Is the Writer Blocked, or Just Stupid?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome writers believe in Writer’s Block, and some don’t.  Whatever you want to call it, there are times that the words don’t flow, or what does come out is garbage.  It happens.  The trick is to figure out why.

In my continuing quest to let you see my abby-normal brain working (no flash photography, please) let’s poke at the short story that has stalled out.

I’ve got the characters, some dialogue, some introspection, some action, a twist, some creepy shit (it’s horror), and a decent circling back ending.  In the past I’ve been able to run with this much, and flesh out the story around these bones, but I only have about half.  Mostly what I’ve written this week is just not “muscle.”  It’s goo.  Or phlegm, or something like snot from a sinus infection.  There is not a lot of it, either, which is seriously screwing up my daily word count promise to myself.

I’ve picked at it during breaks in the day job.  I’ve taken walks.  I’ve read good books.  I’ve watched new TV shows.  I’ve organized part of the garage and attic.  I’ve napped.  I’ve sat down and just written oozing, stinking garbage to see if that will jar it loose.  It’s not budging, and I’m running out of time.  (It’s a self-imposed time restriction, so the only one hurt if I miss it is me.  But, shit, I’m tired of hurting myself.)

There’s a history book beside my knee that is the right time period for the story, but I haven’t cracked open.  Why?  I don’t know.  (I think I won’t like what I’ll find.)  There is also a book of the same genre that I’ve been meaning to read.  That could give it a jump-start, but I just leave it closed.  Why? I don’t know.  (Ditto.)

Something isn’t right, and I’m not sure if it’s one of the elements of the story, or that I’m just a shit writer.

If it’s the story, something will jar things loose.  Some small bit of information, or a sudden realization, or a casual comment dropped into a conversation.  I’ll adjust the elements to accommodate the changes, and be writing happily within minutes, without a frackin’ care in the world.  Magic.  Abra-cadabra-skippity-dee-do.  Familiar magic, at this point, but magic all the same.

If I’m just a shit writer…  Well, this could take a while.  Because I’m not a shit writer, and if my brain is telling me that I am, then there’s some fear burbling to the surface.  Fear of failure.  Fear of success.  Fear of being an imposter.

Fear.

It’s something all people deal with, and writers are certainly not exempt.  Unnecessary fear is the brain confusing one thing with another. Chemicals for one job applied accidentally to the wrong job, but it sucks the artist’s brain into a pit of self-loathing, and climbing back out is everything.

It might be time to step back, and take another run at “Art and Fear,” which I have mentioned here, and re-examine what the hell I am doing.  I’ll keep y’all posted.

Happy writing!

(Ignore the fake smile.)

 

 

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It’s Not About The Word Count…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADaily writing.  It’s a surprisingly controversial topic for writers, but only because the word “writer” applies to everyone who wants to use it, and that as it should be.  Writers are as varied as something with lots of… variety.  Like plants.  And pop up randomly, like…

Ok, it’s spring here!  How can you not be inspired by spring!  Sheesh!

Daily writing is just a way to attune your mind to use words effectively.  Establishing this habit was the way I learned to feel like a writer, and to make words my every thought. My point of view became different from before.  I began to think about the words my thoughts used.  Random conversations I heard become models of dialogue. While noticing a transient moment of natural beauty, I reached for words to preserve it, and then I could transmit the fleeting moment to another.  Life’s travesties and joys became plot points for me to harvest.  I was the observer of the universe, noting the contrasts of chaos and order, and how they exist side by side.  The entire spread of time and existence were my writing prompts.

The painter never learns to paint without learning the way of the brush.  And the paint.  And the canvas.  Or the mouse and pixel. One thing I am certain of, and it is Art Finds A Way.  Very much like nature.

We all have obstacles in our path, and some of us have obstacles the size of the world. Real, everyday life sucks out our creative drive, burning it up for a bit more energy to just survive.  But a lot of us–I suspect–have obstacles exactly the size of our egos.  If we want to write, we find those obstacles and name them.  Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being judged. Fear of sucking, despite our best effort.

I am asking you to put those fears aside and just write.  Write every day.  Find a way.  Ignore publishing for now.  Ignore peer review, and beta readers, and editing.  Don’t wait for NaNoWriMo. Don’t wait for the new laptop, or writing class, or whatever it is that is stopping you.  Form words into sentences and put them down on paper, or the screen, or the voice recording.  YOUR WORDS.

Give yourself an easy word count goal.  How long does it take to get down fifty words, or five hundred?  If time is limited, use that as your marker.  How many words can you put down in a fifteen minute break?  Can you do better tomorrow?

It’s just like anything else you have to learn.  You MUST practice, and if you don’t cheat yourself, you will get better.  Faster.  More coherent.  And when you figure out there is a missing technique you need, you research it and work to apply it.

Lots of people will tell you the word count doesn’t matter.  And they are right, the numbers don’t really matter.  It’s the effort behind the numbers that is the important bit.  Numbers are just a simple marker of effort expended.  Be proud of it.  Give yourself the gift of watching the goals being met and exceeded.  Pat yourself on the back, or have some chocolate.  Reward yourself.  Shrug off the awful days, the days you simply can’t meet your goals, and try again tomorrow.  Momentum is the key; keep moving forward.

And try to avoid sounding like a greeting card, or motivational poster, like I just did.  Not everything you write will bloom gloriously.  Just keep shoveling those words.  Spread them like manure.  Something will grow.

If you haven’t figured it out this is mostly a reminder for myself, since I am starting a daily word count goal, TODAY.  Updates on my progress start here.  I apologize for the wide distribution of a bit of random rambling, but I also hope it will find its way to those who are struggling. You are not alone.

Am I going to count this in my word count goal for the day?  You bet your sweet ass, I am.  Then I’m going for a walk.

Fear of… Secrets.

I’m terrified of the world.  It feels like a train wreak happening before my eyes.  We are shown so much information on things that don’t matter, while turning a blind eye to some really shitty things.  Sexism.  Racism.  Classism.  Human rights violations. Slavery.  It’s all still happening, sometimes on our very own street, our very own house.  Have we really made any progress at all?

I though my last post was about sexism.  It wasn’t.

It was about books, and hoping books would make everything all better.  They won’t.

I was attempting to turn a mirror on sexism in books, and in my own life.  I failed.

I whistled a happy tune while tap dancing my way around the issue.  I apologize.

The truth is that I’m terrified.  I’m terrified there are so many people who still don’t understand that a legal abortion is better than the destruction caused by unsafe abortions.  I’m terrified that people are unconcerned with a significant wage gap dependent on gender.  I’m terrified people still hear of a rape and automatically think “What did she do to deserve it?”  I wasn’t terrified that the UN reported how badly we were doing at women’s equality in this country, but I was profoundly sad.  I’m also sad at how hard it still is to find female action figures, but then I’m a geek.

I’m furious about the fact that there are books and seminars on how to get away with rape, and how to control and subjugate your wife or partner.  I’m pretty pissed about the sexist grandstanding currently going on in the political arena, and how many people seem on board with it, including females. I guess it’s some kind of backlash against feminism and women’s equality.  Sometimes the movement goes too far in the wrong direction.  Sometimes you have to scream and pitch a fit to even be heard, but then you do damage to your own ideals.

I’m angry that there are four males in the world that have sexually abused me, and that it is unreported abuse.  I’m not even talking about the times I have been treated badly for being female, or cat-called, or just general sexual harassment.  Just about every woman deals with that everyday, which is sad in it’s own way.  I’m talking about four males who have had their hands or bodies on inappropriate places on my skin.  Against my will.

One incident includes rape.  I’ve been raped. It is horrible and strange to admit it.  Now all those judgments people put on victims of rape will be turned to me, but I’m tired of the secrecy.  It has not made me any safer or happier. Do you picture me differently, now?

Despite being decades ago, It haunts me to this day.  Being stronger than the incident is exhausting.  Some days it’s easy, and I forget how hard the hard days are.  Other days it’s nearly impossible to get out of bed.  Some days I tune out the world and write.

I truly don’t want sympathy.  It is actually a small thing in a life of ups and downs.  What I want is anybody reading this to just spend some time examining their own behavior.  I have, and I continually find places my views are horribly sexist, against both genders.  It is unbelievably deep in our culture and our brains.

Brace yourself, here’s the hard questions… In what ways are you promoting sexism?  Your behavior?  Your jokes?  Your silence?  Your secrets?

Why haven’t we done better with this as a society?  Why are we smug about the small progresses we have made, and ignored how bad it is in some cultures?  Why are we sliding farther from true equality?

Now, take a deep breath.  I’m not saying you are bad. I think you are good.  I think most people are good.  I think we are all good enough to ask ourselves the hard questions, and to examine ourselves, and our society.  We are good. We are humans. We can be better.

Would you like to know the number one thing that terrifies me?  I have a teenage daughter.  She’s next, on the front line.  She’s next…