Tag Archives: writer’s block

Unhappy Camper

Well, this hasn’t been going according to plan.

And by “this” I mean “Camp NaNoWriMo” of course.

And by “plan” I mean at least one thousand words a day.

It’s day three and as I write this I have written less than a thousand words.

What happened?

I wish I knew.

Saturday I had every intention (Yeah, yeah, the road to Hell is well-paved. I know) of writing three thousand words.  I managed a little over seven hundred.  (Soraine is being a very uncooperative pirate captain and is trying to do some sort of odd heroic thing that is going to completely mess up other stuff… But maybe I should just scrap the other stuff and let her go and do it.  But anyhow, I digress.)

I did have one hellacious headache all day, though, which didn’t help.

So, Saturday was a bust.

Sunday was even worse – I managed to scrounge up another two hundred words or so, despite the headache that staggered in from Saturday.

And so far today hasn’t been very productive either. I was running errands for a large part of the day, though, so at least I know where some of the time went, unlike the two previous days.

But still… How did I get this far behind already?

I think maybe part of it was the departure from what I had planned. I’m fighting against the natural flow of the characters and story, trying to force it into what I had planned.

Or maybe it’s that I didn’t really have a whole lot planned for this scene, but when it made a 90 degree turn from my expectations I still insisted that it needed to follow along my non-existent planned route.

Either way it seems that the problem is my reluctance to give up control and go with the flow. (Maybe because what I’m writing is an extra scene to a more or less completed (a beta reader wanted more added) novel that I’m trying to finish up?)

At any rate, the solution now seems clear.  Strike through a lot of what I have written (don’t want to lose the word count) and start fresh, letting the characters lead the way.

On Friday I’ll let you know how that works out.

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Reasons, Excuses, and Other Dodges

So I was laying in bed this morning trying to make myself get up and get my day started and thinking that it was too hot to move. (For those don’t know me, I hate the heat and it was already about 80F and the fan wasn’t helping much.)

And then I was thinking about how much the heat drains me and how I don’t feel like doing much of anything, including writing, and then I wondered if that was a reason or an excuse.

I decided that it was an excuse and that excuses were a good topic for a blog post.

(Hey, it’s better than my original thought of comparing writing a novel to gardening – I’m saving that gem for another day.)

So then I started thinking about a form I have somewhere about excuses and believe it or not I found it on my computer.

It’s from my days as a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo and it’s called “Resistance vs. Life Happens: How to Tell the Difference.”  I don’t know who created it (and the URL given at the bottom apparently doesn’t work anymore) but it was passed freely so I’m going to try to share it in the blog post.

And then I’m going to use it.

Of course, first I’m going to have to set up scheduled writing times because it’s based on “Broken Writing Dates” and forces you to look at why you stood yourself up.  Then it asks you to identify themes and form a plan of correction and start the process all over.

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Resistance vs. Life Happens: How to Tell the Difference

Fill in the following information over the course of several weeks to a few months depending on the frequency of how often you miss your scheduled writing time. (Make additional copies as necessary.) Identify any themes that become obvious. Address those specifically and aggressively. Are you allowing any distraction to come between you and your work or are there specific problems that can be easily remedied? For example, turning the phone off, finding childcare etc. If you find that every time is a different reason, then you will need to be more proactive in protecting your writing time and space by asking for and receiving help from family and friends. Answer the questions at the end and develop an action plan.

Broken Writing Date

Date scheduled:
Time scheduled:
Location:
Did instead:
Other people present:
What else was going on at the time?
Thoughts that were going through my head at the time:
Emotions felt immediately before scheduled writing time:
Emotions felt immediately after missing scheduled writing time:
Identification of themes:  ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Action plan to address missed appointments:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Action-oriented replacement thoughts to deal with emotional aspects if present:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

 

After implementation of the action plan, have you missed fewer writing appointments?

_____ YES _____ NO

If not, have the themes changed?

_____ YES _____ NO

If so, what is your new action plan?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Based on questions developed for a critique group at A Ream of Writers (http://areamofwriters.freeforums.org/index.php). These questions were inspired by Chapter 14 in Kelly L. Stone’s book Time to Write © 2008.

 

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If anyone knows the originator of the above, please let me know so I can ask permission to post it here.  I know it was made available to MLs to share with their regions, so I’m hoping it’s all right to share here.

 

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Brain Dump

So far my plans for the month aren’t going too well. I’ve written approximately 400 words in one of the short stories I’m planning to submit to an anthology and that’s been about it.

Why? I have no idea, other than the fact that the evil day job has been draining and by the time I get home I’m too brain dead to do more than poke at a jigsaw puzzle on JigZone.

Remember my plan to use 750words.com for writing instead of brain dumping my day? Yeah. That (obviously) hasn’t happened.  I tried. I poked at one of the short stories in 750words and… couldn’t focus.

Maybe because I haven’t been using it for writing lately and I need to get back into the habit of doing that, so that my muse or subconscious or whatever you want to call it knows that when I log in it’s time for some creative writing.

Or maybe I’m going about it the wrong way.

Sometimes, brain dumping is necessary.  It can help clear the way for writing by getting other concerns out of your head.

The trick, I think, is to do the brain dump, and then write once the day has been cleared from the mind. I’ve been failing at the second part of that.

I was thinking the other day about how odd it is that I seem to get less written now, when I’m less than five minutes from work, than I did when I had an hour long commute each way.  But maybe it’s not so odd.  That commute gave me time to clear my head on the way home, and time to psych myself up on the way there, so I was able to be productive when I was home.  Instead, I now have to use my time at home to get myself mentally prepped for my day job, and to de-stress from it afterward.

I don’t want to go back to that commute just to test the theory, though, so I’m going to have to find a way to balance brain dumping and writing.

 

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Burning Out?

My “weekend” is Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday night at work (I work the 3 to 11 shift) I was all full of plans and energy to tackle the never shrinking “To Do” list. (It seems to hover around 45 items.)  I was going to start at the top of my list and just cross things off until I got to the bottom.

But that was Tuesday night.

Wednesday morning I woke up and all that energy was nowhere to be found.

Not too unusual, really.  My job can be stressful (I’m a nurse in a long term care facility) and my first day off usually is pretty much a waste; I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m drained both emotionally and mentally.

So I spent most of Wednesday staring at my computer, poking at stuff on Face Book, trying to ignore the Word docs that I’d opened in the hopes of making myself do something useful, and doing way too many puzzles on Jig Zone.  (It’s “too many puzzles” when your hand and wrist hurt from using the mouse and your eyes can no longer distinguish subtle differences in color, such as between brown and blue.)

Ah, well.  Thursday is a new day, right?

Thursday was only slightly more productive than Wednesday.  I got the rat cage cleaned and its shelves washed, cleaned the bathtub, and took out a bag of garbage. I also started looking for recipes for dog treats and got overwhelmed by the sheer volume of them, so that project got put on hold.

And my other projects? They never got started.

I have a goal to add 9000 words to the sequel to Song and Sword this month and I never even opened that Word doc.

For one thing, I’m at a scene where I’m kind of stuck and am having trouble working through it.  I’m not sure where it’s going and it’s kind of… dull.  (Which means it will be dull and boring for a reader, too, so I need to either cut it or spice it up, but I’m not sure which so it’s going to stay until I find out what happens in it (it’s not in the outline) and then go for there because something important might be lurking in it.

But meantime, I still have to get through it.  (I think it might be time to go to Write or Die to plow through this bit because I really want to have this finished before November.)

I think maybe I’m burned out, both at work and at writing.  The problem is, taking time out from writing is counter-productive: it doesn’t refresh me, it just makes it harder to get started again.

So maybe it’s time to take a break from this particular project and go work on something else for a bit so I can come back to it with a fresh mindset. I won’t be making progress on the Elven Bard novel (but then, how much progress am I making when I am so resistant to working on it?) but at least I’ll be writing something.

But what to work on…?

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The (Plot) Bunny is Growing

I had no idea what I was going to write about for a blog post today. It’s been a very stressful weekend at work and the creative portion of my brain was hiding. (Can’t say I blame it, and I’m tempted to go hide with it.)

But then I read an article that a friend posted and it triggered all sorts of interesting plot bunnies. I don’t know if I’ll actually write anything based on it, but it might be something that I can work into Paranormal Picnic

(Yeah, it’s trying to turn into something other than a short fun story.)

(And, yeah, I’m trying to tell it that I really don’t have time for another WiP.)

(And, yeah, it’s not listening.)

(And, yeah, I’m losing the battle.)

(And, no, I do not have an addiction to parentheses. Why do you ask?)

So, anyhow…

It’s kind of amazing how one little thing can change the whole tone of your day.

(Well, okay, maybe not the whole tone. I am still dreading going to the evil day job this afternoon, so that hasn’t changed.)

Since I’ve mentioned Paranormal Picnic a time or two now, I thought maybe I should give you a snippet of it.

 

“Dad?  What are you doing here?” 

Maya rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and stared at the scene outside her door.  Her father stood at the grill, smoke rising from around the meat he was turning and an assortment of people she didn’t know were gathered around the picnic table.

“I’m barbecuing ribs, what’s it look like I’m doing?”

“But…” She took a deep breath and decided to ignore the rest of the scene and focus on him.  “Dad,” she said gently. “You’re dead.”

“I know I am.  That doesn’t mean I can’t cook.”

“Well, yes, actually, it does.” 

“No it doesn’t.  Now bring out some plates and silverware.  Everyone’s eager to meet you but don’t worry, no one bites.  Well, Alfred might, I don’t think he’s fed recently, but it won’t hurt, and, oh, hell, you’re my daughter.” He turned toward the table and raised his voice. “Alfred! No feeding from my daughter.”

An older gentleman, lean and well-dressed, nodded and waved off the comment, not really looking up from the chess game he was involved in.  His opponent, however, looked up and laughed.  She was a short stocky woman with reddish brown hair and almond-shaped amber eyes. 

“Dad? Who are all these people and what are they doing here?”

“Having a picnic.  That’s Alfred and Ginny playing chess.  Ginny brought fried chicken, and potato and macaroni salads, would you get them from the fridge?”

“Right.”

“The two little girls playing tag are Dina and Annie. Dina’s the one with the dark hair.  Oh, and don’t worry, Mariposa is keeping an eye on them.”

She followed his gaze and saw a woman perched in the old oak tree, her clawed feet clutching the branch as easily as any bird.  She waved a wing at her in greeting and turned her attention back to the children.

“A harpie?”

“And the girls are ghosts and Ginny’s a werewolf. Alfred’s a vampire in case you hadn’t figured that out.”

“I’m going back to bed until I wake up,” she muttered. “This can’t be real.”

Juice from the meat dripped down onto the coals, splattering and hissing, and the smoke that rose from it carried a scent that made her stomach rumble.

“On the other hand, maybe I’ll just set the table.  If I’m losing my mind I might as well enjoy it.”

“You’re not losing your mind.  And can you grab me a Pepsi?”

Dead people don’t drink Pepsi, she thought. But then, dead people don’t cook ribs, either.

 

 

 

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The Stress Factor

I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of The Fudge Factor, but if you haven’t (or have never heard it defined) The Fudge Factor is any number which when added to, subtracted from multiplied by, or divided into the number you got gives you the number you should have gotten.

The Stress Factor is something that I just made up. It is any event (or series of events) which when added to or multiplied by the stress you already have gives you more stress than you can deal with.

In that case, of course, the first instinct is to retreat.

We’ve had a lot of that in the last month and a half or so, and I — a lot of us — have been retreating.

And then we’ve found other ways to deal and get ourselves back on track.

And then something else happens.

Anyone remember those big bowling pin shaped punching bags that you knocked down and they bounced back up?  That’s pretty much how I’m feeling lately.

And that’s not a bad thing: knock me down and I bounce back up. And if you’re not careful I’ll bop you on the head.

But sometimes, before you bounce back up, you need to retreat, to find something to do to lessen the effects of The Stress Factor until you can find your feet (and your balance) again.

A long time ago (before personal computers were common) I used to paint D&D figurines to retreat from work stress.  I showed one to a co-worker once and she asked how I could do that after a stressful day at work.  I replied that it helped with the stress because all of my attention was focused on the end of a very fine (sometimes only a couple bristles) paintbrush and everything else was just pushed away.  I don’t think she got it.

Now, though, I do jigsaw puzzles.

I am a jigsaw puzzle addict. I always have been.  I’ve been known to ignore chocolate cake with peanut butter icing while working on a jigsaw puzzle.  I don’t really have any place here to set up a table for a one, so I’ve been spending a lot of time on JigZone lately.

Jigsaw puzzles (physical or computerized) don’t require much thought, just a focus on color and shape. Focusing on a puzzle (I like the harder cuts) lets me get my conscious mind off of the day’s Stress Factor so that my subconscious can deal with it.

(And, okay, JigZone provides an unhealthy dose of procrastination, too.)

So, what does everyone else do to procras regroup from stress?

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Fog

So the plan was for my roommate and I to each drive our own car to work on Thursday (we work at the same place and usually we ride together) and for me to take a change of clothes, change out of scrubs just before the end of my shift, and go to the midnight showing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Then fog happened.

Wednesday night we had heavy fog (that didn’t burn off until after noon on Thursday). The weather forecast was just calling for “patchy fog” Thursday night, but I didn’t want to take a chance. (The theater I was going to is half an hour away.)

So I decided to wait. There was a showing scheduled for 10:50am today (Friday) and that sounded like a much better idea. (Especially since my roommate decided she didn’t want to do lunch this week.)

Turns out it was a good call.  By the time I left work last night the fog was already starting to gather — and it didn’t look patchy.

But now I’m faced with trying to sleep and not oversleep so I can be up, bathed, dressed, and on the road by 10:00 in the morning. Fortunately we’re allowed to wear jeans on Fridays so when I get home all I’ll have to change will be my shirt and my shoes and I’ll be ready for work.

(And work should be much more interesting with my brain in a fantasy movie induced fog.)

So, what about NaNoWriMo?

Hm, yes. What about NaNoWriMo?

The plan was for me to way ahead on word count goal by today so that I could go see the movie and not worry about making par for one day.

Well…

I’m not worried about making par today.

I’m so far below par that I’m not worried at all because catching up and finishing on time currently requires me to write 3168 words per day.

(You can stop laughing now.)

Yeah, it has been a crazy busy hectic month here this year, far more than in previous years.

But there’s also been fog.

Events earlier in the month seem to have numbed my creative side.

And not just mine. I’m seeing and hearing it from numerous online friends.  We all seem to be struggling to find the clarity needed to see our way forward. We keep hoping the fog will lift, that the sun will come out and burn it away, but it seems to just keep getting thicker.

And when we do see a glimmer of open air it never seems to last long before the fog closes in and shuts everything down again.

But we still struggle on, trying to find normality (or what passes for it).

And maybe, just maybe, going to the movie will dispel the fog.

At least for a little bit.

 

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The Hundred Word Solution – Part Two

So, on Monday I asked:

So with all of these fun and wonderful projects, why haven’t I been writing?

Probably lots of reasons: feeling overwhelmed, lack of motivation, miserable summer heat…

Lots of reasons, but only one solution:

Write.

Daily.

Even if it’s just a hundred words.

In fact, when I set up my non-NaNoWriMo Month word trackers I think I’ll make that the daily goal, at least until I get back into the habit of daily novel writing.

In fact, I might even start tomorrow.

After I clean the rat cage, run errands, catch up on blog hops…

A hundred words is still doable.

But which WiP do I add them to?

I’ll let you know on Friday.

Well, it’s Friday.

I’ve written just over a thousand words, which isn’t all that much, maybe, but it’s far more than what I had been putting out.   (The real test is coming up over the next couple days – can I do this while also doing the weekend blog hops? I think I can – I’ll just make it part of my daily/nightly 750words.)

Anyhow, I’ve been working on another scene to insert into Onyx Sun. The scene is clunky and awkward but that can be fixed in editing. And it’s getting less clunky and awkward the more I write.

And I’m starting to look forward to writing. Somehow writing had become a chore, not something that I looked forward to doing and couldn’t wait to get back to, but I find my mind drifting back to this scene in odd moments. (And I haven’t even gotten to the fun part of it yet.)

I don’t know if it’s the low expectation (“just a hundred words”) or something else, but the important thing is that I’m writing.

I’m reminded by a quote from Louis L’Amour:

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.

I think I should print that out and hang it over my computer.

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The Force Reawakens

It’s been a while since I’ve felt like writing.  I think I burned out with the pushing to do 1K a Day for the year. (A goal that I am not going to reach, by the way, but that’s a post for another time.)

Plus, December has just been a pretty lousy month all around and I’ve been told that I can’t get a do-over. (Where’s a Tardis when you need one?)

Actually, it’s not just writing.  I haven’t felt much like doing anything.

But anyhow…

The urge to write — to create — is coming back.

Slowly and tentatively, but it’s gradually edging closer.

I think that part of what is bringing it back is something so simple that I could kick myself for not doing it sooner.

What is that?

I started writing.

Not novel writing, but writing. You know: the pen meets paper kind of writing.

My Passion Planner came in the mail yesterday. (According to the tracking it wasn’t supposed to come until tomorrow so that was a pleasant surprise!)

I started reading through the directions in the front of it.  (It’s more than just a day planner or organizer.  It also is designed to help you solidify your goals and create plans to achieve those goals, and then stick to them.)

Anyhow, just the act of writing stuff down on paper and then organizing my notes into something coherent and workable seems to have given me the pick up (or kick in the bottom) that I needed.

Maybe it was the act of putting pen to paper that did it. (I do know that it’s one of the best ways for me to break free of a writing block.)

Or maybe it was the fact that I was thinking of and working on goals, of making them concrete.  (It wasn’t even writing goals that I was working on.)

Whatever it was, I found myself thinking about my novels again, and my hand was almost but not quite twitching to pick up a pen or hit the keyboard.

Almost.

Soon.

I’m just not quite ready to venture back into it yet.

And when I do, it will be with easier, gentler goals.

And I’ve learned something important.

Sometimes, it’s all right to stop, step back, walk away, and take a break.

Eventually, your muse will find you on your island sanctuary and will hand you the pen you thought you’d left behind in a silent call to return to battle.

 

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It’s Going To Get Better

Nothing like being 9k behind after the first week

According to the stats page I should be at 15000 words by the end of the day today.   I’m currently sitting at about six thousand words and have to leave for work in about an hour, so that is just not going to happen.

But since I have a personal goal of 60k this month I should be at 18000 words so I’m actually 12k below where I want to be.

Yay.

I’ve been managing to get two to three hundred words written before work the last few days.  Not much, but better than nothing.  I’m off tomorrow and Wednesday (and have a write in on Wednesday evening) so I’m hoping to narrow the gap before I go back to work on Thursday.

I’ve figured out what the problem is, though.

Right now I’m writing some stuff that is necessary but not interesting.  I’m setting the scene, creating the backdrop for the main story.  And since settings aren’t my strong suit, it’s been sucking my enthusiasm right out of me.

So, what I’m writing now is kind of lifeless, which means I’m really slogging through it.  I’d love to skip ahead and get to the fun stuff, but I need to get this stuff written so that when I start the revisions I can tweak it to make it more relevant and interesting to the reader, because, as we all know, you can’t fix up what’s not written down.

Maybe I’m strange, but even just knowing what the problem is seems to go a long way toward solving it. Now that I know why it’s so hard for me to write this I can push through, knowing that it’s just temporary and will get better.

And since I’m really looking forward to some upcoming scenes, I’m using them to motivate me to keep going through this part.

But I do finally seem to be settling in to where I’m able to just write and not worry so much about the fact that some of this is going to get moved, rewritten, or outright deleted.  (Yes, sometimes I write even knowing that what I’m writing will be deleted. I don’t do it to pad word count, but to keep up forward momentum so I can reach a place where stuff doesn’t suck.)

(I am also, for some reason, having a really hard time with Jacob’s “voice,” which isn’t helping the process a whole lot.)

But all in all, I’m more or less pleased with the way it’s going and am still confident that I can reach my goal by the end of the month.

Now, if I’m still nine to twelve thousand words behind by Friday, then I’ll worry…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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