Friday, July 13, 2007

Ask Us (Almost) Anything...

Friday the 13th is a lucky get two questions today for the price of one.

Beth R asks,

What's the hardest discipline for you as a writer?
Do you ever suffer from writer's block, and if so, how do you handle it?

Playground Monitor: The hardest discipline for me as a writer is simply making myself sit down and write. I can find a dozen and one excuses NOT to write and they include laundry, ironing and pulling weeds in the flower beds. Pathetic, huh? As for writer's block, I have had it and still get it from time to time. What I usually do is set aside whatever isn't working and work on something else. I've had this vacation romance short story that I've been angsting over for months. It just doesn't want to translate from my brain to the page. So I shelved it and began working on something else and the new story went fairly smoothly. Hopefully I can get back into the vacation romance soon. I sell to magazines and the money from those stories funds a lot of my writing activities. I've learned that dollars can be a powerful motivator.

Smarty Pants: The hardest discipline for me, like PM, is to just write. If the words are flowing, great, but when I hit a wall, write myself into a corner...I haven't quite learned how to push myself to write anyway. To get words on paper, even if its crap, and trudge ahead. I tend to get stuck in the middle - I think a well arched plot is one of my weaknesses. I can't see where I'm supposed to go next, so I just stop. I don't know that it's writer's block, so much, but avoidance. When I do hit a wall, though, talking with others about the story really helps. It gives me ideas and gets me fired up about the story again. If I'm not fired up, I have a lot of trouble making myself work on it.

Problem Child: Yep, that whole "Butt in the Chair No Matter What" is the toughest thing for me. If I get stalled or frustrated, I'll be rearranging my sock drawer in no time. I'm working on it, though. I think if I can just get back into the habit, I'll be in good shape (and I'd better get my butt in the chair--I have requests!!) As for writer's block, I think the first thing to do is to figure out if it's really writer's block or if it's something else. Being sick, caring for someone who's sick, dealing with a stressful situation with the family (or work)--tragedy and emergencies often makes us think we're blocked, but in actuality, it's just stuff that has to be dealt with before the words can come. All of my writer's block can usually be traced to something external--once the external is dealt with, I can usually get back to the book. True writer's block? Ummm, thankfully I've never been there. I'm not sure how I'd deal with it.

Instigator: Well, the obvious answer is finding the time to devote to writing. And it is difficult. But I think the thing I struggle with most is feeling guilty over taking that time. Inevitably, it's time I could have (and often feel I should have) spent with my family. Yes, I know my girls aren't neglected and the fact that I worry means I'm not as crappy a mother as I sometimes feel I am. That doesn't always take the guilt away though :-) However, now that my writing is bringing in money, that guilt is slowly diminishing.

I suffered from writer's block when I was pregnant with Baby Girl. There were literally 10 months I couldn't write a single word. However, the creativity returned about 6 weeks after she was born. Other than that, I don't really get writer's block. Yes, I get stuck, but I've discovered several things I can do to combat the snarl in the story (and it can always be traced back to a problem within the story. Every last time). I brainstorm with the playfriends and/or take a shower or bath (not at the same time though). Different people can often pick up on the problem I'm too close to the story to see (and when they do I always smack myself in the forehead because it was soooo obvious). And there's just something about water that helps me brainstorm. I'm weird that way. What can I say?

Angel: I think PC and Instigator make a great distinction between types of Writer's Block. I've suffered from both. Like Instigator, my first serious bout with WB came during my second pregnancy. Oddly enough, at the same time she was pregnant too! We definitely helped each other through that tough period. I swear it was the "boy" hormones that completely drained my brain of its ability to function. My creativity started to return when Little Man was about 6 weeks old, though it didn't really take off until he started sleeping through the night at 11 months.

In this instance, I don't think there was anything I could have done to bring back the easy flow of words, because it was a physical problem. But I worked as best as I could in spite of it and sold my first (and second) short story during this time. Book length was just beyond me. I could only embrace my creativity and protect it as it returned.

But I've also experienced what PC talked about. Recently I did renovations on my old house, sold it, and moved, within a short period of time and among many family issues. The problem here was that I simply couldn't devote time to writing. And when I did have time, my brain couldn't function well because of so many worries.

I wish that I had continued to make writing a priority from the beginning, if only for 15 minutes per day. It seemed hard at the time, but not nearly as hard as trying to re-establish the habit. If I had it to do over again, I hope I would make that choice.

But after the fact, I've had to learn to re-establish that habit. I've set aside time early in the day to at least focus on my book (not easy with kids at home for the summer). For the first week I just brainstormed and immersed myself in plot, reconnecting with the characters and conflict. Then I set up a writing challenge with our RWA Chapter's Goals Group to have someone else to hold me accountable. I only required myself to write 1 page per day, 5 days a week. But it's been enough. I'm in love with my story again, and it's flowing so well I almost dread Nationals because I know it will once again interrupt the cycle.

Guess I've gone on enough, huh? :) Definitely the hardest discipline is making writing a priority, especially when you don't see the light at the end of the publishing tunnel anytime soon.

***** Great questions, Beth.
Contact PC for your prize!

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