Friday, March 24, 2017

Week Two: #BreaktheBlock - Five Thoughts and a Map

Every writer I know has trouble writing.  --Joseph Heller

How did Week 1 go? Did you hold to your 5 minutes? Did you find a groove spot where you knew you'd accomplish it? Did you achieve 80%, 40%?  It all counts.  Even 1/7 counts because the goal is progress, not a nitpick of what you didn't do. Any progress from 0 counts. If you didn't get there for whatever reason, try again this week.  Add keeping a log of how much you accomplished or what you didn't accomplish and why. Sometimes sick child trumps everything and those things are understandable. But if you don't write it down, concrete reasons stay nebulous and, therefore, not actionable. If you met the goal, increase your time. Fifteen minutes, 500 words - your choice.


This week we're going to talk about how writers mess with our head especially when we're blocked. I have this thing. I wanna be like Nora or Stephen (as in Roberts and King.) Stephen King has said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that he tells people he writes every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and his birthday, but the truth is he writes every day. (If you haven't read his book On Writing, go, do, and absorb.) Nora does the same thing. EVERY day - thousands of words! That idea sits there and sits there working on me. It's my job. I should be like Nora. Right?

Truth is I would kill for that kind of consistency. I've been writing for 28 years and have never met that challenge. Even though I have 10 books published, several took me years to write. Me thinks it's probably time for a new challenge. My muse doesn't respond to that goal. What's the fastest I've written a novel? 5 weeks. 65,000 words. How did I do that? I'm rolling on the floor laughing at the moment because that was 3 years ago and I have no earthly idea. I'm at a point where connecting with what I used to do is not a useful exercise. Things have changed for me. Have they changed for you?  Maybe it's time for a new goal, a new standard. One that fits a delicate psyche (meaning fragile, not weak!) and a complicated life.

Remember writing is a process and most of it goes on in your head. Extreme writer self-care is important here, and I don't mean the snacking at your desk or the playing spider solitaire to relax - neither will help you write. Put a protective shell on like a turtle.

First, if someone asks you if you're writing, stay away from the complicated answers and just say yes. If they want details, say "It's too early to discuss, but I'm having fun with it." Always frame the positive. Why? Because part of self-care is to be nice to yourself.  More on this in a minute.

Second, don't solicit comments from any writing friends, family, or your bestie on how to break this thing. Don't share the depth of your despair because trust me with this. All their advice will be based on little experience, a pop-psychology orientation, or worse still, a need for you to take their advice because it'll make them feel better. Not helpful. Few people understand creativity and motivation, and even fewer have helpful advice.

Third, count everything you do in your writing process as writing. The time you spend doodling to figure out your plot?  It counts. The time you spend trying to find pictures of your scenery or your characters? It counts. The time you spend in the car talking to yourself about dialogue? It counts. The time you sit at the park observing the scenery and human activity? Count it all. Make time to do these things because these tidbits come into imaginative play when you write your book.

"Vision is always ahead of execution."  David Bayles/Ted Orland, Art and Fear

Fourth, what about the time you spend before going to sleep? Are you silently berating yourself about not writing? Stop. It. Negativity hurts. It hurts your thought process. It hurts your motivation. It hurts your heart. Just don't. We get inundated with have a positive attitude and all that, and I bet I'm not the only one that wants to say to those telling me to be positive to go bugger off. That's not what this is. Negative framing and negative words affect your subconscious. I'm not going into an in-depth explanation here because there's a very good book that will totally explain it better than I can. Go to the library, the used bookstore or Amazon and find Yvonne Oswald's book - Your Every Word Has Power.  Stop for a minute and say "I didn't" to yourself and see how you feel.  Then say "I tried" and see how you feel. Break the "I didn't" terminology and make it "I tried."

Fifth, search all sorts of places for ideas to fight writer's block, but be very careful of those that are full of quick fixes or the opposite - detailed criticism. Now I have no objection to constructive criticism, but one author I read this week suggested that writer's block isn't real - that if you have work strategies in place, you can fight the blank page by just relying on what you've always done. Hmmm. I can't tell you how vehemently I disagree. The stories are definitely in my head, and they aren't coming out my fingers by relying on what I usually did. Because my normal world was shifted by a divorce and a grandchild with autism. Falling back on what I used to do before isn't helping me because my whole life has changed. My priorities have changed. Have yours been changed by illness, depression, or the death of significant person in your life?  Are you caught up with a new relationship, a new job, moving, planning a wedding, having a baby, or getting a degree? Be kind to yourself! Constructively deal with what IS.

How?

Mind Mapping.  Click on the mind mapping link and follow his procedure.

"It's not about making yourself get unstuck; it's about letting yourself get unstuck." Productivity Flourishing 

I would also add that it's about being emotionally ready to be unstuck. 

This block we all experience at one point or another isn't about writing, it's about feelings. Get specific about what IS - put it on paper and look at it, then cut yourself some slack. Some would say: "Isn't cutting myself some slack part of the problem?" No, it isn't the problem at all.  We'll be talking more about that next week.

I'm not going to blow good fortune your way and say there's no problems here. There are. Forward progress when you've been stopped dead is not an easy thing. I'm relearning everything I thought I knew. Analyze the messages you're sending yourself.  Is it time for change? Try this week. It's all I ask of myself, and it's all I'm asking of you.



Week One:  #BreakTheBlock - Ready, Set, Go

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