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Graduate Doldrums

Three weeks and a day since I graduated with my degree in Creative Writing. Three weeks and a day. I wish I could say I have something to show for it, like a publication acceptance letter or something, but nothing much else has happened since the big day. I’ve read a few books, mastered the snooze button slap and spent a lot of time wondering what I’m going to do with THE REST OF MY LIFE.

I can think of nothing worse than coming to the end of the path I have walked for several years and seeing the eternal void of the rest of my life yawn before me. Except for maybe anchovies. And spiders. But seriously. My life has been planned out up until this very moment. Graduation was the Godot I was waiting for. And now I’ve achieved it. So what’s next?!

Ideally, I’d like to get published. The only problem is getting published is a long hard process that involves a lot of trial and failure. Writing short stories and articles are not my strong point, so that provides a small problem. Disconnect is at least a year out from being completed. As it stands right now, I have no material and no motivation.

If there is anything I learned in college, this last semester in particular, it was that nothing comes without work. Any successes I had came after I put forth effort. I didn’t succeed until my fingers hit the keyboard. It didn’t matter what I produced as long as it was something that could be fixed. Anytime I vomited a draft I could later revise, it reduced stress and I got great feedback. So what else can I learn from this? Not only does work produce results, but the point of writing is to write.

I realize I’ve talked about the point of writing being writing before, but here is an example where it really comes into play. Most of my classes required a lot of writing, and because of due dates and my schedule, I was always drafting one thing or another. I have never drafted so heavily in my school career, and I discovered that the initial drafts were the hard part. I forced myself to turn off my internal editor and I just wrote. Revising was easier and more enjoyable–It was this process that brought me the biggest success.

That being said, let’s set some goals.

Goal 1: Do at least 30 minutes of freewriting every day.

In theory, this should be the time for my internal editor to take a hike. I can work on projects that don’t have near as much pressure as writing Disconnect does. Write a short story or an article that interests me. Just write. I’ll create a “geode” folder for all my freewrites so I can work on them later. Maybe I’ll get get material good enough to be polished and sent out.

Goal 2: Finish Disconnect full revision 2.0 by the end of October 2013.

This goal will be a little harder. I finished the first full draft of Disconnect during National Novel Writing Month, so I can do at least 50,000 words in a month. If I can pull off 1,666 words a day in Disconnect, then this goal should be in the bag within a month or two.

Goal 3: Work on one or both of these goals every day.

If anything, I need to get back in the habit of just writing. If I can at least achieve two out of these three goals, I’ll have this self-motivation business in the bag.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2013 in A Day In The Life

 

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Character Withdrawls

I’d like to dedicate this post to my characters Adam Johnson and Mike Michaelson, two important people in my life that I have neglected for the past three months. I feel like a horrible person.

Getting back into my writing groove following my Study Abroad in France and the commencement of Fall Semester has been like pulling teeth. With an extra heavy schedule this go around, it’s been hard to find that time to write when sleep is so hard to come by. I realized that I’m going to have to fit writing into the cracks and break down the writing block that has accumulated over the past few months.

The past two weeks I’ve made some made some beat-around-the-bush attempts to get back into writing without actually doing any writing: reviewing notes, sculpting characters, that sort of thing. These things certainly have their merits–visualization and review are essential during the writing process. But I discovered I was missing the point.

The point of writing is to write.

I came to this realization as I began a new job last week. I went from having a manual labor at a dry cleaners to a receptionist job where I sit at a desk and get paid to staple things, unstaple things, organize things, answer the phone, and have free time. One night in particular, I was tired of battling through my homework and decided I was going to back through to read everything I had written in Disconnect thus far. I got bored of rereading the first chapter for the MILLIONTH time and skipped to the end of the most recent chapter I wrote.

What met my eyes was an exchange between Adam and Mike that I had completely forgotten about. It was one of the many arguments the two protagonists get into on a regular basis, and this one struck me as particularly funny due to the large amount of foam shot up one of Mike’s nostrils. All of the sudden I remembered how much I loved the dynamic of their relationship. I realized how much I missed Adam’s manipulation and Mike’s comedic retorts, and I needed to get back to writing soon.

Admittedly, I still haven’t done any serious writing since this event, but I’ve at least begun drafting conversations and situations between the two friends in my journal. Finding time in my schedule that still allows for sleep has been difficult, but I’m sure I can find room somewhere in my schedule. Mike and Adam are worth it.

ACE

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in On Writing

 

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Camp NaNoWriMo: Week 2

The second week of NaNoWriMo is upon us! Now that the first week push is totally over (and motivation is waning, might I add), it’s time to bring it back home and address all the things that currently might be standing in our way.

I, for one, have started out pretty droopy. Even though I am trying to use NaNo as fuel to get me to the end of Disconnect, I am finding myself still getting stuck in the mud of discouragement, writer’s block and misty character motivation. My plot that I thought had all figured out decided to take a small twist, giving me whiplash and leaving me feeling disoriented for a few days, I did manage to hurtle the initial writer’s block I was experiencing before Camp started only to faceplant into the one only a few feet behind it, leaving me with should-I-keep-this-character musings that I would much rather not deal with.

But enough kvetching about my week one woes. It’s time to talk about the solving of them.

Discouragement is a horrible thing to encounter. If you are anything like me, outputting an enormous amount of words in one day is like trying to lift a 1,666 lb angry cat with one hand and no glove. In other words, it hurts and you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. 

The solution is simple: Do what you can do. Don’t hurt yourself trying to kick the angry cat’s butt, go kick the butt of the weight machine first, and maybe go shopping for body armor. Work up to that 1,666 words per day. Sure it gets you behind, but after sitting on the couch your whole life, you aren’t going to one day be able to stand up and say “Hey! I’m going to run a marathon today!” You need to begin training. If the word count you can pull of in your best day is only a few hundred words, then great! Try to add another hundred to that the next day, and the next day, and the day after that, even if you have to carve an extra three hours out of your day to do it. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo isn’t just about finishing off a novel, but also pushing yourself to do your best and reach a goal.

The next thing to address is the bane of every writer’s existence: Writer’s Block. Having been wrestling with my own sever case of WHY-ISN’T-THIS-WORKING, I discovered that you can’t take the inspiration train to happy land through a wall of death. It’s one of those things you need to get up, face and start knocking your forehead against until you see the light peeping through tiny cracks and make them big enough to shove through. Writer’s block is work, and you have to keep clocking in and force yourself through slogs of nasty, cheesy dialogue, bumpy prose and embarrassing cliches.

The directors at NaNo recommend throwing in something unexpected like ninjas (my personal favorite) or stampeding elephants and seeing how your characters react from there. Even though you’ll probably have to delete the scene in later drafts, at least you learn things about your characters like how they react to absurdity, or what their fighting skills are like, maybe even who would throw who under the bus in times of life and death. Who knows? You could uncover a plot gem! A new twist! A sub plot! The possibilities are endless.

Something that seems to be working the best for me in times of writing block is switching mediums and the occasional environment. For example, I since summer started I started going to sit outside on the deck with my laptop perched on the bistro table, watching the hummingbirds divebomb each other while the sun rises. For me, the change from my desk to outside in the cool morning helped a lot. When I’m super blocked, I resort to the good ol’ writing journal and handwrite it out. This allows me to get over the mentality that everything has to be perfect and that I’m allowed to make mistakes. A lot of times I’ll write out the same scene several different times in my journal to help me figure out what I want to accomplish.

But probably the most important thing you can do to help yourself with a block is continue writing. Those walls slow you down and bring all the fun to a stop. Don’t let that happen, and a lot of the time, everything will work itself out. You’ll be back on track and getting things done before you know it.

The last thing I’d like to quickly address is  busting your way through character motivation. This first week, a scene occurred to me that didn’t really seem congruent with the rest of what I had written. I really liked it, and my IR said it was one of her favorite scenes I’d done yet. My only issue I had a character take a full 360 turn for about 2 pages then reverting back to the original personality I had given them. I couldn’t figure out if this was a part of the character I didn’t know about yet, or if I was just tailoring things to go my protagonist’s way for the sake of building his character. There are really only two bits of advice I can think of to give in situations like these.

The first mirrors what I said about writer’s block. Try journalizing about it. Write different scenes with them. Try some choppy pieces of dialogue with them. Introduce them to ninjas. Do something away from your manuscript to try and figure out who they are and why they act certain ways.

The next involves interviewing your character. I’ve only done this a couple times, and not with this particular storyline, but it works, and I enjoy it a lot. Having a back and forth or even an arguement with the character as an author lets you know a ton about motivations, especially if the characters are open enough with you to come out and say it. I’ll admit, it’s a little eerie when that happens, but totally worth it.

Well fellow NaNoers and non-Nanoers alike, this post has run long enough, and I hope it helped at least someone out there struggling with their own week one woes; I know it’s certainly helped me!

Time to get back to that manuscript! Stay strong and write on!

ACE

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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