Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Writer’s Block’ Category

How to Deal with Writer’s Block

In Writer's Block, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Inspiration, Writing Motivation on April 2, 2017 at 11:00 am

Journals4

Keeping a journal or two is a way to add discipline to your writing routine and to get past writer’s block.

When writer’s block occurs, does that mean you’re no longer motivated to write, or is it that you want to write but can’t access the words?

I find writer’s block to be trying and a chore and more difficult to deal with than having the words pour out, even though a writing session where I’m blocked lasts a few minutes and a productive session can last two to three hours.

What Causes Writer’s Block?

Is it fear, laziness or lots of excuses? Or is it not having anything new to think about or ways to describe things? Is it a matter of being stuck at the place you’re at as a writer, not knowing where to go next?

Writer’s block is a state of insecurity where the mind plays tricks on you. When it occurs, you tell yourself you can’t get started writing, you have nothing to write or you need inspiration to write, but the motivation is lacking. It’s a way to avoid digging too deep, especially if there is pain to be faced, such as anger, hurt, sadness or frustration, though facing the pain can help you discover the truth about yourself and your experiences.

Writer’s block is like hitting the snooze button, a way to avoid waking up to what’s really there that, with some work, can come to the surface.

How Do You Combat Writer’s Block?

Realize that writing requires organization skills, time management, discipline and motivation. Keep a routine and don’t wait for the muse or some form of inspiration to begin writing. Inspiration can occur as you start writing, losing yourself in the process instead of worrying about the outcome.

To beat writer’s block, here are a few ways to get engaged in the process of writing:

  • Write daily, or at least a couple of times a week, scheduling a specific time or place to write; i.e. keep office hours.
  • Treat writing like a job and clock in the hours you write, both for accountability and to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.
  • Find a special writing spot, such as a coffee shop, the park during the warmer months or a place where there’s lots of activity or no activity.
  • Stick to a schedule, but allow breaks, so that writing remains fun.
  • Write a writing action plan or goals for the year and check in every few weeks to mark your progress.
  • Take a writer’s retreat, even if it’s in your hometown, setting aside a weekend to focus on writing.

Other Advice

While working on a writing project, end mid-chapter or mid-paragraph, or jot down a few notes to start the next chapter to avoid facing the blank page the next time you write.

Write continuously, marking any places where additional research is needed or cause a sticking point, so that you don’t get sidetracked.

And write one word after the next, even if you don’t like what you produce, because at least you are writing. Once you get started, it’s easier to keep going. And it’s easier to come back to it again the next day with the words already there, offering an anchor for your next spilling out of sentences, paragraphs and hopefully stories.

Advertisements

Getting Yourself to Write

In Uncategorized, Writer's Block, Writing, Writing Inspiration, Writing Motivation on March 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

zoeysnow

Getting past writer’s block is like a dog trying to walk on the snow.

Writing can be a struggle for writers of all levels, from beginning to professional.

The struggle has a dreaded name: writer’s block.

Writer’s block refers to not being able to write while facing the blank page or the middle of a project. It can be a matter of losing the inspiration or motivation to write, or not having the time and space.

Maybe the writer wants to write but does not know what to say or how to say it. Or the writer does not have anything new to think about or ways to describe things.

Or, could it be a matter of the writer 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.

I quickly think of a setting, situation or character and start writing, not caring about what I’m saying, aiming for quantity, not quality. The quality comes later when I get started and realize I have something to write about, can scrap the beginning bits and edit the rest.

Here are ways to get yourself to write:

  • Make up a writing prompt or use an existing prompt, which can be found online or by visiting my blog about ideas for writing prompts at https://shelleywidhalm.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/benefits-of-writing-prompts-examples/. Prompts can serve as a freewriting, block-freeing exercise.
  • Go to the dictionary and pick a word, using that as your starting point.
  • Try to write as many words as you can in 10 or 15 minutes, or even in an hour. Experienced writers can write 1,000 or more words in an hour—though what they write likely will need editing.
  • For fiction writers, start with a setting or a situation. Or develop a character identify and think about what that character would do in a certain odd, unwanted or awkward situation.
  • For nonfiction writers, think of a topic you want to learn more about and look up three ideas about it. Relate your personal experience or knowledge to that topic and aim to write 500 to 700 words, the typical length for a blog.

Why freewrite and use prompts?

The idea of freewriting and using prompts is to let go of the editor self and just start writing, not thinking too hard about the words and sentences and whether or not they are written correctly and make sense.

Freewriting allows for free association as you let the mind go, letting subconscious material arise to the surface. It’s a way to get ideas for a blog, article, short story or a novel you’re already working on. It’s a way to think of new ways to describe things and new approaches to what you’re already working on.

It’s process, then product.

What you write is rough, and then with the editing and revision process, you give it shape. You cut and paste and rework until you get what you want, seeing that you have something to write, say and do.

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.

Writing About Objects, Part I

In Getting Unstuck in Writing, Writer's Block, Writing About Objects on June 28, 2015 at 11:00 am

When I get stuck in my writing, I try to think of some of my favorite objects, such as the flash of color on fast-moving hummingbirds or the reflection of streetlights in puddles.

Studying or thinking about objects gives me a starting point for description in my writing, with the objects serving as writing prompts. Writing prompts are a way to get rid of expectations and goals and open up to whatever comes to mind, so that the writing is free and natural.

To get into your description of the object, say a hummingbird, observe closely by looking at the bird’s shape, coloring, feathers and patterns of movement. Use your other senses to get to know the bird, listening to the whir of its wings, smelling the nectar it drinks and tasting the stirring up of air. It’s likely you won’t touch the bird, but imagine the softness of its feathers, how they sink under your thumb, and the frailness of the small bones underneath.

Anchor your ideas about the object in the concrete, but also think about what the object makes you feel. What emotional responses do you have? What moods are invoked? Do your feelings become part of the object, and does what the object emit become part of you?

Ask why the objects matter. Is it ordinary or commonplace, or can you make something of it? Does the boring brick building with an ordinary door have history? Are there fingerprints on the glass from someone who was afraid to enter or left in a hurry, or does the brick have a stain from something spilled or thrown there?

What else can you pull out of the object? Think about its story. What memories does it invoke? What is its history? What is its scientific background? Does it have a personal or philosophical meaning? Or do we give it meaning?

In a story, an object can be symbolic carrying meaning that isn’t directly inherent in its physical characteristics. An object can be used to move the plot forward, to enliven the setting or to externalize a character’s emotions. It can indicate conflict. It can add to dialog. And it can give meaning to the unspoken parts of the story.

I find that writing about objects is a way to enter into my writing, deepen what I’m writing about and find my words when I’m not sure where to go next on the page.

(See how Zoey the Cute Dachshund handles objects in her blog zoeyzpaw.wordpress.com.)

Dealing with Writer’s Block

In Not Giving Up, Writer's Block, Writing on March 15, 2015 at 11:00 am

When writer’s block occurs, does that mean you’re no longer motivated to write, or is it that you want to write but can’t access the words?

I find writer’s block to be trying and a chore and more difficult to deal with than having the words pour out, even though a writing session where I’m blocked lasts a few minutes and a productive session can last two to three hours.

What causes writer’s block? Is it fear, laziness or lots of excuses? Or is it not having anything new to think about or ways to describe things? Is it a matter of being stuck at the place you’re at as a writer, not knowing where to go next?

Writer’s block is a state of insecurity where the mind plays tricks on you. When it occurs, you tell yourself you can’t get started writing, you have nothing to write or you need inspiration to write, but the motivation is lacking. It’s a way to avoid digging too deep, especially if there is pain to be faced, such as anger, hurt, sadness or frustration, though facing the pain can help you discover the truth about yourself and your experiences.

Writer’s block is like hitting the snooze button, a way to avoid waking up to what’s really there that, with some work, can come to the surface.

To combat writer’s block, realize that writing requires organization skills, time management and discipline, and drive and motivation. Keep a routine and don’t wait for the muse or some form of inspiration to begin writing. Inspiration can occur as you start writing, losing yourself in the process instead of worrying about the outcome.

To beat writer’s block, here are a few ways to get engaged in the process of writing:

  • Write daily, or at least a couple of times a week, scheduling a specific time or place to write; i.e. keep office hours.
  • Treat writing like a job and clock in the hours you write, both for accountability and to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.
  • Find a special writing spot, such as a coffee shop, the park during the warmer months or a place where there’s lots of activity or no activity.
  • Stick to a schedule, but allow breaks, so that writing remains fun.
  • Write a writing action plan or goals for the year and check in every few weeks to mark your progress.
  • Take a writer’s retreat, even if it’s in your hometown, setting aside a weekend to focus on writing.

While working on a writing project, end mid-chapter or mid-paragraph, or jot down a few notes to start the next chapter to avoid facing the blank page the next time you write.

Write continuously, marking any places where additional research is needed or cause a sticking point, so that you don’t get sidetracked.

And write one word after the next, even if you don’t like what you produce, because at least you are writing. Once you get started, it’s easier to keep going. And it’s easier to come back to it again the next day with the words already there, offering an anchor for your next spilling out of sentences, paragraphs and hopefully stories.

(Check out how my dog Zoey the Cute Dachshund deals with no-treats block at zoeyspaw.wordpress.com.)