A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘writer’s block’

What have I been up to in the Writing World this week?

Okay, so I’m still getting back in the swing of writing after my very long slump. Part of that is blogging every week, even if I have little to nothing to say. At least right now it is little, rather than nothing.

This past week I have started thinking more in depth with where I am going when I finish writing book 3 of my Salvation trilogy. Not to say I’m anywhere close to being done with the trilogy (still have tons of edits and revisions on book two, and still polishing book one, let alone finishing book 3!). I’ve decided who the major players are, what perspectives I’m writing from, and what has transpired to lead to the events that take place in the next story. I’ve also decided that it begins with a daughter burying her mother. Maybe not the most creative in terms of cliches, but I hope to make it unique, all the same.

In the meantime, I’ve written about a page more of the third book in the Salvation trilogy – which is more than I’ve written for probably four or five months now. The title of the third book is Heart of the World, in case I haven’t mentioned that yet.

This week I have some time off from work, and my goal is to write at least a page a day. Not a lot, I know, but I think it’s important to keep goals attainable and right now I know  that a page a day is an attainable goal, but anything more than that would be overwhelming for me. That’s just how it goes when coming back from a slump.

How do you get yourself back into the swing of things after a slump?

Adventure well,

Emily

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“Wild Mind” – Truth in Reading

Today I finished reading another book. Or rather, I started and finished another book. Six hours of sitting at a desk waiting for the few phone calls and fewer visitors to the museum calls for reading material. This time it was Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg. Personally, I liked Writing Down the Bones better, but Wild Mind had some golden nuggets of wisdom as well. For instance

I’ve never met a writer who wanted to be anything else. They might stop for a few months, but those who have bitten down on the true root do not abandon it

This, to me, was probably the most affirming thing I have ever read when it comes to writing and being a writer. Because if I really face the truth, writing is my life. Ever since I was a kid, there was nothing I wanted more than to be a writer. Yes, I flitted to volcanology for a while, or culinary arts, or park ranger, but all the time I came back to writing. What was it that kept driving me away from writing, looking for something else? Doubt. It’s what Goldberg calls the “monkey mind,” the part of us that focuses on the obstacles (I’ll have to pay bills, be rejected by publishers, commit). I didn’t know any writers, and the ones I read as an elementary-aged child did not speak wonders to me. It wasn’t until (I’ve said it before) I read Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Quartet that I found an author or genre that truly spoke to me and encouraged my writing. Even then, I held back because of the difficulty of the task. More than once I put away all of my writing materials and vowed never to write again.

Yet I kept coming back to it. Of course I did. I am a writer, and that is what drives me onward.

Writing is a key part of my life. All I want to be (career wise) is a writer. Yes, I work at a museum now and that does not cause me strife the way my previous job sometimes did. Yes, I expect that I will have to work full-time because writing really isn’t going to pay the bills. But writing will be there, in the chunks and snippets of time I have, writing is what will carry me.

I am a writer.

Being Inspired

Yesterday, I had a conversation about reading and writing (among other things). One thing that stuck out to me was the need for motivation (though I like the term inspiration better – motivation makes me think of working out and dieting). Whether a person is working on a college paper, a painting, some sort of building project, or writing, being motivated/inspired is key.

I’ve had a problem with this inspiration/motivation lately. I’ve had great ideas for what I want to write about, how I want to rework QFS so that I’m satisfied with it (though let’s face it – having a completed manuscript is pretty satisfying on its own), but whenever I have the time and desire to work, I get stuck. Part of that is because it isn’t new and exciting anymore – but that isn’t all. If it were, my other new fragments of stories would be holding my attention. More than anything else, I have been stuck because I’ve not been talking to people about it.*

I’ve been working full-time with people who don’t do much reading or writing (as far as I am aware) and the friends I used to talk to are busy (not to mention far away after  the end of college). I’ve been busy trying to get my life in order, to learn new things (gosh, I miss school!), and to get involved in the community. That doesn’t leave much inspiration for writing.

So here is my advice to you, if you are stuck. Talk to someone about it. Not online, (preferably) not by texting or any sort of electronic communication.** Talk to someone, in person, about writing. You don’t have to talk about your specific project, just talk about writing and you’ll be itching to dive back in, to feel the flow of words on your skin.

Try it.*** Trust me, you will thank me! (And if you don’t, well, sorry! What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all.)

*Well, that and my apartment is NOT conducive to writing.

**Of course, electronic communication is better than no communication. But in my experience it doesn’t have the same effect.

***Another thing to try is getting out of your normal writing space. Sometimes, for me, if I’m stuck for too long and I keep trying to write in the same place, it sets me up for failure. Go to a library, a coffee shop, or even a restaurant.

Take care!

What I’ve Learned About Writing From Pokemon

I admit, I am a huge nerd when it comes to Pokemon. I was in a trading card league when I was a kid, the first video game I ever had was Pokemon Yellow, and yes, I still play the games.* I recently got White 2. If you know anything about Pokemon, you know about regions. Regions are sort of like states or territories and, as of this new game I got, there are sixteen regions in the Pokemon world (though only five are in the main games). This new game takes place in the same, albeit expanded, region as a previous game. To me , this expansion was the greatest gift the creators could give. Why? Because I love exploring new things in familiar places.

This is as true for writing as it is for gaming.  As a reader, I love stories that take place in one world, but different parts of that world. This is the reason that I’ve developed the world in which Quest for Salvation is set to the extent I have: because there is always something new to explore. I love the thought that, even if you think you know everything about a place, something new can happen and suddenly you aren’t so knowledgeable (and I just have to say, that word looks like it shouldn’t exist). Sure, it can be disorientating and scary, but once you push that fear away, it’s a whole new exciting world.

In the Pokemon games, you can explore new places as you advance in your skill. This is like writing in that as you become a more practiced writer, you have new ideas, you expand old ideas, and you can experiment with new styles or genres. Each time I try something new, I feel a rush of excitement and readiness for the next step.

The most important lesson I’ve learned from Pokemon? You aren’t always going to win. Sometimes I have massive failures in the games and I get frustrated. It’s the same with writing. When I have writer’s block or completely ruined the perfect scene by writing it down, I get frustrated with myself. Okay, let’s be honest, I get pretty darn angry. BUT! I keep going. In Pokemon I don’t give up after one loss, so there is no reason to give up on my story. After all, I can fix the writing more easily than I can train my Pokemon to higher levels.

Here’s the thing: don’t give up. No matter what your dream is, don’t give up. In Pokemon the dream is to become the Champion. In writing, it is to be published. Maybe you want to be an actor or a politician or an artist. Go for it. You can do it.

Take care, fellow travelers.

*I’m even writing a Pokemon fan-fiction with one of my best friends. At least I know I’m not the only one who still loves Pokemon 🙂

Outline Update

A couple weeks ago I wrote about outlining to prevent writer’s block. I can now say that this does not work for me. I have my outline and I love it, but it’s not the path of the story that is what trips me up, it’s all the little things that take place along the way. I know my characters are going to argue, and what they are going to argue about, yet when I get to writing it, I can’t think.

Now this isn’t to say that I am never going to outline again, I actually really like having the whole shape of the story written down. I like knowing what my characters are going to do (of course they always surprise me when they do something different, and I like knowing all the things that are going to happen. But outlining isn’t going to be the way I beat writer’s block.

Or maybe it’s just laziness that I am terming writer’s block. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference. Either way, I’ve still only got a few chapters of the sequel. But it’s better than nothing!

Take care, fellow travelers.

Creative Hobbies

Writers are, by nature, creative people. But words can run dry, and we hit the dreaded Writer’s Block. I’ve written about that before, about what it may be, about ways that people combat it. One way that I’ve found is to have hobbies that don’t revolve around words but are creative.

Example, I crochet. I’ve done so since middle school, when my mom first taught me. I love it. In college, I tried to keep it to myself, but then realized that almost everyone knitted or crocheted! My roommate and I even had craft parties. But back to the point, it’s a creative process. Following the patterns or just using a stitch you already know can be a great way to spend your time when you aren’t writing! I even make my own patterns these days, which takes a lot more effort but it always sparks my creativity!

Another creative-crafty thing that I do is embroider. My mom says that I don’t do it the right way, but I love it anyway. The project I’m working on right now is a pillow with some of the big symbols from my favorite books and TV shows. This takes a lot more effort (in my opinion) than crochet or knitting, but it still keeps my creativity engaged.

I know other writers who like to draw or paint, and I think that is a great hobby for writers as well. The important thing for any of these is to get away from the screen (or paper if you’re like me and write everything out by hand first) and do something else that keeps the creative juices flowing. Of course, if all else fails I sit down and watch some good old fantasy TV. But that’s for another post.

I love to do crafts, but I know others have their own hobbies to give them a break from writing. What do you like to do to take a break? What are your favorite creative activities (not including writing or reading!)?

 

Take care, fellow travelers!

Outlines

Yesterday, I finished typing up the edits for my manuscript. I will be letting it rest for a little while now. And since I finished that early in the morning, I spent the rest of the day outlining the sequel.

Now, I’m not usually one for outlining. What I normally do is write out a basic plot guideline and follow that. I did that for the sequel, but decided to try something new. I recently read a blog post (which you can read here) about how outlining can help prevent writer’s block. I say why not try, right? After all, I’ve posted about how writer’s block can be considered a fear of failure, and an outline can help a person ignore that little voice that says you don’t know what you’re doing. With an outline, you know right where your story is headed.

When I was in high school, I hated outlines. My teachers always said they had to be in a very specific format. My speech teacher took off points for commas, conjunctions, and even if one sentence spilled into two lines! She was a great teacher, but she was also the reason that I hated outlines until my junior year of college. That was when a professor (in an anthropology class) said “I don’t care about the format of your outline, I just want some sort of outline.” Really, she didn’t care? I felt so free!

And I promptly started writing my outline in the same format that my speech teacher taught. Well, almost the same. I had lots of commas and conjunctions. And oh my, I had run-on sentences spanning four lines! It was amazing.

On the outline for my sequel, a lot of the points are simple things like such-and-such happens, this character feels this way, that character will say this. Easy stuff. But my hand was cramped and it took about five hours (though I did have interruptions which probably took a lot of that time). Still, I think it will pay off. I’ve got a sort-of detailed 10-page outline now! (Is a 10-page outline a little much? I don’t know. Sometimes I get carried away.)

I have high hopes for this!

Do you outline before you start a new project? Share your thoughts!

Take care, fellow travelers!

A Workshop at the Buddhist Temple

Today I went to a day-long introduction to Buddhist practice at the local temple. For the most part, it was what one might expect: we beginners talked about why we were there, we were given a brief introduction to Buddhist practice, and then we were instructed in two of the various forms of mediation (sitting and walking). In the afternoon, we had a question and answer session about how Zen Buddhism (or this particular sangha) would approach certain issues that we face in our lives. One of the issues was how our mind throws up defenses against the unknown. Amazingly, this talk turned to writing (and then more generally art).

One of the biggest takeaways from that discussion was (and I am coming to my own conclusions based on what was said) that writer’s block – or any other type of artistic block – stems largely from the fear of failure. For many budding writers, this is something we’ve never done before. I’ve certainly never been this far in the process of writing and editing before. And so our mind is trying to protect us against the unknown we are experiencing. Whenever we venture into something new, there is always the chance of failure (though I am loathe to call anything failure – I much prefer calling missteps learning opportunities. Failure is much too negative) and it is frightening. We probably don’t even realize that that is why we have blocks. But it makes sense – if we’ve got the story all laid out in our minds and we know just what should happen why can’t we write it? Because it is scary. What if we write it and no one likes it? What if, somehow, it gets published but the public readership bashes it (as too often they do)? But we ought to understand that that is a fear we are imposing on ourselves. Someone is bound to dislike what we write, but does it matter? So many of us are writing primarily for ourselves, to tell a story we keep inside of us. The only way to fail is to stop writing – which is exactly what happens when we get writer’s block. Our fear opens and closes the cycle. My recommendation? When you get writer’s block, take a deep breath, and work on something else that is related to your story.

Something that Rev. Rinsen said resonated well with me. He said that art is the gateway to reality, and that it is part of the human condition. He said that we must be open to art, that eventually the act of creating will take over, and we have to give the power over to the art – that art will tell you what it wants to be. I think we writers know this somewhat instinctively – after all we always talk about our characters talking to us or how the story takes directions we didn’t plan for.

I don’t mean to say that writers are instinctively Buddhist – by no means is that the case! All I’m saying is that for me, this connection has been particularly powerful and I share it in hopes that it will be powerful for someone else as well.

Take care, fellow travelers.

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