Tag Archives: writers block

When Writing Seems to be a Chore

When you have to write your 1000 words for the day of your novel or even a short but essential blog post and all you can think about is doing the dishes instead or doing that project in the garage that you’ve been putting off people are apt to call it ‘writer’s block’. If you overcome that block to actually sit down and do the writing you have pledged to do then that’s when you become a writer. At this moment I’m really talking to those that would like to become professionals. As an owner of a site like Pan Historia I am fully a champion of those that come to write just for the pure fun of it. If you’re a surfer you don’t grab a surfboard and head to the beach on a day you’re not in the mood. In this post I am addressing those of you that want to be professional writers, and I place myself among you.

My inspiration this morning came from my own disinclination to write a blog on writing. Over the short time I have maintained this blog I have written a number of short articles on the craft of writing, both general and for the relatively new field of collaborative self-published fiction. All the standard advice for bloggers contains the advice to keep your blog fresh with new content, but what happens when you run out of ideas? There are only so many topics right? Or is that just me avoiding writing when I know I should? It’s very probably the latter. Actually it’s definitely the latter.

Whenever, as a writer, you feel ‘blocked’ it’s time to write around it, or through it. Several things can happen: 1) you can spend hours writing a crappy post/chapter (and I still say hooray for you because there is growth in failure, perhaps more so than success) and have to throw it away. 2) you find yourself picking up speed and really getting into your topic/story. 3) you can discover what is that is really blocking you in a particular piece. If the result of writing through a block is number one you still have to do it all over again your next writing period. You cannot let that hurdle cause you to stumble – not if you want to be a professional. Remember writing as a career has deadlines and schedules just like any other job. Because most writers are their own supervisors (if not their own boss) that means developing a strong writing discipline.

Even if you are as of yet unpublished it’s a really smart idea to establish good working practices. If you’re not being paid yet (oh, grasshopper) then it’s often even more difficult to overcome the roadblocks put in your path by your own mind and by others… oh yes, others. If you work from home you know how many times friends and relatives will say “you’re not doing anything, can you help?” If you have a significant other, even a supportive one, there will be lapses. “I was at work all day, and you were at home, why didn’t you clean the __________?” You can fill in the blanks. Creating a strong and regular writing schedule for yourself, that you don’t cheat on, means sticking to it, regardless of the views of friends and loved ones. You might have a lot of diverse responsibilities such as kids, jobs, or looking after a relative, but if you are serious about being a writer you still need to carve out the time.

I have talked on this subject before, and at length, but I don’t think it can be repeated enough. I have several friends who are published writers and when a novice comes to them for advice it’s always the same: you wanna write? Then write.

There: I have written.

A Little Calisthenics for the Writer

Coming off any kind of enforced writing hiatus can be a challenge. In my case it was a move across country with all the accompanying handicaps and hazards. The end result is always the same. It’s difficult to get started again. Just like when you have ‘writer’s block’ (I put that in comas because I hesitate to believe it’s anything more than mental laziness or a bout of low self-esteem) the only way back into the creativity is to plow straight back in – get on that horse and ride.

I have the added challenge that I do most of my writing in collaboration with others. When you write collaborative fiction one of two things can happen, in my experience. Either everyone wrote up a storm while you were gone and you have some serious catch up to play, or no one wrote and you have to get a whole bunch of people past their own little version of writer’s block. I have the latter issue this time.

First step I’m writing this blog post. I consider my blogging calisthenics for the writer. I can do it fairly quickly and easily (there are no other writers to consider on my blog), and I can get out a few thoughts, organize them, and then get the sense of creative accomplishment when I hit the post button that will help motivate me towards my other projects. My next step will probably be to repost some of my old fiction on my other blog. While that might seem like a time waster in terms of writing it’s actually not. By choosing, rereading, reviewing and editing, I find myself shifting back into the fiction writing mindset that I need. Often I am either happy with what I posted and thus inspired, or I think that my old stuff is crap and so I am motivated to do better. Sometimes I rediscover ideas that never got followed through and that will also goad me into action.

The one thing I will have to try and avoid is getting distracted. It’s very easy when you’ve not been writing for a while to decide you just really have to do the laundry first, or fix the garage door, or whatever little thing is niggling at you that will keep you from your first and primary task (if you are a writer). Obviously daily life must be lived – chores must be done, but you know what I’m talking about. It’s the chores that suddenly leap over into the time designated for writing until finally you are just too busy to write. Don’t let that happen. The laundry can wait for an hour. Fix that writing time in stone, and make it sacred.

Notice how I didn’t complete my set of steps I’m going to take to get into writing again? I got distracted not with the laundry but writing about the laundry. Case in point: anyway the next step in my process, because I am a collaborative writer, is to get out my bullwhip and motivate my fellow writers. That, in of itself, can be a distraction but I need my co-writers to get back on the horse and write as well. I’ll probably jump all over my planning boards with ideas for new storylines or suggestions on how we can move forward. And then, finally, I will write something. Anything. But it needs to be done and it needs to happen as fast as possible because every day you prolong the hiatus, or the block, is a day wasted, and it only gets harder with more time.