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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: writers block, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 78
1. A Dry Heart

Failure to sell your work, and the rejection that accompanies such failure, can eat away at your heart until there’s nothing left but a shell pumping blood but no longer pumping words. A dry heart. It can happen to you if you’re not careful or vigilant enough, if you’re not aware of the words dwindling or the sentences shrinking or the desire drying up. It’s a disease, this dry heart.

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2. Remembering How to Write

Hi, my name is Kelly. I don’t write anymore.

I was asked to contribute to Pub Crawl almost entirely on the depth of my industry experience. And don’t worry, most of the posts I have planned will be about the publication process. I’ve worn many hats throughout my career since starting out in 2005 typing out reader reports for a Foreign scouting agency in a pay-by-the-minute internet café in Times Square. In the ten years since then, I’ve worked at literary agencies and publishers, have begun freelancing, and will soon be teaching as well. I’m particularly passionate about empowering authors to take creative control of their work and their careers.

But I wanted my first post to be more intimate. To give you a chance to get to know me a little before I start bellowing at you about how you should always, always read your contracts. I figured I might as well tell you the truth about me, and the truth is that I don’t write anymore.

I don’t write anymore, and it makes me so sad.

I could tell you about how I used to write, all the time, since childhood. How I studied writing in college and wrote novels and short stories and scribbled notes onto every spare inch of my waitress notepad. How I was invited to read my writing at several selective literary events and joined productive and delightful critique groups and spent all my time writing, writing, writing. Until one day I just stopped.

Objectively I can come up with excuses, but really I think that what it boils down to is that I tend to self-sabotage and am very risk-averse. I started working in the publishing industry, and it’s difficult—at least, it was for me—to be on both sides of the fence at once. I moved half-way across the country and got married and had a kid and put my time and creative energy into other things. I don’t know exactly why or how I stopped writing but I know absolutely why I didn’t start again, and that’s because I was terrified.

I am still terrified. But I decided to write again, anyway.

I did not wake up in the middle of the night, feverish with a new idea, driven by a force greater than myself that compelled me to write now. I have received no visits from a muse, have not carefully cultivated a story that needs telling, have not yet figured out what it is I have to say. I just miss who I am when I am writing. I just want writing back in my life.

Writing is not like riding a bicycle. It has not just come back to me. The act of putting words to paper (or screen) used to be so simple and is now so agonizing. I have forgotten not only how to compose sentences, but how to get to know my characters, how to pace a story, how to have an idea. So many long years stretch between now and the last time I wrote fiction that all my previous years of writing count for nothing. I am not just emerging from writer’s block or coming off a dry spell. I am learning how to do this all over again. And I need help.

If you want to cheer me on you can find me on NaNoWriMo under the name bookishchick. If you have any tips, tricks, or magical spells useful for getting back to the discipline and inspiration and courage writing requires, then please share them in the comments. If anyone else has returned to writing after an unimaginable break, then I would love to hear about it. To know I’m not alone. To know it can be done.

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3. Three Techniques Guaranteed to Kill Writer's Block and Get Your Mojo Back


by Martina Boone

When you're stuck and you can't figure out where your plot is going, it can be debilitating. It can make you doubt everything. Your idea, your skills, why you wanted to be a writer in the first place . . . In my experience--and that's all I can really speak to!--writer's block is usually nothing magical. It's my subconscious telling me I've taken a wrong turn somewhere, and all I really need to get myself going is an old-fashioned dose of creative brainstorming.

I start by reassessing what I already know in three different ways. Invariably, long before I've reached the end of this exercise, something has sparked my interest or alerted me to the problem.

You can work through these techniques one at a time, working up to a hundred statements in one category before moving on to the next, or you can jump from category to category at whatever point you like. There are no rules, except that you keep going and keep your butt in your chair until you're itching to right or until you've had an epiphany.

Ready? Let's get started.

Technique Number One: Declarative Sentences

Write one hundred declarative sentences about whatever story element you're trying to fix. Suppose you have a character, Daisy Dull as Dirt, who you don't know well enough. Make a list of what you do know, and then keep going as inspiration strikes.
  • Daisy is fifteen years old.
  • Daisy hates when the different foods on her plate touch each other.
  • Daisy talks too much and has no filter--she'll blurt out whatever comes to mind.
  • Daisy's inability to keep her thoughts to herself get her into trouble.
  • But her need to talk to people gets her back out of trouble.
  • Daisy learns that she has developed the ability to talk to anyone by drawing them out of their shells.
Revelation: Daisy's babbling isn't really babbling. She is actively listening and cataloging what she learns about the people she's talking to.

That's a revelation that you can use in many different ways, and it's a skill that helps not only your plot, but also your character development from the beginning of the book. She's had to be developing those skills all along. Where can you show that in your manuscript? Sometimes, just that small change can get you out of your block. If not, keep going. You'll find more revelations as you go.

Technique Number Two: Loves and Passions

Write one hundred (you won't get there, trust me) things that your characters love or have loved in their lives, or things/causes they're passionate about or have been passionate about in the past, and state why.
  • Daisy loves banana bread. She used to make it with her mother every Sunday morning, and just the smell of it reminds her of the warm kitchen and the soft Southern drawl of her mother's voice. (Wait. What happened to her mother? Why don't they do this anymore.)
See? It only needed that one statement to get to a revelation.

Technique Number Three: Hates and Conflicts

Write one hundred--although, again, you won't get there--things that one of your characters hates and another loves, or vise versa. Explain why they both feel the way they feel and how that puts them at odds with each other.
  • Daisy loathes runny eggs. They make her sick to her stomach because they remind her of the time her cat climbed up to a bird's nest and Daisy tried to save the eggs. Ralph, Daisy's love interest, loves runny eggs. They are a comfort food for him, because his father used to make him poached eggs on toast whenever he was sick. Ralph and Daisy have been in a plane crash and have to live off the land. Ralph gets up early after a rough night in the open and goes in search of food. He finds an old can, a stream, and a bird's nest with several eggs. He makes a fire and decides to poach the eggs and serve them on the stale crackers Daisy had stuffed in her purse. What happens when Daisy wakes up?
For the record. I knew nothing about Daisy, Ralph, or the plot of this story when I started writing this post. In just these short snippets working through the techniques, I've learned a LOT.

Whether you're trying to find a story, or trying to discover where your existing WIP took a turn it shouldn't have taken, these techniques are certain to get you writing again.

Enjoy,

Martina


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4. On Overcoming Writer's Block by Jen Larsen

We had a slight scheduling error on today's WOW Wednesday post. Sorry to all those who were expecting the post this morning!

Today, we welcome the wonderful Jen Larsen to the blog. Jen's YA debut, the uplifting FUTURE PERFECT was released into the world only yesterday, and today she's sharing some tips on overcoming writer's block in order to get that book out into the world.

On Overcoming Writer’s Block by Jen Larsen


Writing terrifies me.

I’ve written four books and countless essays and stories and blog posts but the idea of starting anything, and sometimes sitting down in front of my laptop and staring at a blank screen, can send me into a total panic. This you may recognize as writer’s block, and it is the worst feeling in the world.

However! It is combatable. You can learn to combat it. You can learn to feel the fear. Lean into the fear. Keep leaning until you knock it over and then sit on it and pretend to notice you don’t feel it struggling under me, bucking and kicking. And then you hang on, the best you can, until the end, hoping it was all worth it.

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5. 10 truly haunting thoughts, part II

Photo and vignette by Vicky Lorencen

Photo and vignette by Vicky Lorencen

In the spirit of this spooky season, I bring you ten more frightening thoughts for writers . . .

What if . . .

  1. Your face turned bright green and you sprouted purple horns whenever you experienced writer’s block.
  2. All editors expected you to pitch new projects using interpretive dance or mime.
  3. Chocolate was only available by prescription.
  4. Rejection letters were delivered by scrolling message at the bottom of the TV screen during “The Voice.”
  5. You must do a school visit dressed in nothing but a beige body suit and a giant cowboy hat.
  6. Your cat writes a bestseller with a main character who looks/sounds/acts exactly like you–down to the last cat-observed detail.
  7. Your cat sells movie rights to this very revealing bestseller.
  8. The first movie is a blockbuster and there is immediate demand for a sequel.
  9. Your cat locks you out of the house. Reporters are on your front lawn.
  10. You’re experiencing writer’s block that day. (See number 1.)

Halloween shadows played upon the walls of the houses. In the sky the Halloween moon raced in and out of the clouds. The Halloween wind was blowing, not a blasting of wind but a right-sized swelling, falling, and gushing of wind. It was a lovely and exciting night, exactly the kind of night Halloween should be. ~ Eleanor Estes, The Witch Family


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6. When Autumn Comes

When autumn comes, nature begins to slow down, and my brain wants to go into a deep sleep. It’s the time of year when some of us come up against a wall and can’t see beyond it. Where does the wall come from? Why does it appear? How do we deal with it until it vanishes? Maybe we should just go into hibernation and wait for it to fall down on its own. Writing—or trying to write—on

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7. Stuck in the Muck

It happens when you least expect it. You take a turn down a road that looks promising and before you realize what’s happening the tires sink into the muck and you can’t back out. Or you are swimming in clear water and the next thing you know there are weeds tangled around your arms and legs and you are sinking into the mud. Your brain is stuck, your pen is frozen. Words have vanished;

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8. constipation and you

dreamy frog

Recently a writing friend reminded me of something I wrote long ago: “Looking at it physiologically, perhaps writer’s block is more akin to constipation–things get all backed up in your semi colon.”

Yep, I know a few delusional mugwumps believe writer’s block is a myth, but let’s “pretend” it does exist. Why not apply constipation remedies to get your semi colon unstuck?

Strive for a balanced diet. Read and write in equal proportion.

Increase your fiber intake. Read outside your genre-of-choice to challenge yourself.

Drink plenty of water. By which I mean, drink plenty of water. Dehydrated writers produce dry writing.

Elevate physical activity. Maybe you’ve been practicing Anne Lamott’s dictum too much. It’s time to get arse out of chair and move. Walking is a time-honored way for writers to get the creative wheels whirling.

Get into a routine. For the love of prunes, if we can train your bowels, can’t we train our brains too? Establishing a writing pattern–whatever that looks like for you–helps your noggin’ to shift gears and be productive more quickly.

Heed the call. If your body says you need to, you know, “go,” then go. If your brain gifts you with a cool story idea or a solution to a knotty plot issue, jot it down, text it to yourself or tell a friend, don’t assume you’ll remember later.

Try applying these tips for two weeks, and you too could become a Smooth Operator. (Thanks, Sade.)

I wish that being famous helped prevent me from being constipated. ~ Marvin Gaye


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9. Subplots Fight Writer’s Block


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photo by John GoodridgeSubplots are a connected sequence of events, just like any other plot; the difference is that this is a minor plot with fewer developments. It should affect the main plot in some important way–or else you should delete it–but it doesn’t need the same development of a main plot.

I am still plotting my trilogy, and I’m taking a different strategy this time. I am working on the plot line for the entire trilogy before I start writing. Each book focuses on a different aspect of the overall story problem, so in some respects, each book is a subplot. Yet, overall, the story needs a throughline, or a question that overshadows everything.

In my sff trilogy, the overriding question is will the Risonian planet blow up, killing all Risonians? Or, will they find a new home and refuge?

The subplots will focus on different characters in the story and how they answer different parts of the overall problem. There are three romance subplots, various political subplots, and a couple survival subplots. Characters are motivated by revenge, by a quest of power, or by a sense of desperation.

That’s all good! In a long story–such as a series or even just a trilogy–the story needs to have some depth and breadth, and subplots have the potential to help.

As I say in START YOUR NOVEL, it helps to look over 29 different plot templates and decide on the overall plot for your story. Clearly, my story is about survival, and I can echo that with other smaller stories or subplots of survival. I can also contrast with someone who is out for revenge and cares nothing for survival; revenge at all costs makes for desperate–and potentially compelling–drama. Romance plots: OK, these should be a given in most stories, even if it’s just a love story between a boy and his dog.

What Happens Next?

It often happens that I am trying to work out the main plot but get stumped. What happens next? I’ve no idea.

Then, it’s time to turn to the subplot that has been patiently awaiting notice. What happens next in the subplot? Part of getting stuck is the fear that if I make a major decision about the trajectory of the story, I’m stuck with it. If it’s wrong, it will mean a major revision. Subplots, though, are small and contain fewer scenes. Make a mistake there and it’s much easier to revise later. By focusing on a smaller problem, you put less at risk.

Sometimes I have to go down the list and answer the “What next?” question for each subplot before I get inspiration for a better setting, more compelling emotions, or a larger conflict.

Often, figuring out the next logical step for a minor plot shakes loose a detail that will make everything connect better. Oh! So, she’s the main character’ sister, and that’s why she wants revenge.

The new revelation sends me back to the main plot with a new twist on the action.

When I’m really stuck, I repeat this process with every subplot from action to romance. For example, a romance subplot implies that tension and conflict permeates the man-woman relationship. How does the betrayal, the attraction, the hate, the love, and the self-sacrifice relate to and affect the main plot?

Progress is slow on this huge plot. Thanks to subplots, though, it is progressing! What happens next? My story gets plotted!

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10. Waiting for Inspiration?

“Being a writer is not unlike being a medium; sometimes the message comes through loud and clear, sometimes it doesn’t,”   Joan Aiken said in a talk on writing ghost stories.  Perhaps this is particularly apt for those with a gift for sensing odd atmospheres or noticing the unusual in the everyday, as she certainly did, […]

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11. Suzanne Bloom Is A Foolish Optimist

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Suzanne's Newest Book

Suzanne’s Newest Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom for the final post of our four-part series. If you are a new or aspiring children’s picture book author (or illustrator), I hope you have found some inspiration and encouragement in the last three posts, and I hope that continues today. This week I ask Suzanne about quiet stories, writer’s block, and how to keep from getting discouraged.

I discovered I have something in common with Suzanne, besides our love for picture books. We have both been told by editors that our work is quiet. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant the first time I heard it. Is that good? Bad? What? Since the editor who told me that my story was quiet didn’t seem interested in acquiring it, I surmised that quiet must be bad. And if that’s the case, then my story must be bad, and my writing style must be bad, and maybe I’m not cut out to be a picture book writer. See how easily that self-doubt creeps in?      

What I have learned since then is that quiet doesn’t equal bad. It is a certain style of writing, and a lot of my work is written in that style, but it’s not bad, it’s just harder to sell to today’s publishers, who seem to want quirky, funny, quick-paced, action-packed, stories. That being said, quiet books are still being published, just not as much. And if you truly want to, you can rework your story into something a little less quiet.

Suzanne, what does an editor mean when he/she says a story is quiet? And how do you feel about quiet stories?

Is it quiet because nothing happens? Do your characters have a problem to solve? Is there a beginning, middle and ending? Have you left space for the reader to make discoveries? What distinguishes your story from the mile-high pile of other manuscripts?

A formidable editor said, in a tone I couldn’t pin down, “You write quiet stories.” Was she kindly dismissing me? Maybe. But, being the foolish optimist, I chose to interpret it as a definition. Yes, indeed! I write quiet stories. My stories are about the little bumps on the road of friendship. They are about friends working things out. They hold moments of emotional truth for the listener and the reader. Think about The Quiet Book (by Deborah Underwood). Deborah Underwood’s “list” text coupled with Renata Liwska’s illustrations is absolutely delicious. It’s sly and tender and true. As visual learners, children look at books more carefully than adults do. This is a boon for illustrators who can amp up the level of detail suggested by the text.

Thank goodness for editors. We need them as surely as they need us. A manuscript needs a champion to shepherd it though the gauntlet of financial decisions, list requirements and the multitude of other manuscripts.

Yay, there is a place for quiet picture books in the world. Now, for those of you who get writer’s block, you’re not alone. We will all be afflicted with it from time to time. And we all deal with it in our own ways. Personally, I tend to wait it out for a while. I will often read and reread everything I have written for that story up to that point over and over again until I get unstuck. If that doesn’t work, then I’m usually done for the day. Let’s see what Suzanne recommends.

Suzanne, how do you combat writer’s (or illustrator’s) block? 

Is it inertia or page fright? No matter. Cook something, clean something, completely reorganize your kitchen cupboards, wax the car, weed the garden, walk the dog, conduct a search for the best carrot cake in a four state area, read every writer’s blog you can find, think about starting a blog, open the fridge 8 or 9 times to see if anyone made you something yummy.
Fill your days with Productive Procrastination Projects until you can no longer stand the avoidance, and think maybe that little opus on your desk or PC looks like a better option. Write around the block – scribble, doodle, sketch until that shaky, snaky line looks like an idea.
Alas, that idea may have a mind of its own. More than once the story I started gets elbowed aside by one that’s more insistent or fully formed. In the schoolyard that is my brain, my stories do not stand in a straight line. Oh no, they jostle and shove and argue over who is the line leader, except for that pouty one in the back who refuses to say a word.

Great advice, Suzanne! Now, how do you keep from getting discouraged in the highly competitive world of children’s picture book publishing?

On this emotional and professional roller coaster, there’s a nasty twist called the Spiral of Second Guessing followed by the Plummet of Self Worth. It seems to last forever but is over pretty quickly. Ride it out.
At the beginning of every project and sometimes again in the middle it becomes clear that I’ve forgotten how to draw and write. This story stinks and why would anyone ever read it? And it doesn’t even matter because who cares, anyway!
We are so hard on ourselves.
When I get discouraged, I call someone who loves my work and is not a family member. I call a treasured writer friend. We commiserate and whinge a little but then as good friends do, we remind each other of our successes, dedication, and how we are so much more suited to this than being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or any other of many, many options.

If you are a writer, illustrator, or both, thank you for working to put something beautiful into the hands of children.

Thank you, Suzanne, that last line sums it up perfectly. That’s really what it all comes down to, if writing children’s picture books is in your blood, if it’s a part of you that you can’t imagine being without, and you long to put something beautiful into the hands of children (and there’s nothing more beautiful than a picture book), then don’t give up, don’t quit, don’t get discouraged, your dream can come true. You can be published. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep improving, and keep the faith. Believe me, I know! 

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com.

{Suzanne’s First Drawing, Age 3} I confess. It’s true. Before I wrote, I drew! An artist at three, marking the page – my dad and I were circles with little circle eyes. We looked like a jellyfish family. We all are artists, first. Little by little other activities catch our interest and we move on. But not always. I found more success drawing and painting than adding and multiplying, or dancing or playing sports. According to report cards from elementary school, I was a pleasure to have in class, though not working up to potential. Indeed, who among us works up to potential? I remember learning to read. Sprawled out on the ugly rug in the living room, looking at the funny papers spread before me, I watched in amazement as the squiggly lines shaped up into a word. The word was “Scamp”, son of Lady and the Tramp. And with that, the funny papers became my magic carpet. My gateway books were Goldens. So Big!, Animal Babies, and Mr. Dog still sit and stay on my book shelf to remind me that my collection began even before I was reading on my own.


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12. Dialogue with your Protagonist: Stop floundering and get down to the bones of your story


A lot of people are doing NaNoWriMo this month (for those who don’t know it, the aim is to write 50,000 words of a novel in November) so if anyone’s feeling a bit stuck, I thought I’d share a variation of a technique I used in a masterclass at CYA in July.
Now that I've discovered it, I intend to use frequently during the progress of a manuscript, but I think it’s useful early on - when you’ve thought about your characters quite a lot already, and you thought you knew the shape of the story, but now that you’re writing it, nothing’s quite as sharp and clear as you thought it was.
It can be challenging, but it works well – and remember, nobody’s watching or judging.
So: get a paper and pencil, or a sharpie, and just ask your protagonist, ‘What do you most want?’
But the trick is: you write the question out with your dominant hand, and answer with your non dominant hand – that’s why a nice fat sharpie is good. Don’t think about the answer, just let it come, misshaped letters and all. I've only used it for child characters so far, but I think it's also valid for adult protagonists, because most of our deepest wants and fears come from the child within us. 
If your character doesn’t know what they want, ask what they’re most afraid of. Ask why. Ask whatever you think a probing counsellor might ask them. And most importantly, don’t judge their answers. You might be surprised at what comes – I usually am.
And whether you use all that you’ve discovered or not, you’ll certainly end up with a stronger feeling of who your character is. Just don’t forget that you’re still the boss, so you may not choose to give your character exactly what they think they want. But it may give you a clearer idea of what they need to experience, and therefore, where you want your story to go.

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13. Getting Unstuck

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." -Jack London

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14. Overcome Your Book Doubts By Asking WHY

Today we’re taking a field trip to touch on something all writers struggle with at some point: story doubts. It might come about because of a less-than-enthusiastic reaction from a beta reader, or after requests for fulls go nowhere. Maybe you have rewritten your opening 9,000 times or have three drafts of your novel, all told from different points of view, and still feel uncertain which version is the right one.

Doubt – soul crushing worry that we are not capturing our story well enough – can not only snuff out a novel, but the writer’s spirit as well.

Jenny Nash has some excellent insight into this pool of doubt, and how to swim through it to write deeply from passion, telling the story as only the author can.

FleuronI’m a book coach, and all day long I have writers coming to me who want to work out the Where and What and How of their story. Many of them are in the midst of some kind of writerly anguish: they have a pile of agent rejections, or they are 2/3 of the way through their 23rd draft and they’re still not sure the book is working, or they got to the last scene and suddenly realize that nothing has happened in the last 150 pages so there’s nothing to resolve. They are not sure how to move forward or even if they should move forward. They are, in other words, full of doubt, and somewhere along the line, they have come to believe that the way out of that doubt and that anguish is to focus like a laser beam on these Where, What, How questions:

Where should my story really start? What needs to happen in the middle? How is the best way for it to end?

Agony and DefeatNine times out of ten, they are asking the wrong questions. Instead of Where, What, and How they should be asking Why? – and not even about the story itself, though that is an extremely powerful exercise, too*, but about themselves as writers.

If you’re anything like me and almost all the writers I work with, your story has been haunting you for quite some time. It keeps you up at night. It nags at you when you are reading other people’s stories. It pops into your head at times when it is least welcome. It wants to be told. 

It can be extremely useful to know why you think it’s haunting you. I actually believe that not knowing the answer to why is one of things that holds a lot of writers back. They know they like to write, they know they’re good at it, they know they have a story to tell, but they don’t know why it matters to them, or what, exactly, it means to them.

As a result, they write a book that doesn’t ever really get down to anything real and raw and authentic. They write pages that skate along the surface of things. And if there’s one thing readers don’t need, it’s to skate along the surface. That’s what the Internet is for. And cocktail parties. And the line at Costco.

Listen to Simon Sinek’s TED talk on how great leaders inspire action. It’s 18 minutes long, but even if you listen to the first 6 minutes you’ll get it. The main point of the talk is this: “People buy things because of WHY you do them, not because of WHAT you do.”

Writers want someone to buy something from us as much as the folks over at Apple and Nike. We do! Even before we talk about dollars and cents, we want readers to buy that we have something important or entertaining or illuminating to say. We want agents to buy that our idea is generous and alive.

So all this work you’re going to do on WHAT your book will be? It often all hinges on WHY you want to write it — on why it is haunting you, on what captivated you from the start, on what the spark was, on why you care so much. If you can articulate that, it will probably unlock the story in very powerful ways.

In 2002, literary agent Ann Rittenberg gave a speech at Bennington College that sums this up beautifully.

            What kind of writer can make characters [you care about]? I think the kind of writer who is not afraid to access the deepest places in himself, and is not afraid to share what he comes up with… I see plenty of writing that has kernels of good in it, but it’s hedged around with so much tentativeness, or uncertainty, or excess, or stinginess, that it doesn’t allow the outsider — the reader — in… Yet when I read something that speaks to me, that absorbs me, that remains vividly in my head even when I’m not reading it, I’ve been intimate with the person who wrote it before I’ve even met him. This isn’t to say I know anything about him. I only know he or she’s the kind of writer who’s willing to explore the deep essence of character….

That’s the kind of writer I am guessing you want to be. So how do you get there? Ask yourself the following:

  • Try to recall the moment your story came into your head. What took root in that moment?
  • Why does it matter to you? What does it mean to you? It wouldn’t have stuck in your head if it didn’t mean something and matter to you – a lot.
  • Have you been shying away from the truth of that moment – out of fear of how raw it is, or how powerful it is? Let yourself to get closer to it.
  • Let that truth inform your story from beginning to end. Let it be the engine that drives your narrative forward. A story that has a single driving force tends to be a story that has a solid beginning, a gut-wrenching middle and a satisfying end.
  • *Ask why of your characters, as well. Why do they care about what they care about? Why will it hurt them not to get it? Why are the afraid? Why can’t they do what they know they should? Why did they do what they just did? Why did they cry? Why, why, why. It can be the key to great writing.

Jennie NashJennie Nash is a book coach, the author of eight books, and the creator of the Author Accelerator, a program to help writers break through procrastination and doubt and write books that actually get read. Check out her free resources: a free 5-Day Book Startup course, a free weeky trial of the Author Accelerator and weekly lessons on writing in the real world at jennienash.com. Also check out The Writers’ Guide to Agony and Defeat, and sign up to win a free coaching session.

Do you struggle with story doubt? How do you move past it? Let us know in the comments!

The post Overcome Your Book Doubts By Asking WHY appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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15. How to improve your working habits - by Nicola Morgan

Note 1: No shed necessary. That's a promise!

Note 2: Those who came to the SAS Conference in Peterborough this year know all about this and know that it's called Stimulus Generalisation

Working well shouldn’t be difficult. Make a list of things to do; tell yourself that you will do a, b and c before lunch; apply posterior to chair; do a, b and c. But most of us know what actually happens: in the absence of a boss to enforce when and where we produce a piece of work, bad habits come into play and we (I) play Spider Solitaire, go on Twitter, answer social emails, pay bills, make more coffee, dust behind the fridge…

That was me, until May 2011. Years of self-employment and working from home had created appallingly chaotic working habits. I got the work done – never missed a deadline yet – but it felt unhappily ill-disciplined, ineffective, pathetic. Social, domestic and work tasks were mixed up; the hours spent at my desk were too long and ineffective; real writing seemed to come last, if at all. Work-life not so much balance as collapsed in a heap of tangled intentions.

In May that changed. Now, if I say “shed”, you’ll roll your eyes and want to switch off, but I promise this is not about getting a writing shed. It’s about stimulus generalisation, as I now realise, thanks to my clinical psychologist friend who nodded wisely when I told her how my working habits changed instantly, the day I got a shed. Stimulus generalisation is something psychologists harness when dealing with addictions and negative habits, she said. Hmmm, sounds like me. Does it sound like you?

I’ll briefly explain the relevant aspects of stimulus generalisation but then, more importantly, unpick the elements of what I accidentally did, in order to make suggestions that anyone can use to alter poor working habits, including internet addiction. (Disclosure: I’m not a trained psychologist, though some of my work involves a degree of understanding of how our brains work; I’m just making sense of what happened to me and what might help others.)

Stimulus generalisation is akin to a Pavlovian response, although reflexes are not necessarily involved. Behaviour (leading to habits) is conditioned subconsciously by stimuli around us. So, if you tend to have a glass of wine while cooking the evening meal, cooking the evening meal becomes part of the set of triggers to have a glass of wine. Aspects of cooking the evening meal are the general stimuli around you: the clock saying 7pm, the light falling, the sound of a partner coming home, your own body clock, the smells in the kitchen, all the cues to anticipation of a relaxing evening. Together, these stimuli subconsciously reinforce a habit; and breaking the habit will be very hard if you don’t break the stimuli. In theory, you could just say, “I won’t have a glass of wine,” but the stimuli play heavily on your desires and behaviours and you are pretty likely to have that glass of wine. Thus speaks the voice of experience.

So, let’s unpick what happened with my shed. Effectively, I had suddenly changed almost all the stimuli around me, in one go. This made my existing desire to change working habits much easier; it enabled an immediate fresh slate, allowing new stimuli to create new habits. In the same way, an addict is encouraged, as part of therapy, to remove all physical aspects of the situations in which previously he took the addictive substance. Move house; throw away posters, furniture, possessions; avoid the friends who accompanied the addictive behaviour; take up new activities; change as much about your life and environs as possible. Every repeated stimulus has a hold on the person, each one like a strand within a rope.

Let’s move away from the specific shed example and generalise the conditions which may make new behaviours possible, conditions which any of us could replicate if we wanted to break undesired working habits.

1. Desire to change. We need to know what we want to change, and to want it strongly enough that we will make effort and think positively about the outcome. Part of this may involve feeling sufficiently negative about the current situation.

2. Planning ahead. Making detailed advance decisions about the changes, and setting a date on which the changes will start, help prime the mind to activate those changes.

3. Investment. It makes sense that if we have invested time, money and/or effort in the changes, this will help motivation.

4. Rising anticipation. If we have to wait eagerly for the start date, this is likely to help.

5. Support from others. Support from partner, family or friends, and their own investment in your success, are likely to have a positive effect.

6. Out with the old and in with the new. The tendency of the brain towards stimulus generalisation means that the more physical surroundings you can change, the better. You may not be able to afford a whole new room, or to replace all the furniture in it, but the more you can alter the physical surroundings, the better.

7. The use of all the senses. Our brains learn best when several senses are used. 

8. Blitzing it. I suspect that doing it all at once makes a greater impact.

Based on those principles, there follow some specific suggestions to help change working habits. Some are small and may seem trivial but your brain will notice more than you think. Some of the larger things won’t be practical for everyone and I’m not suggesting anyone does them all: pick a few that suit your situation; plan when to instigate the new regime; then do them all at once. Remember: once you have selected your new stimuli, make sure you apply them to your working hours, not your social or domestic hours. The point is to use a specific setting to teach your brain that it is supposed to be working, not doing social or domestic tasks. Or playing Spider Solitaire… The new environment will perform the role of a boss.

Suggestions:

o Move your work-space to a different room.

o Rearrange the furniture in your work-space, including the position of your desk and your view.

o Redecorate with new colours, changing as much as possible.

o Choose new furniture, particularly chair and desk and whatever is in your range of sight while working.

o Create a time-table for arriving and leaving work; leave your office door open if just taking a break, but close it (lock it?) when your working day ends. Make sure you take everything you will need during the evening, just as if you worked away from home; use a briefcase?!

o Have a separate in-tray for domestic/social tasks, and only deal with them outside working hours.

o Even something small can help, such as using a specific mug during working hours, or a particular pen or notebook for “real” writing.

o Anything separate for “work” use will help: stationery, clothes, shelves, diary, etc. Make use of the visual element: eg if you use blue files for work docs, have only the blue files in front of you during work hours or in your work space.

o Use all the senses. The suggestions above are all about what you can see but consider the following: you might play music when working (or when not working); you might harness the sense of smell by lighting a scented candle when doing writing work, or enjoy the smell and taste of real coffee; and yes, you have my permission to eat chocolate to herald the start of a writing session… Anything that you can commit to doing every time you start what is supposed to be a proper working (or writing) session.

The more we can change, the more coherently we plan the changes and the more simultaneously we effect them all, the easier it is for our brain to break old habits and allow new behaviours.

But you’ve got to want to, as much as I wanted that shed, and you’ve got to keep wanting it. Old habits not only die hard, they can return. Be vigilant!

By the way, a new edition of my book, BLAME MY BRAIN - The Teenage Brain Revealed, is available from May, also with an ebook version.

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16. Instagram Can Help Treat Writer’s Block

There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day. –Alexander Woollcott Last month, I noticed there was a classroom-related technology article being pinned all over Pinterest.  The We Are Teachers… Read More

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17. PiBoIdMo Day 15: Adam Lehrhaupt Jump-Starts His Brain

adamlehrhauptby Adam Lehrhaupt

Recently, I had a bout of writer’s block. It didn’t last horribly long, but as any writer who has been through it will tell you, any amount of time spent struggling to write can be extremely frustrating. Yeah, yeah. I know. What does this have to do with inspiration? I’m glad you asked. Or, more to the point, I’m glad I pretended that you asked. I thought I would talk a little about the lack of inspiration.

Why? Because I like to do things differently, but also because it is something that we all deal with at some point in our writing career. Every writer has a day when they sit down at their desk and stare at the blank page, the computer screen, the tablet and think, “Oh, god! What am I going to write?” Well, I’ll tell you. Anything.

writersblock

There can be a lot of reasons that inspiration goes missing for a while. It is important in times like these not to lose sight of the smaller goal as we strive for the larger. In this case, we aren’t trying to complete the project. We are looking for inspiration, so that we can get writing again.

How do we do this? We get back to the basics. An artist may spend 5-10 minutes drawing quick sketches to get their creative juices going. We, as writers, can do the same. They don’t have to be good, or interesting. We don’t need to keep them around, or show them to anyone. We need to write them.

calvinhobbeswritersblock

So, to that end, here are my 10 ideas for jump-starting your brain.

  1. Describe a photo. What happened just before it? Just after?
  2. Draw a picture. It doesn’t matter if you are an artist or not. Draw something you see. Remember we don’t need to show this to anyone.
  3. Describe yourself without using the pronoun I.
  4. Write down 10 questions about your project.
  5. Describe your writing area using only adjectives.
  6. Look up the lyrics to a favorite song. Try to write the story it tells.
  7. Describe what you ate for your last meal.
  8. Take a favorite story and change the ending. Happily ever after? Not any more. (Insert maniacal laugh here)
  9. Create a list of your favorite heroes from film, TV, or literature and describe them. If you’re not into the hero thing, make a list of villains.
  10. Change your perspective. If you write at home, go to a coffee shop or library. If you write inside, go outside. If you write via computer, try writing on a notepad, or vice-versa. Try writing while in a closet or under a bed. Remember: you never know when inspiration will strike.

Most importantly, keep writing. Don’t worry about what comes out. Ten minutes of writing today could lead to that brilliant story tomorrow. Happy writing!

guestbio

warningAdam has traveled to six continents, performed on Broadway, and lived on a communal farm. He firmly believes that opening a book is a good thing, even if there are monkeys in it. Adam currently lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, with his wife and two sons. In his spare time, Adam does a bit of writing. His writing spans multiple styles, from poetry to fiction to nonfiction, and is primarily geared towards children. Adam’s first book, Warning: Do Not Open This Book!, is available now anywhere books are sold. View the book trailer here.

Visit him online at AdamLehrhaupt.com, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @Lehrhaupt.


12 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 15: Adam Lehrhaupt Jump-Starts His Brain, last added: 11/15/2013
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18. Hope, Optimism, Despair: Writer’s Emotional Roller Coaster


MIMS HOUSE: Great NonFiction for Common Core Prewriting for the Common Core

The story of the oldest known wild bird in the world. At 62+, she hatched a new chick in February, 2013. Read her remarkable story. A biography in text and art.



Hope

Once we finish a draft of a novel and start thinking about revising, there is hope. In her slim volume, Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writing Life, Bonnie Friedman starts like this:

The happiest I’ve even been was departing before dawn to the bus station in Madrid. The tiny bread shop and the tobacconist were still dark. The wet pavement gleamed when a city bus heaved past. Ahead of me lay unknown towns and countrysides that matched names I knew only from a map, and a new friend who was herself departing just then from across Madrid clutching a plastic bag like mine that was filled, like mine, with an egg-and-potato sandwich and a tangerine. The world was doors opening in all directions. I felt free, and awake, and full of laughter. Writing has often been just like that for me.

That’s hope.
It’s the feeling that we are at the top of our game and building on this solid draft, we can accomplish something unique, special, earth-shattering.

We need that hope at the beginning, or else we wouldn’t start. We know that it will be long and involved and at times discouraging to dig into this story and start messing with it. We know that the results are uncertain. We need that hope.

When Pandora opened the forbidden box, she released all the world’s evils. It sent the world into despair. But then, Pandora opened the box once more and found Hope waiting. Though Hope seemed weak, it was the strongest of the things released that day.

Hope, not optimism.

rollercoasterOptimism is a general outlook on life, or is based on positive thinking. Hope is an emotional response, in our case, the response to a specific task of recasting a story into a stronger form. It is based not on positive thinking: I know I can do this revision well. For me, it’s based on my hope that the writing process will come through for me again.

Hope, not despair.

Despair has enough play in the life of a writer: witness the steady stream of rejection letters that we receive. It’s enough to send me into a writer’s block. But when I face my story, I forget all that. It belongs to the world of submissions and that’s not the world that concerns me when I?m revising. While revising, my loyalty is to the story, the characters, the language–what does this story need to come alive? How can I tell this now familiar story in the strongest way possible? I hope that the process will reveal the best way to tell this story.

Not false hope.

Am I indulging in false hope? No. False hope would be based on laziness, unwillingness to try. I approach revision with an open attitude and try to find ways to work with the story better. I use a variety of writing strategies to find new ways into the story. I may fail, yes. But my hope is based on process, work, past experience of struggling through difficulties in telling a story.
Here is hope: When I look at my story I realize that there’s one more thing for me to try. Hope sends me forward into revision.

Emily Dickinson on Hope

Emily Dickinson’s poem, Hope.

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19. #512 – Lost for Words by Natalie Russell

9781561457397.

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Lost for Words

by Natalie Russell

Peachtree Publishers    3/01/2014

978-1-56145-739-7

Age 4 to 8  32 pages

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“Tapir and his friends all have nice new notebooks, just waiting to be filled. Giraffe decides to write a poem, Hippo writes a story, and Flamingo composes a beautiful song. But poor Tapir can’t think of anything to write – and the harder he tries the more upset he becomes! But everything starts to change when Tapir stops trying to write and begins to draw… this gentle story will inspire even the littlest artists to find their creative sparks.”

Opening

“Tapir had some pencils and a nice new notebook. But he didn’t know what to write.”

The Story

Tapir and his friends all have new notebooks and pencils. Giraffe, Hippo, and Flamingo all easily fill their notebooks with poems, stories, and songs. Tapir is stuck. He is having classic writer’s block. Nothing would come to mind. Tapir thought he must doing something wrong. He imitated his friends. First, Tapir tried humming but no words came. He tried chewing on nice green leaves off the tree, but all that came was a grumpy feeling. Finally, Tapir tried wallowing in the mud. Nothing. Tapir’s friends told him not to worry something would come to him. Poor Tapir didn’t think so. He walked away, way up to the top of the hill, where he could see everything and everything was so beautiful. No words came.

Review

For anyone who has ever had writer’s block, this is the picture book for you. Poor Tapir could not think of anything to write. Giraffe is writing poetry, Flamingo composes a song, and Hippo writes a story, but Tapir could not think of anything to write. Words would not come for Tapir. He tried so hard to force words to flow. Tapir tried copying his friend’s methods—humming, eating leaves, wallowing in mud, but they didn’t work because Tapir’s mind works Tapir’s way.

1

I love that Tapir wandered off somewhere quiet where all he had was his own resources. Then he simply looked around and inspiration hit. Words still did not come to Tapir, because he did not need words to express himself. Tapir needs pictures. When he was lost for words, Tapir tried to be like his friends when all he needed was to be true to himself. What a great message.

The beautiful illustrations are in lighter shades of blues, greens, and yellows, with orange and a little brown thrown in. Author/illustrator Natalie Russell’s spreads are screen prints, not charcoal, pencils, or digitally made with Illustrator or Photoshop. Even drawn creativity can be many different styles, just as writing can be many different forms and genres. It is good to remember Hippo’s process of writing stories will not be Tapir’s way of creating pictures. A gentle push—a walk up a hill—might work, but creativity cannot forced.

2

Lost for Words will entertain young children and might spark their imaginations. The story of these four friends and the different ways they filled their notebooks is itself creative. After reading Lost for Words several times—or maybe just once—young children will be asking for a notebook of their own. Some will find words and write a poem or a story, or maybe a song. Others will draw pictures to express themselves. If Lost for Words encourages creativity, it has been a success.

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Learn more about Lost for Words HERE.

Buy your own copy of Lost for Words at AmazonB&NPeachtreeyour local bookstore.

Meet the author / illustrator, Natalie Russell at her website:  http://www.natalierussell.co.uk/

Find more great Peachtree books at their website:  http://peachtree-online.com/

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LOST FOR WORDS. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Natalie Russell. Reproduce by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.

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Other Spring 12014 Releases from Peachtree

grudge keeper.

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The Grudge Keeper   4/01/2014

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charlie bumpers nice gnome.

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Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome  4/012014

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claude at beach.

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Claude at the Beach   4/01/2014

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lost for words

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Peachtree Book Blog Tour

Lost for Words

Monday, 3/10/14
Sally’s Bookshelf


Tuesday, 3/11/14

It’s About Time Mamaw

Wednesday, 3/12/14
Chat with Vera

A Word’s Worth

Thursday, 3/13/14

Tolivers to Texas

Kid Lit Reviews

Friday, 3/14/14
Geo Librarian

 

Next Peachtree Book Blog Tour: ABOUT HABITATS: FORESTS, starting Monday, March 17th


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: animals, children's book reviews, compositions, creativity, friendship, Natalie Russell, Peachtree Publishers, poetry, prose, writer's block

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20. Sculpting from the Writer's Block

Whenever I feel like I'm hitting writer's block I try to remember that a block is a vessel. A block of wood, a block of ice, a block of marble; they contain all the elements needed for the sculpture that awaits within. I just have to start chiseling at it. So it isn't that I don't have any ideas when I think I have writer's block. I'm not blocked by something. I'm just looking at the possibilities of everything and feeling overwhelmed by it.

Sometimes I just pound away at it. Chisel without thinking. Start writing more and more ideas, more and more possibilities. Like doing improv. Just keep acting out the situation on paper until you find the right one. (See also Jensen girls' great March 7th UCW blog post on "Facing Failure.")

I like to do that, but first I like to (if you'll excuse my using the incredibly popular phrase):
Let. It. Go.

For me, walking away helps.

Walking away doesn't mean that I'm not working on it, though. I recently read that the mind spends nearly 80 percent of its time reviewing experiences and creating hoped-for scenarios (both the way we wish things had happened in the past, and how we hope things will happen in the future).

So while we walk away, our subconscious is doing a great deal of work. (I wish it worked the same way with the treadmill.)

Ever notice that if you try to look at a specific spot at a distance when it's dark, that it is hard to see that spot? You have to look to the side of your desired object, and "see" it through your peripheral vision.

One of my favorite activities for taking my mind away from staring at that issue that I don't know how to fix, is reading poetry. The tight language, the exquisite imagery, that combination of brevity and beauty, does magical things to my brain. It makes walking to the mailbox become an internal iteration on the loveliness of nature. It's a mental breath of fresh air. A cleanse, as it were. Like blowing my nose. Except it's my mind. So, I guess I'm blowing my mind.

So, take a minute. Breathe deep. Take a walk. Read some poetry. Wander through a gallery. Take a few days to do other things. And then go back and just write. Anything. Write it all. Write a million versions of what could happen. Write it in the style of The Muppets, Andy Warhol, Republicans vs Democrats. Write it as a haiku. Write it as a poem written by each character. Blow it all out there.

Blow your mind.

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21. My (NON) Writing Ritual: For Times When I'm Lost


So,
I’m here to report:
there are those times when even though I’ve ritualistically readied myself to write, I am unable to move forward with my story.


I lose my way somehow.
My fingers freeze.
My North Star is elsewhere playing Hide-and-Seek.

The Good News, however?
Like that wondrous woman who lives inside our cars’ or devices’ GPS,
the one who expertly and melodically repositions our course when we turn left instead of right or bypass our designated Exit or come to a grinding halt at the wrong destination,
I know how to RECALCULATE!

Here’s my 3-Step Easy Ritual for finding my way back.

#1
I take myself away from my writing space, sit still and quietly re-read the encouraging hope-filled greeting cards I’ve mailed myself the past 37 years (!) while out-and-about on my Writer’s Journey.



#2
Next I re-read and think on the inspirational quotes I’ve tucked away inside my treasured Hansel and Gretl box.


#3Finally I empty my beautiful one-of-a-kind carpet bag of its contents - the notes, letters and Thank You’s I’ve received, and read my way through, savoring the words,

especiallyand always those penned long-ago by my fellow TeachingAuthor Carmela Martino when I sold, at long last, my very first picture book.


Before I know it,
I’ve recalibrated my compass, refueled my heart and found my way home to my keyboard and story.


Happy Writing – and – Recalculating (if and when needed)!

Esther Hershenhorn

P.S.
The above Rx is a true-blue twofer; the 3-step ritual helps me REBOOT too!

P.P.S.
Let’s hear it for that hard-working second-chance prefix RE! Where would we be without it?

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22. Why You Need Two WIPs

Each month my fifth grader’s class gets a “big project”. Last month it was to write a poem. A rhyming poem. And, as luck would have it, my son’s topic was squirrels. Nothing rhymes with squirrel. Have you ever tried to pull a poem about squirrels that rhymes and makes some sense from the brain of a ten year old? It’s safe to say no one was happy during this project: my son, my husband, me…I think even the dog ran away to hide around the third stanza. But somehow he managed to create eight lines for his first – and I was pretty sure his last – attempt at being a poet.

Until last week. He was working on this month’s project when he looked up at me and out of the blue said,

“The squirrel jumped in an acorn pile,
And looked at me with a great big smile.”

“What?”

“For my squirrel poem. It just popped into my head. Wouldn’t that be great?”

My son is living proof of a writing belief I’ve always held –that you should never be working on just one project. If you spend all your writing time musing on one WIP you can become overwhelmed. Going over the same problems or weaknesses in the piece, in the same way, it seems almost impossible to find solutions or new ideas. the answer isn't to toil away until you puzzle out the solution. The answer is to start another project!

If you’re working on two projects, many time as you work on one an idea for the other will pop into your head. Trust me, it’s happened to me (and apparently my son). I believe that even when you’re totally focused on something some small part of your brain is still working on the other piece. Strangely enough, this phenomenon work best for me the more divergent the two pieces are: a humorous essay and a dramatic scene in my novel or an article and a children’s story. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon have even done studies on the subconscious continuing to work on one problem while occupied by another totally unrelated problem. So it’s official – never stick to just one WIP!

Have you ever found the perfect snippet of dialogue or essay ending while working on another piece?

Jodi Webb is still toiling away at her writing in between a full-time job, a full-time family and work as a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. Right now she's looking for blogs to promote Sue William Silverman's memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club and Barbara Barth's debut novel The Danger with Words. You can contact her at [email protected]. For Jodi's take on reading and writing (no 'rithmetic please!) stop by her blog Words by Webb.

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23. The "NOT THE THREE PAGES AGAIN" Report. By Penny Dolan



(I know it’s the first of April, but this isn’t a Fools Day post. )

Silence. It’s a horrid thing to have happen. The words in the head gone, or never hanging around long enough to be useful. The shameful feeling of no longer being able to be the writer I've thought I was,.

The silence crept up on me, bit by bit, started by several petty reasons. A sudden family incident that it doesn't help to go on about. A smattering of nagging anxieties, boring and best suppressed. A while with scaffolding rattling outside my workroom window, and similar. A longish Arts Project ,and a worthy commitment that both ate up too much administration time. (Oh, why didn’t I weigh up the time involved at the start?) As well as all the good stuff of life that still needs planning and attention and enjoyment. Way too much on your mind? Best keep your mouth shut, and just get on with it all.

The silence grew, added to by the shadow of a “big book” not doing as it should, and one single minor review that hurt badly. Beware too thin a skin. Then there was that guard-down, coming-out-of-the-loo moment slap into the face of a slightly sneery librarian’s harsh remark. (Just who did I think I was, pretending to be a writer, I thought.) Then that one twisted school visit – out of many good ones, I know, I know - that didn’t go quite right. (Curse you, Powerpoint facilities!)  Gradually the book that should be being written, is half-written, has paused for far too long a time.

Don't worry. I don't need a large red-spotted hanky or sympathy to wallow in. 

This is just my explanation of why, slowly, the words had stopped, and that some kind of action was urgently required. 

What action? I decided to try the “Artist’s Way” again, again. So the rest of this post is about is the famous Three Pages -  or my version of how I did, and how I DO do them.



A quick aside, if you haven't yet heard  that expression yet. The Three Pages writing exercise comes from the American writer and creative renewal guru, Julia Cameron. Her first book (1994) had the title “THE ARTIST'S WAY: A COURSE IN DISCOVERING YOUR CREATIVE SELF", and took the model of the AA 12-step programme. Julia continued with more books on this theme and a strong on-line presence. Her books do offer good and wise suggestions and I respect her enormously, especially for fighting her personal demons.

HOWEVER

Julia writes very American, and I am not. When she lyrically describes breakfasting on her sunlit porch, or riding her horse through the desert, or spending money on sparkly pencils in stores, or walking the streets of Manhattan, or meeting up with this or that creative film or theatre person in her cafe, or suddenly having a dream about putting on a musical and that happens . . .


Oh dear. Apologies. Julia. The crabby bit of me makes me shrug my shoulders and go “meh”. I'm sure it is all true, but that life is not my life. Never has been my life. These events may be a movie or life elsewhere, but not here. (Peers out at the grey drizzle outside)





FURTHERMORE
Julia’s main demand, echoing Dorothea Brande’s original and earlier book Becoming A Writer, is this. Every morning, as you wake up, you write three pages. I tried this often, as my family grew from babbling to teen-sulking around me. Sorry, Julia, but I failed too soon each time I tried. ( Back then, I was a working, work-worn mum. Somehow my role was to get everyone out there each morning or we starved. Time management wasn’t my thing - and I was doing diplomas and degrees around that time too, studying in the evenings. Not a good mix.)

BUT YET
Last November, with that cold grey dog Silence crouched by my ankles, I decided to try the Three Pages method again. (Not Page Three, please note.) However this time I would do it MY way. I would scribble those Three Pages down whenever I could. If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t grieve. Or feel bad. Or all that other negative stuff that cascaded down. Agreed? Yes.

AND SO
I did -  and have now been doing - the Three Pages. I've done them for (counts on fingers . . .) about five months now, and the good news is that - even in my revised, occasionally feeble and now-guiltless version - the Three Pages have worked. I miss it when I don;t do them. Words and ideas have started whispering in my head - and something’s begun ticking again on my big project.

BUT WHAT DO YOU DO FOR THE THREE PAGES?
I use a large A4 yellow-paged notebook. Yellow because it isn’t white work paper, and the colour cheers me. Size is important too. Three large pages gives a generous space for you to listen to your muttering mind, and let all the low-level, hidden frets to rise up to the surface, to spill out somewhere around mid-second page. Aha, you think. So that’s what’s really making me so cross and fidgety!

I use a beautiful old green art-deco fountain pen, inherited from my father, which makes for comfortable writing. I keep away from the scary computer screen, the scene of my failure. The physical act of writing by hand seems to feed the task.



I use green ink, because this is not work, right? (Blue ink: school. Black ink: for depression or drawing Red ink : corrections and being marked. ) Green ink? Yes! Interesting and inspiring. Even if my fingers are always covered in green stains.

I note the day, date and year at the start, keeping a light watch on when I last made time for myself. If I have missed any days, I let myself wonder why, then start again. I even note where I’m scribbling. “Writing this in bed  . . .” or “At my desk. 4.30am”.



I note the time I start, out of curiosity, and when I end. Dawn, morning, afternoon, late night, before I sleep. All sorts of times, whenever I can. The aim is to do it, not to be perfect. (Sometimes my three pages take 50 minutes. I note that I lose focus, get distracted. Small must-be-done’s arrive, start yapping and too soon I give in, but I try better next time. Yet, thinking about this blog, I got three pages covered in 20 minutes.

I use the Three Pages for . . what? Not for “writing on a given theme” at all, nor as a diary, although some entries do sound a bit like that. Nor are they reflective odes to all that is lovely around me, ever searching for the precise, right , perfect word. The Three Pages work by getting the hand and head moving, and even if angry thoughts flicker on some pages, somehow the yellow paper isn’t greyed over with gloom.

The Three Pages are just me writing,however the writing turns out, whatever the words think: a sort of low-level meditation. The pages are private: what’s in three pages stays in three pages, or they did until I used one set to consider my thoughts for this blogpost. Maybe the pages are changing? Maybe they are becoming about what I write about? Who knows?

For me, the Three Pages have become a place to rest and be alone. No readers, no editors, no revisions, a space where inspiration is not demanded, where my writing doesn’t matter - although in a way, it does, very much. And day after day - or almost - the pages have helped the other, the “Real Writing” begin again, too.
 
I’m sure that, to some of you, this wittering about silence will sound self-indulgent and weak. "Lives are different" is all I can say, and I have worked on some briefs that ended up in print and cheered me immensely. It was the big writing thing I'm wanting to finish that scared me. Onwards - and this post makes sense to anyone, thank you for reading.

 Penny Dolan
www.pennydolan.com

0 Comments on The "NOT THE THREE PAGES AGAIN" Report. By Penny Dolan as of 3/31/2014 8:35:00 PM
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24. Don’t Be Discouraged? Writers and the Creative Gap


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vagabonds by Darcy Pattison

Vagabonds

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends May 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

After the first draft, there’s are really two stories: there’s the one in your head (and it’s perfect) and the one you actually put on paper (and it’s not perfect). And they don’t match up. It’s OK. Don’t let this creativity gap give you writer’s block. Revision is the process of re-envisioning.!

THE GAP by Ira Glass from frohlocke on Vimeo.

If you can’t see this video, click here.

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25. Writer’s Block….. no joke!

    Joan Aiken produced some beautiful pastel drawings while mulling over her plots, you can see some of them on the website, but this little doodle on the back of an envelope suggests a rather different, very un-fertile state of mind, brought about by the distractions and pressures of daily life (Gas in barn? […]

7 Comments on Writer’s Block….. no joke!, last added: 5/26/2014
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