Sunday, March 07, 2010

 

JUST WRITE!

Easier said than done at times. But it can be accomplished.

Many of us find it quite difficult to sit down with paper and pen or a blank computer screen and try to come up with something to write. This, of course, can lead to frustration and cause you to feel as if you've wasted your entire day doing absolutely nothing with your writing.

STOP! If this happens, there is a solution. Pull out a spiral notebook and just write. It doesn't have to make sense, it doesn't have to be about anything in particular.

Tip: Start off by picking a word or a phrase, then come up with a sentence using that word. Build from there. The object is to simply write. It doesn't matter if the sentences even make sense to you. The point is you are taking time to write.

If you feel you don't like this exercise that much, that's okay. The point is to get your writer's mind working and let your brain relax to get the ideas circulating again. Often there are times when I'm given an assignment on a subject that I know nothing about. I get a little frustrated with the subject and decide to try, but then walk away. But then I realize that I'm going to hurt my writing time if I don't utilize it. So, I reach for a spiral notebook and JUST WRITE.

Sometimes, I will even write silly poems in my spiral and include a few doodles. Anything to help keep me in the writing mode and using that time to write. Oh sure, there are a lot of other things I could be doing that would count as part of my writing time--researching a project, creating characters, etc. But, for me, I just don't feel accomplished when I work on those parts of writing. Being able to actually put something on paper or in the computer gives me that bit of satisfaction.

Tip: I actually set up writing time as an appointment on my calendar. That way, I keep it important not only for myself, but for my family as well. When they see the scheduled time, they know that it is time to let mom write and not to bother her unless it is super important or an emergency.

It's important when you have a family to make sure you schedule critical time for yourself. If you have little ones at home, like me, I choose to work on my writing when they go to bed. This, of course, can make for a rough following morning if I get into a serious writing drive.

The point is: just write. Find a way that helps you to just sit and do so. It doesn't matter if it makes sense, it doesn't matter if you have proper sentence structure, the point is to help stop the block and keep you from being frustrated with the task at hand.

Happy Writing!

For more tips on how to find time to write, check out Time to Write: An Interview with Kelly L. Stone.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

 

Beating Writer's Block

by LuAnn Schindler

Stuck in a rut and unsure of how to get the creative muses to delight you once again? Try these surefire sensory tips that will let the words flow.
  • Move it. When I lose concentration or when the words don't come easily, I move to a new location. Sometimes, I take my laptop and move from my office to the kitchen or bedroom. Other times, I saunter out to my deck and take in what's happening outside. And yet on other occasions, putting words on paper instead of typing, makes all the difference.
  • Look around. Pictures may be worth a thousand words. Or maybe even an entire novel! Those times when I can't seem to get a handle on a character trait, I look through my photo albums and look at what's going on. Another visual attack on writer's block is to visit a museum. You'll be amazed at how details stand out.
  • Read it. When I find a publication I think I would like to write for and I can't come up with a topic that will translate into a sale, I peruse the newspaper and look at every advertisement. I've come up with several articles from ideas generated off a 2x2 ad.
  • Listen carefully. Working in complete silence does not bother me, but when I'm developing ideas, I like music to blare in the background. I have an eclectic mix on my iPod, and it generally takes a couple songs to pump up the volume - and the possibilities.
  • Taste it. Trying to come up with specific details? I'll grab a piece of fruit and slowly note the details of what I'm tasting. I usually amass a sizable list of words I can add to what I'm working on.

How do you beat writer's block?

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Friday, March 14, 2008

 

Your Writing Space

Where do you write most often? At a fancy mahogany desk with carved feet? On your couch while the television provides background noise (and sometimes distraction)? In your favorite coffee shop, where other patrons provide company and inspiration?

People who don't write think that writers have it easy because we can perform our jobs and our craft just about anywhere. Even if you're camping in the woods with no electricity, there's always the option of writing on a legal pad with pencil or pen. We can work in our pajamas if we want. We can take the whole day off and work into the night if that's when we do our best work.

As writers, we know it's not always that easy. Sometimes ideas are hard to come by; the perfect turn of phrase is just out of reach. And then there's the dreaded Writer's Block.

We all have our favorite places to write. Some people find it easier to sit at a desk, while others would feel too confined and prefer writing at a sidewalk cafe. The space is not what matters most. What does is the fact that you're there more often than you're not. Many of you may remember this writers' riddle: What is the most important part of a writer's body?

My first guess was the hands. How else can you write without hands? But that's not the answer. The answer is: the butt.

If your butt isn't sitting in your writing space, no writing is being done.

So take a look at where you like to write the most, the area that makes you comfortable and provides you with all kinds of ideas. Where is this place? And are you in it right now?

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

 

The Dreaded Blank Page

A lot of writers dread a blank page, and it gives quite a few writers' block. A blank page gets a writer no where. One of my favorite sayings goes something like this: "You can revise a terribly written page, but you can not revise a blank page." Even Tim McGraw weighs in on this topic with his song, "Blank Sheet of Paper." McGraw sings of a poor sap who doesn't know how to write an apology letter to his sweetheart, and so she never knows he's sorry. It is a terribly sad song about an unwritten letter. We do not want blank pages in our personal lives and definitely not as writers. But what are some ways to avoid them?

Another one of my favorite sayings goes something like this, "Practice the ABCs of writing--Apply Butt to Chair." If our behinds stay at our desks in front of our computers, maybe we'll actually write something. This is no guarantee as computers have many wonderful time wasters on them such as checking email and playing solitaire. But with our butts in the chairs, that's a start.

Just the other day I was talking to a writer about this problem. She had a story idea but hadn't written in months. She had no confidence and was doubting she was even a writer. My advice to her was to just write the story that was in her head. It didn't have to be good. It didn't even have to make sense to another person. The most important thing was getting the story on her computer or in her notebook and getting rid of the blank pages.

Some writers will not stop writing for the day until they have typed a few sentences onto the next page. Then when they get ready to work the next day, they are not staring at a blank page. They are staring at a half-written page, and for some reason, this makes all the difference.

So, basically the best way to get rid of the blank page is NOT to throw it away or never open your word processing program again. The best way to get rid of a blank page is to write, even if it sucks. No one ever has to see that draft--except you after you've been busy revising.

No more blank pages!
Margo Dill

http://www.margodill.com/

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

 

Got Writer's Block? Go Dish!

Ever gone shopping while hungry? You go to the grocery store for a couple of things and end up with a shopping cart filled with chocolate desserts, salty snacks, and a hefty receipt to match. I hate to admit it, but I fall into this trap all the time. But what about when your writing is as empty as your stomach? You stare at the blank page and blinking cursor, and know that you need to fill it with delicious prose; yet, your words fail you. Why not try adding some culinary creativity to your story?

Here’s an excerpt from The Writer’s Block that may just get your fingers tapping:

We pause to eat at least three times a day—and yet so many writers neglect the powerful sense of taste. One of the most memorable chapters in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is simply called “Chowder,” in which Ishmael enjoys a steaming bowl of stew: “It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.”

More recently, Laura Esquivel had an international bestseller with Like Water for Chocolate, a novel that includes recipes for Quail in Rose Petal Sauce, Northern-style Chorizo, and Cream Fritters. Each chapter begins with a list of ingredients and notes on preparation, which Esquivel weaves seamlessly into the narrative.

And Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain is practically a primer in country cooking; his characters slaughter hogs, churn apple butter, and cook savory chicken stew.

Prompt: Write a story or scene that centers around an extraordinary meal. The food itself can be quite simple—even as simple as a TV dinner—but the meal should have an important and lasting significance to the characters.

Food is a universal language—so, go dish!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

 

Self-Sabotage Countdown

I consider myself fortunate. Writer’s block hasn’t hit me over the head yet. But I’m guilty of inflicting something equally as harmful to my writing. On weekends, when I have free time to write, I can find many reasons to avoid it, especially during the summer months. Even without summer as an excuse, avoidance comes with the territory of being too busy. But isn’t everyone busy these days? Is this a legitimate reason or is it a form of sabotage?

Between work and family, I can always find a reason to keep moving my stories and manuscripts to the bottom of my latest projects pile. It’s easy; I just lift them up and place them beneath everything else. Out of sight and forgotten, until I work my way through everything and get caught up.

But that’s not all. When I’m feeling particularly tired, distracted, or frustrated, I add other “projects” to the stack--the kind that can’t fit into an inbox or file folder or to-do lists.

This is where my self-sabotage begins, and it’s what every writer should not do.

The countdown:

#10: I need more coffee, and I need to have it with a friend or two.
What could be better than sharing coffee (or any beverage) with a friend? It’s purely delightful, sipping and speaking, speaking and sipping. I catch up with my friends’ lives, their kids, and all their stories. Pretty soon two hours goes by and, it’s always fun, but in the end I realize I’ve neither written a single word or thought. I’ve enjoyment talking so much that I’ve avoided thinking about any of my writing projects.

#9: My furniture, floors, mirrors, and toilets need me.
I’ll just clean everything really quickly, especially since it’s been months since the last time. Cleaning my house will clear my mind, and it will enable me to start fresh. Without the burden of dirt around me, I’ll be able to create a manuscript that will put even a famous author like J.K. Rowling to shame.

#8: My Netflix queue is empty; I need to fix that.
The weekend is approaching at warp speed. I’ll just sit down at the computer, log into my account, and peruse the 568 recommended movies on my list. There has to be one, two, or even three that I can add quickly. That way I’ll be able to write for the next three weeks straight, because I won’t need to add to the queue for that long. That’ll be the best possible mind-stimulating manuscript preparation yet.

#7: I need to trim my cuticles and my fingernails, right now.
Since I need to tackle good grooming issues, so should my kids. I’ll tell them they need to take care of this right away. When they’re done, we’ll have to play a game together, something that uses the fingers; we must show off our gorgeous grooming skills.

#6: Scented candles would help me write and think in a more relaxed state.
How many do I have? What scents are they? Vanilla and mulberry--not enough. I need more than that to finish an entire story for Highlights magazine. Hmmm. But a long, hot bath would complete the desired Zen atmosphere. Maybe I should take a notepad and pen with me, close the door, and focus. No, no, actually, I’ll just close my eyes, rest my mind, and write later, when I’m clean, relaxed, fresh.

#5: I need to check my email; its constant dinging sound is annoying.
No wonder it’s been dinging, I have 200 emails. But if I start now, I can knock these off in an hour. That’s not very long. I’ll just sift through to the important ones, and I’ll leave some for later on.

#4: The Saturday mail is here--I’ll go check for good news regarding my last query.
Oh, my gosh. Would you look at that? Talk about timing! The Oriental Trading Company’s latest catalog is here, and my kids need crafts. An hour is all it will take for me to find some new things to do. My kids will love these crafts, and so will I. As soon as the box of new crafts arrives, I’ll write for hours while my kids create something especially artsy-fartsy.

#3: I need to exercise; I’m a walking knot.
The coffee wired me up; the house cleaning tired me out; the Netflix queue took up time; grooming with my kids and playing a game made me hungry…I just need to do something for me. My heart doesn’t feel right. It needs to pump harder.

#2: I haven’t eaten in hours--I need a meal, and I need it now.
Maybe I should ask my friend to go out to lunch with me? I don’t really want to dine alone. Plus, I might find new ideas for my latest story’s dialogue while I’m listening to the din of casual conversation in the restaurant.

#1: But the most important item I have to accomplish--I must write or read a blog.
Yes, yes. I must do this. Blogging is good for the writer’s soul. (?!) Somehow, some day and some way, my blogs will work their way into my story. It doesn’t matter that they are totally unrelated to what I write.

Huh? What am I doing? Now, I need to go squeeze in time to write. The weekend is nearly over. I could have drafted out ten stories in the time that I spent doing all these other things.

Sigh. I’m guilty of writer’s self-sabotage.
I should go into the kitchen and find my hidden stash of emergency chocolate.
I need to feel better.
Sue

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Monday, June 18, 2007

 

Quashing Word Burn

Writer’s block rarely hits me, but I often fall prey to word burn. Has anyone heard of it? Maybe I just made it up, who knows. With all the fingers typing on the planet at any given moment, it’s more likely that many people thought about it, spoke it, or typed it, even though I’d like to think I coined it.

Word burn strikes when I overuse the same words as if I’m stuck on a basic vocabulary, boring myself through my writing, slumping over my desk. It comes when my balance topples under the weight of various negative influences, from overdoses of chocolate and ice cream (leaving me pudgy and sluggish) to too many To Do’s alongside my monthly happy hours of hormones (Oh, Goddess of Menopause, please find me early!).

I realize that word burn highlights the times I lack humor in my life, yet various things can quash it, such as neologisms. One of my favorites, from J.K. Rowling, is “muggle.” But I try to make my own. Sometimes I create them in frustration rather than creativity. Instead of calling our latest house a fixer-upper, I call it our “infixinity,” as it’s in a constant state of fix, all the way to infinity, and we’ll surely die long before it’s properly finished!

Luckily I don’t have to rely on my mind to create new words in desperate times. Many websites already exist with myriad possibilities for new words, although many are outdated. Some of the more recently updated ones I’ve found include Wit Words. It’s a fictionary of words! If you have a word you’d like to submit, it’s easy to do. Just click and type. You can check out another site at Word Spy. Maybe you can create the best of the bunch, who knows? Do you have kids? There’s a place for them to submit their latest word coinage at Word Central. Just click on “Build Your Own Dictionary.” I really love the word they have there called “gloopers”; it’s one of the reason my kids take lunches.

For some unknown reason, my brain restarts after checking out new words, much like a computer restarting after a glitch. Of course, this may not make sense, but it doesn’t have to, as long as I can get out of word burn. I’m one of those strange people who use both sides of my brain equally; I’m neither dominant left-brained or right-brained, and where does that leave me? I’m an “ambibrain” just as I’m ambidextrous. Too bad there’s no money in it! Depending on the day or my mood, it could just mean that I’m doubly confused!

How do you break out of tough writing times and what new words do you have for us? Let us know…;-)
Sue

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