Let’s Talk: Writer’s Block and Writerly Inspiration

Hello!  Welcome to my Writer’s Block!  Today, I’d like to bring up the idea of a writerly roller coaster.  Can you relate to any of these ideas?

Being a writer is gratifying:  The pictures in your mind, poured out through your fingertips, and transformed onto the leaves of a page.  It’s a glorious feeling when a project comes to completion, or even simply when an early draft is complete.

But sometimes, being a writer is riddled with frustration.  The pictures in your mind, knotted up in your fingertips, and hurling themselves, if you’re lucky, into a garbled mess on the screen in front of you.  Again, if you’re lucky.  Sometimes, a writer comes up empty.

The struggle is real, folks.  We face the writerly roller coaster each and every day, hour to hour, even minute to minute.  The words may flow with perfection one moment, then…they are gone.  Writer’s block strikes again.

I revel in times of writerly feast, and ride that creative wave for as long as I can, but when writer’s block hits, I have to turn to other sources for help.  When faced with Writer’s Block, there are several things I like to try to dislodge the blocks which hold my words back.

  1. Introduce a new character.  Maybe I’ll keep them, maybe not, but somehow, just putting in a new character’s perspective into the narrative can help.  Who knows!  That character may have just what it take to spin the plot a new and exciting way!
  2. Take the last scene  I wrote, and rewrite it from a different character’s perspective (I think I see a trend…).  As in #1, above, this can help to spin the plot differently.
  3. Seek inspiration online.  Try Googling an image about the scene you are working on.  Sometimes viewing a picture can encourage your mind to come up with words that eluded you before.  This is an image I saw recently, and it really helped with my word flow:  cabin interior
  4. Seek out writerly quotes for inspiration.  Again, these can be effective in getting the writerly juices flowing.  Here is one of my faves: chekhov-moon

The process of writing is both glorious and challenging.  I encourage you to celebrate your successes voraciously; I know I do!  And when writer’s block hits, I challenge you to go after inspiration with just as much gusto!  What are some of your go-to ideas for combatting the inevitable writer’s block?  And how do you celebrate your writing victories?  I’d love to hear all about it!

Thank you for stopping by today.  Please leave your comments below!

Embracing The Courage To Fail

go for it

My husband and I were married in 1996, which, in baseball terms, was Derek Jeter’s Rookie year as a Yankee.  During the years that followed, we watched Jeter and the other members of the Yankees became super-successful in subsequent years.  As a Yankee fan, I can tell you it was a thrilling time to follow the team.

Tonight, Jeter’s Number 2 was retired, and to commemorate the event, there were televised interviews and memories shared.  But, what was it about Jeter that made him so great?  Was it natural born talent?  Was it that his parents raised him a particular way?  Was it that he surrounded himself with people he wanted to emulate?  Perhaps.  More than likely, a combination of these created the baseball player he eventually would become.

During the Jeter event today, one commentator made a statement which stuck with me.  He said something to the effect of “To achieve greatness, you can’t be afraid to fail.”

Ugh.  That’s really hard.  So many of us are programmed to “fail to fail”.  We are taught that failure is bad, that failure will keep you from your goal.  As a writer, failing can mean something small, like I don’t complete my word count, or something large, like secure a publishing contract.  It means I might hit writer’s block and not be able to move a work forward.  It could mean that the concept of a work in progress is a no-go, even when I have spent many months, or even years, trying to develop it.

Failure can be debilitating.

But it doesn’t have to be.  During the Jeter festivities tonight, more than one person commented that Jeter expected to win every day.  He gave his all every time out on the field.  When he “failed” on the field,  his took that failure as an opportunity for growth.  That’s why he was such a good Yankee captain.

#Re2pect

Jeter was successful because he wan’t afraid to fail.

As writer’s, we can use this concept to our advantage.  What does failure as a writer really mean?  Sure, the word count miss, or the lack of a publishing contract seems like they are fails.  However, in the bigger picture, we can look at these little failures as part of our eventual path to greatness.  If we keep at it, refuse to give up, change some things when what we are doing doesn’t work out, we will all get there.

Next time, when writer’s block hits, I think I will try something “radical” with my plot or characters, and see where it takes me.  Maybe next time, I won’t be afraid to play with the structure of a work, if it seems to be “failing”.  I hope I have the courage to do so.

what could go right

I’m glad I got to watch Jeter’s celebration tonight between games of the double header.  It gave me the courage to accept failure as part of a longer, more interesting, path to authorly success.

I hope things are going well with you all, and thanks for reading.  Do you have any advice for spinning failure into the big picture of success?  Let me know in the comments!

100!

100

Welcome, Readers!

It is with heartfelt gratitude that I write this post.  Today, in my WordPress notifications, I got the best news:  I have reached the milestone of 100 follows to my blog!

This may seem like a minuscule accomplishment to many.  I personally follow blogs with many more followers than on hundred.But for this small town author, it means the world, and I couldn’t be more pleased!

I have used this as a forum to showcase authors and their work, to discuss both classic literature and new reads, to talk about issues that writers face, and delve into perspectives in the publishing world.  Through the years of my authoring this blog, I have learned a lot, shared a lot, and met a lot.  I am humbled by all of you who have read, commented on, and liked my posts.

gratitude

Thank you.

Thank you for the follows.  Thank you for the comments through the years .  And thank you for taking an interest in my writerly work.  I am beyond excited for what is on the horizon.  It continues to be an honor to share it all with you.

 

Taking Our Own Advice

Hello Writerly  Friends!

It’s so hard to believe that it is almost the holiday season!  But this isn’t a post about the holidays.  Not really.  Well, perhaps a little.  It’s a post about how time can get away from us, and the feelings of guilt that can come along with that, from a writer’s perspective.  So, with the holiday season approaching, let us encourage each other with the gift of no guilt.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist that picture!

In an earlier post, I outlined how I fit writing into my teaching life.  You can read that post here.  As I look at that post, I freak out a little bit, because, my writing life at the moment isn’t at all what it would typically be at this point.  It’s not that I am so rigid that I have to fit my life to a certain mold to feel fulfilled as a writer.  I know that the aforementioned post is pretty much an outline that I try to follow on a yearly basis.  Historically, it’s a plan that has worked well.

But this year, not so much.

Life Happens 🙂

You see, time has gotten away from me.  My school schedule is somewhat different, and that has thrown a bit of a wrench into the writerly plan I used to follow.  Which coaxes the guilt to set in.  Who else has been there?  We make the grandest plans for writing productivity, and then we torture ourselves with guilt when we can’t meet our goals.  (I hope I am not alone!)

I don’t think it’s a great thing to berate ourselves for not being able to meet them.  Obviously, if you are writing to meet professional deadlines, and you have an income attached to it, that might be a different story.  But for me, I can’t let a little thing like guilt stop me.

It can be difficult to put this into perspective, but it sometimes takes years to get a book right.  Not only that, but many of us have many writing projects going on at the same time; some on submission, some merely outlined, some with Beta readers, some in a very rough first draft.  And as awesome as it is to have created so many projects, it can get overwhelming.  This again fuels the fires of guilt.

We might ask ourselves, “Why can’t I finish anything?”  When these feelings of guilt pounce into my writing life, I need to remember to step back, and appreciate the “little victories”  that I have accomplished.  So I didn’t start a new NaNo this month.  That’s okay.  So I missed a few Sunday blog posts.  It happens.

The good news?  I opened up my “guilt-free” package today and found a whole lot of great stuff!

There are always positive things we writers can look back to, and forward towards the future.  I’ve been inspired to dust off a partially written manuscript, and create some lovely scenes that I hadn’t even considered before.  And the creative mind in me always churns out new ideas to explore.  I’m going to ride that train as long as I can.

So in the end, this post is about me taking my own advice.  And getting back to the pretty little “guilt-free” gift at the beginning of this post…  I hope you can open it up and find some awesomeness to celebrate about your writing life.  Tell me…How do you deal with guilt as a writer?  What kinds of awesome are in you “guilt-free” gift box?  Please share your comments below.

Thanks for stopping by my writer’s block!

UPDATE: When My Book Baby Needed A Time-Out

Hear ye, hear ye!

My book baby is out of time-out!

fireworks

The post below describes how I dealt with an unruly manuscript that was spiraling out of control, to the point where I couldn’t figure out what to do with it.  Well, after a weekend trip to Maine which provided me several sparks of inspiration, I have coaxed my 2013 NaNoWriMo effort out of hiding, and back into my start screen!  It now officially has a title I love, and a thread which has the potential to tie the whole thing together.

Of course, there is no way to guarantee that this particular book baby will avoid time-out for the long haul, but for now, we are on a fantastic course.  Wish me luck!  Here is the original post 🙂

Welcome Readers!

One of my Twitter friends asked me a question today, and it kind of got me thinking.  She wanted to know if there was ever a point when you should just scrap a manuscript.

Hmmm.  Let me think about that for a moment.

The Big Question

Who among us has never felt the frustration of conceptualizing a manuscript, plotting, planning, and writing it to the point that we are absolutely certain it will CHANGE THE WORLD, only to discover that it just doesn’t work?

No doubt, many of us have.

My Reality

Case in point:  My 2013 NaNoWriMo project.  As a writer, I was in a phase where I wanted really complicated plot twists and character relationships, and on top of that, a few of the plotlines and characters would span the time/space continuum.  I am befuddled just thinking about that beast.

I got about a third of the way through writing it (from an outline, no less) and found that I couldn’t make it work out the way that I was sure it would when I plotted it months earlier.  That manuscript was taking on a life of its own, and as its “parent”, I just couldn’t keep up with it!  If there was ever a time for me to consider scrapping a manuscript, it was then.

But I didn’t.

Because…

I have mentioned this in other posts on this blog, but writing, as are all of the arts, is a living thing to me.  The process of writing is fluid and morphing, and the books we read become part of us, as we live and breathe, taking on a life of their own.  Instead of scrapping that beast of a manuscript, I trunked it; I gave it, and me, a Time-Out for a while.  That manuscript needed to think about was wrong with it.  I needed time away from it as well, to perhaps come up with a plan to better usher that particular Book-Baby into the world with a little more finesse.

Just an FYI, that Book Baby is still in Time Out.  It’s been months.  Neither of us has figured out what is wrong yet but someday we will.  I can’t give up on it.  It is a story which has a wonderful heart and deep feeling, but in its current state it’s just too unruly.  With a little thought and hard work, I feel like my Book-Baby will become a beautiful thing. Perhaps giving it a name will help (wink, wink!)

I don’t know how long it’s Time-Out will last.  It could be years.  And who knows.  Maybe it’s supposed to be more than one book, or maybe something in the universe was telling me that I am not ready to write that story…yet.  It is definitely a “something”, because I still get chills of excitement when I think about it.

So, My Answer To The Big Question:

I wouldn’t scrap a manuscript altogether. Like the unnamed Book-Baby in my example above, I would give it a Time-Out, long enough for the two of us to iron out our differences.

A Few Questions For You:

How do you deal with unruly manuscripts?  When they don’t work out as planned, how long before you set it aside? Have you ever scrapped a manuscript completely?

Share your response in the comment section!

Thanks for stopping by my Writer’s Block!

Writerly Advice: Learning From The Masters

Welcome, Readers!

Today I had an “Oh, yeah!” moment.  This is not to say that I discovered anything new or earthshattering about writing, but it was a simple reminder of something I already knew.  A correlation.

As many of you know I am a music educator.  For twenty-two years, I have worked with student musicians at various points in their musical learning, from the very beginning instrumentalist, to the more advanced high school player.  Every Spring, I evaluate woodwind players from across the state of New York, and provide feedback to them, which will hopefully guide them in their future learning.

You may be asking yourself what knowing my backstory as a music educator might have to do with this blog.  If you are, great, because here’s the connection.  When I listen to student musicians as an evaluator, one of the biggest things I notice is that while the mechanics of playing their instrument are often very accurate, there are items of musicality which need developing. It’s the musicality that takes the most time to master in many cases.   My advice to those students is to listen; listen to the masters of their instrument.  That’s where the little nuances of style get learned.

It’s no mystery that the ideas of learning from the masters of our craft makes sense, or that the idea has a direct correlation to writing, or any other creative endeavor.  If the musician is learning a Mozart Flute concerto, I suggest not only listening to a lot of Mozart’s music to learn his compositional style, but I also suggest listening to the best flutists in the world perform it.  For the writer, the same holds true.  For example, if you want to write an adult thriller, read a lot of adult thrillers, and study “the best” writers of the genre.  “The best”, in this case, would mean any author of adult thrillers whose style you admire and aspire to emulate.

A writer might say that they want to have their own unique style.  I think we all want that, to be honest, but to develop that personal quality, your writer’s voice, you can only get there by learning the little nuances of the masters.  Think back for a bit.  What authors, alive or dead, have written the books that you come back to again and again.  What is it about those authors and their stories that captivates you so?  It’s important to try and put your finger on those things.  From there, you can develop your own style.

When you make a connection between your own writing style to an author’s whom you admire, it compliments both you and the other author.  There isn’t much more authenticity than that.  Go for it!

So there you have it, my “Oh, yeah” moment.  As I mentioned, this is something I already knew about both writing and performing an instrument, but I guess when the notion resurfaced, it was because I needed a little reminder.  What genre(‘s) do you write?  Which author’s styles influence you within that genre?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by my writer’s block!

Writerly Advice: Taking Time For Reflection

Hello Readers!

As the days of Summer drift away and the nights become longer, I find myself in a reflective mood.  As an introspective person by nature, I reflect a lot.  A LOT!  I suspect that many of us are like that.  It seems to come with the territory of life within the creative arts.  Stopping to think about the many aspects of my creative life is therapeutic at its most basic, but more importantly, it provides a basis for confidence and improvement in my craft.

Do you take the time to reflect on the good stuff that has happened in your writing life, or just the bad and the ugly?  It’s easy to dwell on the negative stuff.  We all know, as writers we get enough of that.  But I challenge you to think for a bit on the positive.  It’s allowed, and I dare say it can work wonders.

Last May, I arguably had my “Best Birthday Month Ever”.  It truly was amazing!  Now, three months later, I still feel excited when I remember it, even though not too much has changed in my professional writing status.  That’s okay, because as I reflect back to that thirty-one day period of time, I know that a lot has changed within me as a writer.  I might be in something of a holding pattern at the moment, but thinking back fills me with a renewed confidence.  I am published in Summer Nights, a book of short stories, which is so amazing.  Although I haven’t signed a publishing contract for my novels or landed an agent yet, I have had a few recent requests.  I know that I am capable of creating something of interest and value to people outside of my family and close friends.

It is important for writers to take the time for reflection.  Look back periodically and remember something that gave you validation along your road to publication.  And while much of the path to publishing has us waiting on information, taking the time to reflect on those positive and rewarding things which have brought you to where you are today can be a real source of inspiration. It is pulling me through.

As a special treat, here is a song to get you in the spirit as well 🙂

What awesome writerly things do you reflect upon?  Do you find inspiration from your critique partner?  A full request from an agent or editor?  How about a blogger, or even an interesting hashtag?  Perhaps you got some great feedback at a conference a while back.  Did you enter an online contest?  What can you reflect on to give you a boost to keep pushing forward?   Feel free to comment below!