Do you ever look at your word count and stress? Are you stalled in the middle of the book? Do you keep walking away from your desk because the words won't come? Has it been so long since you've written than you're afraid you don't know how to put a good story on paper anymore?
That's me. Right this moment, I'm struggling out of a world of can't. Can't make the words come, can't get an original idea if I cut open my brain, can't follow the tons of advice on writers block because it just makes me feel more lame and helpless. If this is you too, join me for a adventure. You know the kind. Camping with the s'mores, the great bonfire, and the snorer in the next tent. Let's not make this drudgery, but together we can explore and find the thrill of writing again. It's called the #BreakTheBlock Challenge, and it starts today.
You can take a moment if you'd like to analyze why you're suffering from Writer's Block. For me, it's not a block of words, but a block on producing fiction words. I took on freelance writing 4 years ago to support myself, and the necessity to make money made me put those dollar words first. After 2 years of struggle, I realized what a horrible impact it was having on fiction writing and quit the content mill process. Then I took on academic writing to support myself and, although I find it easier, the same thing happened. I consistently produce those words, but to my chagrin, I exhaust my supply of want to and fiction writing leaves me staring at the page. Add a few years where deaths, divorce, and drama mixed with a crazy routine and tons of responsibilities and here I sit. Sound familiar?
I write romances, and during my divorce, I found it impossible to write happily-ever-after books. WRITERS BLOCK lives. I went back to school to earn a graphic design degree, changed to art history, owned and closed a digital publishing company that took 5 years of attention to run properly, and now I'm wanting to revive a dead fiction-writing career. Eight books published, and I'm like a babe in the woods again. How did I write a full novel eight different times? I don't know. It seems like a dream except Amazon shows the results of that labor. So, if you find my how-to sheet bring it to the campfire and show me.
But here's one thing I did figure out during that time:
You live what you put first. Patti Ann Colt
Everybody has priorities. There is nothing wrong if your family or your job comes first, just figure out where writing is in your priority and keep it there. Going back to school wasn't a simple decision for me. I knew it would impact every aspect of my life, but at that moment I needed a serious change and something, gads anything, that would spark my passion. I never expected to find a different creative side, but I did, and I never expected that hands on creativity to spark my fiction writing again. What did I learned from finishing two years of school? Doing what you love is really important, and nobody else can make the changes necessary to put you where you need to be.
You may hear other writers say "Oh, writer's block isn't real. Those are all just excuses." If you avoid saying anything about your writing career because you fear someone will say "Suck it up, cupcake," then I'm glad you are here. I will never say those words to you. There's nothing worse than wanting to write and not being able to. We're going to talk about this more in coming lectures, but I say that this is my life and my choices are my choices. What feels real to me, is therefore, well, real. Don't beat yourself up over how you chose to live. You don't owe anyone any explanations. If you're like me, you beat yourself up more than anyone else can anyway. Fighting against the pileup of guilt when goals go unmet is about as non-productive as it comes.
One caveat that's important here: Don't come here to complain about your life. If you're looking for real solutions, are willing to analyze the problems and are willing to try new things to figure out how to get out of what's happening with your writing, then you're in the right place. I'm here to help, here to advise, and here to try things with you. Explore for Solutions - that's #BreaktheBlock.
Second caveat: I can write anything, but I don't love freelance or academic writing. I can do it, but it doesn't spark any creativity. It's just a means to eat. Important, yes. I'm not arguing that, and if you're in that situation, by all means keep plowing forward. If you have a day job and have to work hard there to keep the bills paid, kudos to you. Financial stability is important. If you're like me, though, your next novel (or 5) is stuck in your head and you need a tweak to your lifestyle to make your novel a reality. This challenge is for you. Don't expect massive goals and demanding changes. As I've discovered, they won't work.
So here it is - simple and straightforward.
1) Write for 5 minutes every day.
I don't care how you accomplish this. But don't make a big deal out of setting aside the right space and the right time. You'll fail. Use your computer on the sofa or in bed, put your show on pause and use your iPad, grab your iPhone at the next really long light (Please don't type while you're driving!), or pull into Sonic or your favorite coffee shop, grab a receipt off the floor, and write for five minutes in the parking lot! Five minutes is only five minutes. It doesn't give any time for fear to build or for your internal editor to click on, and most things can be ignored for 5 minutes. BUT you can accomplish 100-200 words in that 5 minutes. Don't believe me? Time yourself. I have, that's how I know. If you can't get 100-200 words, you're thinking too hard. Work on your novel, write about the car next to you, write a note to your spouse, or take a random word and see where it takes you. There's hundreds of creative writing prompt choices. Find one.
Now I know, 5 minutes seems like a really low goal. If you're a seasoned writer, you're thinking "I can do more than that." Yes, I'm living in your head. Don't listen to yourself. I think that to myself all the time and it's not helpful. I also think - I can do it later. Then later comes, and presto, the goal hasn't happened. So set your time. Can you meet a 5 minute promise to yourself? I think I can. And so can you.
I write better first thing in the morning, but I also spend a lot of time in my car driving - another commitment I won't explain. But if I adjust my timing and take my iPad or a CAN notebook (see how I worked CAN into a CAN'T situation), a pen, and my story notes (which are printed from a nifty program called yWriter), I can pull over a couple places along my route and set my iPhone to time a 5 minute write. Heck, I've been stuck in DFW traffic longer than that. Analyze your day and find those 5 minutes. No excuses.
A habit takes a few days to settle in, so don't give up. 1400 words a week writes a full novel in 42 weeks. If you snorted to that, tell me how long it's been since you produced a full novel and just do it!
You numbered that, you say. Where's the #2?
2) READ. READ. READ.
Find a book, any book and read - whether lunch hour, cooking dinner, or bedtime, spend some time with a favorite. Pay attention to the flow, the thrills of following a story again, and keep it going. If you have to cut out a few television shows, just do it. With Netflix, Hulu, On Demand, etc. etc., you shouldn't be a slave to sitting there. Pick your 2-3 have-to-watch-now shows and cut the rest..... and I'm saying that with The Voice just starting, Walking Dead ready to explode, and March Madness in full swing so I feel the same pain. I love television too, but it cuts off your connection to the written word. Find it again.
"Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very successful careers." Ray Bradbury
That's all. Take some steps today to #BreakTheBlock. Feel free to introduce yourself and/or leave your successes or problems in the comments!