Gearing Up to Write

As I’ve admitted previously on the blog, this year has not been as productive as I’d have liked from a writing standpoint. There are “things” I am doing to help gear myself back up to write short fiction again.

First, I’m making more of an effort to go to my Jersey City Writer’s Group. Every other Tuesday and Thursday they do a “Writing Prompts” night, where writers get together and three people give prompts. We all write to the prompt for 10 minutes, then read whatever we came up with to the group. I find the more I don’t want to go and do prompts, the more I need to make sure I go and do the mental exercise.

Second, friends are asking me for feedback on their work and I’m reading their work and doing what I can to help. When I’m asked to give feedback, I often go to writing advice books I like and re-familiarizing myself with the guidance from the best. I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s On Writing, and I’ve been re-reading passages from it. It’s tough to give honest feedback to friends, because I care about them and when I see issues I want to bring to their attention, I want to do it in a way that they can “hear.”

Third, and this was a surprise to me, but reading poetry has been a pleasant mental bath in all kinds of imagery and finely wrought word craftsmanship. I’ve read widely, from Rumi to Wallace Stevens, Gwendolyn Brooks (The Bean Eaters), and Jack Kerouac. I am also reading passages from books I love. I dusted off Faulkner’s Light in August and began reading a few pages, not with the intention to read the whole thing, but to enjoy the craftsmanship and the language.

Fourth, I am participating in a writer’s retreat this weekend. I am forcing myself to spend Friday night and all day Saturday in a cabin with nearly a dozen other writers and I WILL spend some of that time writing. Frankly, at this moment it still seems like it could be torture and I haven’t drafted a plan of attack for the time I’ll be there. Yeah, it’s a scary proposition, and I’ve put myself in the situation on purpose. Hopefully something good will come out of it.

Fifth, messing around on the internet looking at the daily routines of writers. Just for fun, but also as a reminder that whatever torture I’m going through isn’t the first time it’s happened to a writer and won’t be the last.

On the Brain Pickings website, here’s something to chew on from William Gibson:

When I’m writing a book I get up at seven. I check my e-mail and do Internet ablutions, as we do these days. I have a cup of coffee. Three days a week, I go to Pilates and am back by ten or eleven. Then I sit down and try to write. If absolutely nothing is happening, I’ll give myself permission to mow the lawn. But, generally, just sitting down and really trying is enough to get it started. I break for lunch, come back, and do it some more. And then, usually, a nap. Naps are essential to my process. Not dreams, but that state adjacent to sleep, the mind on waking.

[…]

As I move through the book it becomes more demanding. At the beginning, I have a five-day workweek, and each day is roughly ten to five, with a break for lunch and a nap. At the very end, it’s a seven-day week, and it could be a twelve-hour day.

Toward the end of a book, the state of composition feels like a complex, chemically altered state that will go away if I don’t continue to give it what it needs. What it needs is simply to write all the time. Downtime other than simply sleeping becomes problematic. I’m always glad to see the back of that.

.

Sixth, okay, uh, I haven’t sat down to write yet.

This post is called Gearing Up to Write, right? It’s not called “I’m not having trouble writing” or “I’m a virtuous writer” or “My daily writing routine” so, yeah, I know, I know…………………….

 

 

Overcoming Writing Resistance…but not writer’s block – it doesn’t exist

Writer’s Block doesn’t exist. That’s right, you heard me.

It Does… Not… Exist.

What does exist is mental resistance to the regular discipline of writing. This is easily overcome IF you want to be a writer, and not someone who sits down and writes when you feel like it.

I know it’s a harsh statement, but really? Too freakin’ bad kids. If you want to be a writer, you gots to put in da time.

Do you know of any opera singers at the Metropolitan who walk on stage after singing in the shower once a week? NO.

Do you know of any chefs at 3 star restaurants who only cook meals when they’re in the mood and never learn basic knife skills, and how to make sauces without a recipe? NO.

Why should writers be any different, I ask you? They shouldn’t.

Practice and effort improves technique and creates the mental discipline needed to get from here to there (where here is a blank page and there is the end of a story).

So why bother writing about something that doesn’t exist, a writer’s bogeyman that creeps up on an unsuspecting writer and throttles them when they least expect it?

Because if YOU have conditioned yourself to believe “WB” exists (and by giving it an official name you made it worse) then you’d benefit from having a few tricks up your sleeve to deal with your resistance. Here are some tricks to use, and feel free to add more in the Comments Section below:

  1. Go back to a piece of writing that isn’t finished and work on it instead of looking at a blank page
  2. If you’re just beginning to write and want to create a habit, set aside a similar time each day to do your writing
  3. And if you’re the type who wants a particular space to write, go for it, but don’t allow setting up your writing space be the excuse for why you aren’t writing! No one cares if that potted fern is on the right or left side of the desk, stop avoiding your work and get back to it.
  4. Just Do It. The slogan works for Nike, but it works for writer’s too. You just sit down and make yourself do some writing. It may not be the next Pulitzer winner, but who cares, you’re writing something. You can edit it later.
  5. Take a book you love, turn to a chapter you love, and start typing it out. You’re writing someone else’s words, but eventually this can spur you to open up a new file and write some of your own.
  6. Write nonsense. Make yourself write anything. It’s like a singer doing scales. It doesn’t make any sense but it’s a form of practice and by giving yourself the ultimate freedom to write any blasted thing you want, you might be surprised at where your thoughts lead.
  7. Stop what you are doing (banging your head against the keyboard) and get a drink of water, or soda/coffee. Take a BRIEF 10-15 minute break (time yourself!) and then get back to it.
  8. If you’re the type of writer who likes to outline a story, write your story notes, or re-read your story notes, or do whatever it is you people who outline do. I don’t do that, so I don’t know how that works…but whatever it is you do, good luck and use the tool you’ve created.
  9. Open a dictionary to a random page and write a sentence based on that word.
  10. Use a photo as a writing prompt

Coming up with these “tricks” took me five minutes. You know why? Because ANYthing you do can prompt you to start writing, if you’ll only sit down and DO IT.

To sum:

– There is no such thing as writer’s block.

– Writers sometimes have a resistance to sitting down and doing the work. SNAP YOURSELF OUT OF IT.

– Writing as a regular discipline is a permanent antedote so would-be writers can become writers.

.

Now – get back to work!

.

P.S. This post was inspired by Mike ReVerb’s Blog Post: Writer’s Block Personified, which you can find here: http://mikereverb.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/writers-block-personified/

Reasons Why Fran Lebowitz Has Writer’s Block

 

 Reasons Why Fran Lebowitz Has Writer’s Block

  1. $10-a-pack cigarettes can’t be smoked in restaurants, taxis, bookstores, or the 92nd Street Y.

  2. The only tea parties held in Manhattan require cucumber sandwiches.

  3. The words celebutante, reality TV, and molecular gastronomy do not appear in dictionaries from the 1970’s. Neither does laptop.

  4. She’s setting the VCR to record Rachel Maddow.

  5. One does not go to a disco to do cocaine; one goes to a club to do X.

  6. Kids don’t know about Erica Jong, Gloria Steinem, Stonewall or mood rings.

  7. Times Square is not riddled with drugs, prostitutes, or graffiti, it’s got something worse: tourists.

  8. Everyone thinks she’s that woman who took photos for Vanity Fair.