Tag Archives: Writer’s block

Permission

On Ardnave Beach, Islay, which I am yearning for dreadfully at the moment.

On Ardnave Beach, Islay, which I am yearning for dreadfully at the moment.

You know what they say about what you should do if you fall into quicksand:

Don’t struggle.

I wrote the other day about my fear of writers block, and it definitely struck a chord.  It seems so many of us are struggling to keep going, as if we are still trying to run even though we have one foot nailed to the floor.  Trying, trying, trying.  We give ourselves such a hard time.  We beat ourselves up because we aren’t good enough.

My dear friend Michelle, who can always see what I need better than I can, said to me:  ‘I know you are frustrated because you aren’t getting better as fast as you want to, or expected to.  But maybe you aren’t better because you haven’t waited long enough.

In other words, give yourself a break!

The thing that keeps coming up for me when I think about this issue is:

COMPASSION

We need to have compassion for ourselves.  We need to give ourselves time.  One thing I know:  if you stop struggling, you stop sinking.  If you stop trying so hard, things come so much more easily.

Michelle gave me permission to stop trying to be well.  She sent me home to bed.  I slept better that afternoon than I had in months.  Just because I wasn’t trying to feel better.  I was simply letting my body have what it needed. No striving.  No struggling.

I think we get writers block because  we are so busy striving.  We don’t give ourselves compassion.  Or permission.

Permission to write crappy first drafts.

Or crappy sentences.

Or nothing at all.

Everything has to be perfect first time.  And it isn’t.  Because we are human.

Of course, what I said in my last post still stands.  Write anything, if its only a shopping list.  It will help.  But also, give yourself a break.  Be gentle and tender with your inner creative.  Release the stress, let go of the striving.  Remember you are doing this because you enjoy it.  And if you aren’t enjoying it, why are you doing it?

As if by magic, two blog posts I saw this morning chimed with what I have been thinking about this.

Jamie Ridler talks about bringing the tenderness and vulnerability of where you are to your creative work, and also about ways to help yourself fit creative activities in to your busy life.

Jennifer Louden, who is such a wise soul when it comes to compassion for oneself, talks to my soul and yours about letting go of perfection.

I hope that if you are struggling with a creative block of any kind, that you will be able to show yourself compassion.  Be kind.  You are doing the best you can.  And if you stop trying to write the greatest novel of the 21st century, and start writing a paragraph about your dog’s snoring, maybe it will come more easily.

Remember, baby steps.

Happy Creating,

EF

 

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I Think I Just Rescued Myself

Peter Mothersole's House

A Bit of a Wobble.

I had a wobble today.

The ‘Writers Block’ wobble.

You know the one:

I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cant I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cant I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cant I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cant I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cant I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cant I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cantI can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cant I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cantI can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cant I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I cant I can’t

and so on and so forth.

That moment when you think:

I have nothing to write about, nothing to say, no way of saying  it.  I am empty, dry.  I will never write another word again.

Oh, the horror, the horror…

But that’s not true.

The real truth is that I am avoiding writing what I know I should be writing. (oh yes, oops, prizes for all those who picked out the Bingo! word there – SHOULD.  Because we don’t do SHOULDS here at Evenlode’s Friend, do we?)

I have a great list of ideas of things to tell you about.  But right now, the juice is not flowing.  I don’t want to do them. I feel like the idea of my writing about writing or creativity is preposterous.  I mean, what the hell do I know?

It is a very short step from here to writers block, the neurosis that prevents otherwise creative people from writing for months, years, sometimes forever.  It is a scary thought.  I don’t want to go there.

Maybe I am just not ready yet.  Maybe I am still getting over my family care stint.  It was, after all, pretty emotionally demanding in so many ways.  And physically too.  Frankly, I don’t feel well, either.

So, instead of beating myself up about all the things I SHOULD be writing, I decided to write what I COULD write.  I always have a little story going on my head, something to pass the time, a little tale to entertain me, a bit of dialogue, a few jokes, anything from a silly children’s fable to a torrid love scene.  Something was definitely developing while I was ironing pillowcases after lunch, so I decided I would write it down and see what happened.

Pen to paper.

Two hours later, and here I am with a 2000 word fanfic done and able to write the blog post I never thought I would be able to get to you today.

The Moral of the Story:

Write something.

Write anything.

It doesn’t matter what it is, or if its good, or whether anybody will ever see it.  It doesn’t matter what it is about, whether it is part of your novel, or a section of your non-fiction book, a bit of memoir or just a few lines of description.

Just write something.

And once you get a few words lined up on the page, you will find you can get a few more lined up.  And then a few more.  And then, O Wonder of Wonders!  You will be writing again.

Crisis averted.

Please do not allow yourself to tip over the edge into CAN’T.  Take a deep breath, get out your pen and write a shopping list.  Or a list of the things you can hear right now.  Or what that smell reminds you of.

Because you CAN.

Happy Creating,

EF

 

Nuts ‘N’ Bolts: Writing Exercises

writing notebook Firstly, an apology.  Observant readers will note that today is Thursday.  Yes, I am a day late in posting.  Sorry.  Life got in the way, in the shape of a migraine, and it’s not funny trying to write with tunnel vision and the pain equivalent of a knitting needle stuck through your eyeball.  I figured I might sound somewhat distracted (as indeed I was), so in the spirit of demonstrating how important self care is, I bugged off and went to bed.  Today’s post is something of a restart.

For a while I have been feeling the itch to get back to writing original fiction.  I’ve been working on fanfiction almost exclusively for a couple of years now, and while it has been hugely instructive in terms of both technique and confidence, I feel like it is time to start making some personal headway again.  Hence the restart.

Getting back to basics is one way to do this if, like me, you are feeling a little at sea when it comes to what to write about.  And one of the best basics to get back to is the marvellous tool that is the writing exercise.

Writing exercises are based on the idea of stream-of-consciousness and free association.  You sit down with your notebook and write for a set amount of time, without judgement or criticism.  You are free to make mistakes, try stuff out, experiment with new words, phrases, images, metaphors.  This is a free-form space where there are no mistakes, only ideas tried on for fit and comfort.

What you need:

  • An allowance of time (10 minutes, 15, half an hour if you have it, or the luxury of more.)
  • A notebook (maybe your writing notebook, or one you keep specially for exercises).
  • A good pen that you can write easily with.
  • A timer.
  • A quiet space to work.
  • A prompt.

What to do:

Maybe you sit down to write at your desk, and your brain goes blank, or worse, is crowded with too many ideas that are too big to fit into 10 minutes or whoever long you have got, and you freeze.

Say hello to your little friend, the prompt.

A prompt is a word, sentence or idea that you use to start you off.  Write it in your notebook.  You may like to start a fresh page, thus allowing yourself a psychological fresh start.  Set your timer to your allotted amount of time, and off you go.

You start writing whatever comes into your head.  You might be writing about yourself, the way you would in your journal, or you might be writing about a character, or from a character’s point of view.  You might describe a scene or an experience.  Keep writing.  Whatever appears on the movie screen of your brain, write it down. And the next thing.  And the next thing.  Keep going until the bell rings and your time is up.

This is a great way of generating material, especially if you are the kind of writer who finds building up words a process of torture.  It is also good for exploring the backstory of your characters, finding out what makes them tick.  And of course, you will occasionally find yourself coming back to reality in the middle of a short story that you didn’t even know you had in you, as I often do.

I like to do two or three 15 minute exercises at one sitting, which allows me to really get into the groove.  You may not have time for that, and that’s okay.  The important thing is that you do the exercises.  And do one daily.  Limber up.  Get into the Habit of Art.

If you find it hard to get yourself into the mood, or to make time, writing exercises are a great tool to use with others.  Arrange to meet up with a writing pal at the local café, and do a few prompts together.  You don’t have to share what you have written if you don’t want to, but if you make an appointment with someone else, you are more likely to show up at the page and do the work.

Where to find prompts:

Ah! I hear you cry.  But where am I supposed to find these fabled prompts?

Well, there are plenty of books around that offer just these kinds of starting grounds.  I am very fond of the following:

‘A Writer’s Book of Days’ by Judy Reeves

‘The Writer’s Block’ by Jason Rekulak

‘The Writer’s Idea Book’ by Jack Heffron.

Search the internet for ‘writers prompts’, or check out http://creativewritingprompts.com/, which is a delight.

In the meantime, here are a few to get you started:

  • What does your character carry in their pockets and why?
  • I woke with a start…
  • Heat
  • My first pet
  • A favourite meal

Happy Writing!

EF