Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Writer’s Block’

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.

Working around writer’s block

In Freewriting, Shelley Widhalm, Writing Processes on September 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

Let your imagination go as you kick past writer's block.

Let your imagination go as you kick past writer’s block.

Writer’s block: my big dread. It’s not just the blank page and the start of the project. It’s being in the middle of something.

Like right now. I set aside a couple of hours to work on my novel about an unhappy waitress who wants to be a musician, but instead I’m checking my email, writing about my blockage and thinking about how nice it is outside.

I know that once I start writing, I’ll get into the process. I’ll lose track of time. I’ll absorb into the story.

That’s because writing is a type of unfolding. It’s a creative process, just like painting with one brush stroke being added to the next and the next until line and form begin to emerge.

How does writing let one thing lead to another? If you lose your conscious, self-editing self and just write, not caring about the result, there will be some possible sloppiness that can be edited out later. The sloppy can be at the grammar level or in character or plot development.

But the idea is to get something down, which can lead to more writing and then to form, as one description opens into the next. It’s a matter of jumping in without caring or worrying over product.

For example, I’m writing my novel as a seat-of-the-pantser writer, instead of writing from an outline, though I know the end scene. I don’t know the arc or how my scenes will lead up to the end.

Each time I sit down to write, I face the blank page and not a specific part of a scene to move the story forward, making me a little insecure. I immediately ask where my book’s heading? Sure, there’s The End, but what about the middle?

Not knowing about the middle is like not knowing what is in the subconscious mind, but interestedly enough, once I start typing wanting to reach 500 or 1,000 words, things bubble out that I don’t expect. I’ve freed up my writing, but because I still have an idea of the ending, I have a framework, but one that is loose.

As a result, I’m writing from another part of myself, one with fewer boundaries and fears because it just wants to push the words out. The scenes are there, but with more of my memory and thoughts and passions embedded in the words.

Finding a way back to writing

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on August 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

Though I have writer’s block (or did), I decided I needed to be writing. I needed to be writing something, because without writing, I feel pretty lost.

Being lost is worse than writer’s block, because during block, the words don’t come, while the other state is a loss of purpose (even if temporary) that, for artists, is anchored by the art and producing the art (and hopefully then selling the art).

To get un-lost, I started my sixth, yet-to-be-published novel, which doesn’t have a title yet. It’s about a waitress dealing with trauma unable to play her music (kind of like me, at least for awhile while I was unable to write after dealing with upheaval in my personal life).

In mid-June, I started writing a short story, feeling pretty useless I hadn’t been writing much except a few (a very few) poems. I saw the story could be a novella or a novel, so I figured I’d keep going with it and began writing a couple of times each week. I dived in, but not so deep, taking a no-commitment approach as far as days and times. It was a whatever-happens approach.

Now, I’m at 12,000 words, not actually sure what the arc or climax is, but I have a sense of the ending. I’m not a pantser writer, but like to have a plan, if not exactly an outline. It’s become a matter of what comes out when I sit down to write, and taking this approach, my subconscious seems to be doing more of the work, and the characters seem to be taking over.

However, when I’m away from the work, I get afraid I won’t know how to get back into the story. I’ve become a little insecure because things aren’t laid out with a big grid of what to do next.

Despite the lack of a plan, during each session, I write 300 to 2,000 words (with past books, I required myself to write 1,000 words before I could stop, and would write more if I could). I feel good I’m writing words and adding them up toward—something, I hope.

At the start of the novel, and sometimes now, I struggle with getting into the writing, like a lawnmower needing several pulls to make the engine go. Once I forget I’m writing, I get lost in the scene, almost like I’m reading. I lose the noises of the world around me and the keyboard under my fingers and become absorbed in storytelling, character development, laying out the scene and describing what’s going on in my imagination.

I become what I am, a writer in love with writing, wanting nothing more than to be doing the writing. That’s why I become lost when I’m not writing, because it’s like I lose part of me. It’s like my blood and bones escape out of my body, and I can’t breathe.

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.)

Writing and Dating (or App Dating, cont.)

In Dating, Shelley Widhalm, Uncategorized, Writing on March 9, 2014 at 11:00 am

After years of writing in many different genres and my limited experience in dating, I’ve seen some interesting connections.

The question you might ask is how writing helps you date and dating helps you write. The obvious answer points to having stories to tell, character qualities to describe, bend and reshape, and snippets of dialogue to reconfigure from real life.

What’s not so obvious is that profile you have to put on the dating sites. You describe who you are and what you’re seeking in a relationship, from something as simple as height and hair color to work and personal interests.

Reading the one side of what men are seeking (I’ve yet to sign up), I tend to start with their looks, followed by height and weight (making me realize I’m a bit shallow, but also aware of the need for chemistry). I move through the rest of their qualities list and then their “Her” lists to see what they want in a date or girlfriend and whether or not I “match.”

This is like creating the structure of your novel that still lacks the creativity, imagination and time needed to add three dimensions to that outline (or dating profile).
Planners outline, while plungers write without structure, not knowing the ending or even the middle of the story.

In the case of dating, I planned a few of things I want in a date, and I’ve also plunged into dating the wrong ones just because they were handsome, or I thought we had chemistry but without anything solid underneath.

Expecting that perfect match – or the perfect story to unfold from that perfect first sentence – can result in dating block. I look at the matches and think, oh, he won’t like me, because I don’t fit his range of what he wants, even if I like what he presents.

In other words, I don’t try.

The same goes with writing. If I expect to write something great in my first draft, I don’t allow myself to explore and see what I can discover. It’s in the process that you can find out what you want to say, and then you can go back and fix what doesn’t fit.

Of course, I don’t want to fix the men out there, just my fear of dating them. To get over that, I will have to let my life be creative and just happen like a big what if, or a big whatever.

I can’t expect everything to be just how I want it, because I had planned it that way.

Beating Writer’s Block

In 52 Writing Topics, Shelley Widhalm, Writing group on October 14, 2012 at 11:00 am

As a writer, this is my worst enemy – not fast-approaching deadlines, picky editors or a lack of time. Nope, it’s the dreaded writer’s block.

Writer’s block is the state of writing that involves the opposite, or the state of not writing caused by fear, laziness or lots of excuses.

In cases where the block isn’t full on, it can involve slow, methodical writing that causes agony as each word is crafted as if penciling the individual dots of the letters.

When writer’s block occurs, your conscious mind informs you that you can’t get started writing, you have nothing to write or you need inspiration to write, but it’s not there. Or your conscious mind is too controlling and doesn’t accept or believe that your subconscious mind knows what it’s doing with something in there worth getting out.

Writer’s block can be a way to avoid digging too deep. Facing your pain – such as anger, hurt, sadness or frustration – can help you discover the truth about yourself and your experiences. Your conscious mind would rather you not go there.

To combat block, realize that writing requires organization skills, time management and discipline, plus 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, there are a few other practices I try:

  • Write daily, or at least a couple of times a week, scheduling a specific time or place to write; i.e. keep office hours. For example, two of my friends and I meet once a week for a write-in, ensuring that we have at least one writing day in our planners.
  • Treat writing like a job and clock in the hours you write, both for accountability and to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.
  • Stick to a schedule, but allow for risk and freedom and for imagination and play, 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 you’re writing session 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.

If there is something that requires research or is a sticking point leave a blank space and return to it later.

Lastly, write from within yourself, tapping into your creative unconscious and staying there. Discover what comes out of your writing as you let loose and experience the wonder of being lost in the process.

The Writer’s Time Out

In 52 Writing Topics, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on June 17, 2012 at 11:00 am

Writing is an ego thing.

After 15 years of writing professionally as a journalist and writing poems and stories since my childhood, I’ve been off and on the rollercoaster of confidence.

I fell off during a basic composition class my freshman year of college. I got an F on the first essay and, because I was a “good writer,” thought the teacher was mistaken. I learned that I didn’t write clearly and concisely and had too many meandering sentences.

With every red mark, comment and edit I received, I incrementally gained a sense of the art and craft of writing.

Initially, I thought the way writers put sentences together seemed unachievable, particularly when the words juxtaposed unlike things into beautiful expression. I didn’t understand how writers identified, assembled and molded words to describe the narrative world.

As I wrote and read about writing, something clicked, and I started using metaphors, similes and other literary devices. I began to write comfortably in my own voice and developed a style.  

But as soon as I learned or realized something else about writing, I became uncomfortable. I had to pause and think about what I was doing, becoming a little stuck processing the information. I reflected on format, pacing, voice and the other elements of writing, wanting to improve and adapt.

This hyperawareness sometimes results in writer’s block, causing the confidence shakes.

I’ve self-diagnosed them in my current project, a novel called “Dropping Colors.” The cause may be the fact I’m near the halfway point.

In my last two or three writing sessions, I looked at the screen (not blank with the story already started) and wondered where my characters had gone. I couldn’t hear their voices, or feel them as real people.

I find all kinds of excuses and other things to do, such as writing this blog way ahead of schedule.

It’s like losing your keys or forgetting your purse somewhere. Where are those things? Are they as I left them? Life isn’t right until the essential components of identity and getting from point A and B are safely returned.

Thus, when my writer’s block ends I’m sure I’ll get back on the rollercoaster of confidence. I won’t be so self-conscious about every word, or bump, when I let experiencing and being and living be my ride.