professional writer will arrive when it’s supposed to. You’ll get there!
    Meg

  8. Thank you Meg,

    A agree; patience is a virtue!
    I look forward to reading more of your blog

    Amy


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