Shelley Widhalm

Archive for February, 2016|Monthly archive page

Getting out of writer’s block with freewriting

In Writer's Block, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Processes on February 28, 2016 at 11:00 am

DinneratHouse3 12-15I love to write, but it can be a struggle.

Writer’s block is the common term for not being able to write as the writer faces the black page or the middle of a project. Is it a matter of losing the inspiration or motivation to write, or not having the time and space? Is it wanting to write but not being able to access the words? Is it not having anything new to think about or ways to describe things? Or is it not knowing where to go next?

Every time I face writer’s block, I engage in a little bit of B.S., my form of freewriting where I don’t care about anything but putting one word after another, placing speed above content.

Over the past week, I wanted to write a couple of short stories after finishing a novel in January and not wanting to edit/revise it—not my favorite part of the writing process, though I love to edit other people’s work. So, I made up my own prompt—I’ve used prompts multiple times as a freewriting, block-freeing exercise—and found it to be particularly successful.

I picked a setting and a situation and started writing. Twice, I selected a coffee shop and for the situations, a bad date gone worse and a mother-daughter argument turning to forgiveness. For the third prompt, I engaged in freewriting with another writer—she picked the setting of a forest, and I picked a camping trip.

With all three freewriting exercises, I let go of my editor self and just started writing, not thinking too hard with my characters already in a situation and not having to come up with some great plot idea. I let them act and talk, not analyzing what they said and how their words and gestures revealed personality, behavior and motivation.

Freewriting allows for free association as you let the mind go. It’s a way to get ideas for a short story or a novel you’re already working on. It’s a way to think of new ways to describe your characters and come up with new plot elements or snippets of dialog. It’s a way to get into a scene but not worry about its importance to the overall story, or if what you write can stand up as a short story.

When the prompts have nothing to do with your current project, it allows you to think of your writing in new ways. Sometimes ideas come, and you discover where and how you can use those ideas. If you get something down, it can be rough, and then with the editing and revision process, you can give it shape.

It’s process, then product.

It’s at the subconscious level coming out, then the more careful conscious cutting and pasting and crafting into the shape of story.


On being in love with writing

In Valentine's Day, Writing, Writing Tips on February 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

Surgery-Splint1I have to admit I’ve been bitten by the love bug.

This bug is red—maybe a lady bug—and she fits in with Valentine’s Day, buzzing in my ear, reminding me I need to do what I love: writing.

Valentine’s Day is about declaring your love for someone—or something.

Before I explain the love factors that make writing the object of desire, I have to explain my temporary breakup with writing and blogging.

I took a two-month break from most of my writing activities following a wrist surgery in mid-December. I returned to work 2 ½ weeks later, but on limited activity, so I learned how to use voice recognition software and typed one-handed to write my news and feature articles.

My physical therapist said last week I could type a half-hour a day using two hands, but that doesn’t allow for much writing that’s not at an agonizingly slow pace. Instead, I’ve been working on some editing projects and writing a couple of things, but keystroke by keystroke in the hunt-and-peck method.

As a writer in my day-job, I slowed my pace and by relying on the software—Dragon and I call “her” Dixie the Dragon—for most of my work, I had to change how I approached my articles. Instead of taking notes and organizing them into story format as I wrote, I had to take notes one-handed, input the notes manually and cut and past them into a sort of outline and then talk-write one-handed.

To say the least, it was tiring, because I was processing information in a new way. I sort of wanted to quit, because I wasn’t really writing. I was talking into a headset in a newsroom while everyone could hear me think, but then I started liking it. I found a way to orally keep my style and realized a story can be told in many ways.

I fell back in love, and here’s why:

  • Writing is a way to get into the self and figure out what you really think or feel about something.
  • It’s a way to be creative.
  • It’s a way to play around with words and language.
  • It’s a way to improve your understanding of words and how to be concise with language and how to effectively get message across.
  • It’s a way to have a hobby (or a job) that can result in a physical product.
  • It’s a way to express yourself, use your intelligent and creative mind at the same time, and make connections with text, memory or experiences that you might not otherwise make by thinking or talking.
  • It’s a way to tell stories and disappear into another world, where you don’t see the page and can’t tell you’re writing.
  • It’s a way to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do, going places and doing things you might not do otherwise.
  • And it’s interesting to find out what it is you created after spending a few minutes or hours on a story or essay. It’s a process of discovery.

Lastly, it gives you a sense of accomplishment after completing a story, meeting a word or time goal and finishing a novel or other large project.

In essence, it’s reciprocal, just like love, because you give your words and you get back a product, starting in rough draft form. But as you get to know each other even more, you develop a relationship, turning something rough into your perfect match.