Sunday, March 31, 2013

Battling Writer's Block - and Winning!

A few months ago, a friend of mine was struggling with Writer's Block. She said she had all these ideas but the actual words weren't coming. I told her to just write whatever came to mind and she said that wouldn't work, that she had no motivation. I replied that she could then just write about not knowing what to write, literally, "I don't know what to write write write write this is boring what can I write about," or something like that. Sure enough, she tried it and she finally had a breakthrough!

So here are my thoughts on Writer's Block:

1. Writing repetitively is a great start to getting through it. Our brains do not like to repeat the same words and images over and over - if we do, they start to filter in other ideas, and those ideas can turn into new images, words, and stories. Use those newborn thoughts to write something down. You are being creative and not letting Writer's Block keep you from words.

2. Get your blood flowing. It is a scientific fact that moving increases blood flow to the brain, which increases oxygen to the brain, which increases the brain's ability to function, which increases creativity. If you are stuck, get up, walk around your house or the block, go for a jog or to the gym, do some squats or jumping jacks. At the end of it, when you get back in front of that computer screen or notebook, words with start pouring out.

3. Don't force it! Sometimes you have an idea you want to pursue, but SOMETHING ELSE wants to come out. Let it. The new idea may eventually lead back to the one you wanted to write, but it may lead to the start of something new. The key is not to lock it in. You are actually creating your own block in this sense.

4. Write the part you really want to write. A lot of time, I start a story and I have the whole thing in my head. But when I start to write, I find the words don't really want to come - maybe a page or two in. I usually stop and take a minute to think about why the story excited me so much. After letting those images form, I usually skip ahead and WRITE that FIRST! It seems obvious, but some of my best writing is when I've let myself get to the parts that are my favorite part of the story. Yes, then later you have to work backwards and make sure everything fits, but by that time, you've usually written at least half (if not most, as in my case) of the story, and those awkward moments you can't get through turn out to be a lot easier or taken care of in editing. I often highlight a spot I'm not ready to write like this, FINISH, so I don't forget where I'm at.

5. Relax! It's your story - it's in your head for a reason. Don't constrict blood flow (and oxygen) by getting overly tense at not reaching word or page count goals for the day, week, or even month. We use words constantly, and the ones needed to tell your story will come if you let them and give yourself time and trust. And even if the story never gets written, something else will.

Writers have to write, so don't let Writer's Block become an uphill battle. Dig out trenches and watch that seemingly insurmountable blockade crumble beneath the onslaught of your creativity.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Love-Hate Relationship with Editing (Part I)

So. Editing. Edit edit edit editeditedit! That strange four-letter word that occasionally is thought of as an epithet - at least in my mind.
Editing is one of those vital aspects to writing that is often even more exhausting than writing itself. I find myself avoiding the editing process after I finish a story. Inevitably, I start and find myself completely absorbed in it. Hours pass, my back cramps, and I realize how exhilarated I feel. Editing is wonderful! Then I have to stop to do something else, leaving the euphoria of editing behind me. The next time I have to edit, I find myself yet again avoiding the work. Even though I know I need to edit and I enjoy the work, still I have this irrational dislike that springs up every time I have to start the process.
Editing is truly exciting for me - fighting the words, finding synonyms, dissecting the grammar, spacing and deleting and adding...
If I'm honest enough, I think I get this way in regards to editing other people's work, not my own. Instead, I find that when I edit my own work, I want to change everything. I question every little nuance of a word, rewrite a sentence four different ways and end up with the original version, get up and walk around my apartment every few minutes - in short, the editing never stops with my own work.
Better, I think to myself, to submerge myself in the creative process, and not bother with editing until the very last minute.
But the truth is, editing IS part of the creative process. And much like the rest of it, editing can be frustrating and rewarding in turn, lead to self-recrimination or new discoveries. And more than anything, editing can make you a better writer, one who is self-aware and conscious of the responsibility inherent in manipulating letters into a series of words that tell a story, or a memory, a belief, or a moment. Writing is Re-writing, and a good author should never settle for the first draft. Challenge yourself to do better, because you know what?
You will.