Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Writing Inspiration’

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


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.

Gayle Forman relates LEAVE ME to escape fantasies, family life

In Children's Books, Gayle Forman, If I Stay, Leave Me, Mommy Porn, Novelists, Novels on March 26, 2017 at 11:00 am


Like the main character in Gayle Forman’s Leave Me, I fantasize about packing a bag and going off the grid.

Unlike Maribeth Klein, a middle-aged magazine editor, wife and mother of twins in New York City, I like to stick to patterns and routines, and I like the safety of my dog and my bed. Plus, I wouldn’t know what to pack.

Forman told an audience of about 100 of her fans Wednesday, March 22, about this fantasy she and other women share during “An Evening with Gayle Forman.”

Her talk, held at Hilton Fort Collins, is a part of the Author Series presented by Colorado State University’s Morgan Library in partnership with the Poudre River Public Library District.

“Vocalizing about running away from your family is so taboo,” Forman said. “I didn’t think I was writing such a shocking expose.”

Whispered Escape Fantasies
After her novel published in 2016, women came up to Forman and whispered about their own fantasies of escape plans, driving one exit or riding one train stop past theirs, acting as if their thoughts were shameful and a transgression.

Forman wrote the book as a revenge fantasy following what she thought were serious heart symptoms and a screaming fight with her husband, Nick. She normally writes young adult novels—her publications include I Was Here, Just One Day and If I Stay—but the genre wouldn’t fit a middle-aged character and a story about marriage and motherhood.

“I thought this was mom-porn because of the reaction I got,” Forman said, though she’s read plenty of books about men running away.

In her novel, Forman tells how Maribeth has the tendency to put herself last until she has a heart attack and thinks the symptoms are from the stress of her busy life. Her emergency bypass surgery seems to be an imposition on her family, and fearing her own response, she packs a bag and leaves them hoping her heart will heal.

“I wanted to have a novel about a woman who runs away for reasons she doesn’t understand,” Forman said. “A lot of readers hate Maribeth. They think what she does is unforgivable.”

Forman, mother of two, explained her inspiration for her novel after reading her “prequel” to the audience – her own version of The Runaway Mommy by Jane Kuo Paris, based on the children’s picture book, The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown. Instead of being about cute bunnies, Forman’s story, which matched the pictures, described a mother who couldn’t escape her clingy child.

Inspiration for the Novel
Forman detailed her personal back story to her inspiration. Six summers ago, she was on a family vacation, looking up heart attack symptoms to explain her chest pains and to try to ease her worry about her genetic risk factors. Back at home, she underwent testing and found out she was fine, but she had an idea for a novel that she then put away due to life’s busyness.

That busyness, in part, came from being the default parent undertaking most of the parental responsibility, while she and her husband both worked. She’d started out as a journalist and then went into freelance writing as a way to work at home before becoming a novelist.

“My career took off in a way I never expected,” she said, adding that her second book, If I Stay, was about to publish in 2009 when she had the chest pains.

Her every day “was tightly choreographed” with pick-ups and drop-offs, making dinner and doing chores, while also working. She had the screaming fight with her husband during a school field day for their children. At that point, being the parent who carried the household load and the emotional load “started to feel insurmountable,” she said.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she’d yelled at him.

Forman and her husband, who had “a summer of uncomfortable talks,” had thought they were “groovy and progressive,” living in hip Brooklyn, raising a multiracial family with the youngest child adopted from Ethiopia and both of them working.

“We internalized so many ideas of gender and money,” Forman said.

The Formans worked out a solution with Nick working at home as a freelancer and their co-parenting becoming more of a relay race, she said.

“It feels more what like modern parenting looks like,” Forman said.

Gayle Forman, author of LEAVE ME,, signs copies of her adult and young adult novels March 22, following her author talk at the Fort Collins Hilton. Photos by Shelley Widhalm/Shell’s Ink Services.

The Book Signing
After the book signing, I asked Forman how many drafts she did of her novel—she said about 20 revisions that included cutting the first three chapters. She had to make other cuts of family scenes, being overly indulgent with those, she said.

“I had so much fun writing about the kids, the husband and the mother, it overtook the book,” she said.

Forman said she tells her children when she’s on tour, “Mommy will come back.”

She doesn’t leave them. Not permanently. Just to escape into the world of the novel.

Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell’s Ink Services, a writing and editing service based in Loveland, Colo. She has more than 15 years of experience in communications and holds a master of arts degree in English from Colorado State University. She blogs at shelleywidhalm.wordpress and

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Writing (and daring) to move

In Loving Writing, Reflections on Writing, Writing, Writing Inspiration, Writing Motivation on January 8, 2017 at 11:00 am

I am honored to be in the spotlight this week in Jennifer Tracy’s Inspire blog on her Linkedin page at

Tracy is a motivational speaker who encourages getting out of ruts and getting moving. I found her message to be inspiring.


Shelley Writes How She was Moved…

Published on January 3, 2017



Shelley Widhalm, left, intently listens to a Dare You to Move program Dec. 30, 2016, presented by Jennifer Tracy.

When I think about writing, I think it’s what I love most.

But sometimes I hate it. I face writer’s block, burnout, a lack of ideas, or a feeling of being stuck in a story or a character, not knowing how to pull it all together to get moving again.

In other words, I get insecure, and then I feel lost because writing is my anchor.

Since my sixth-grade year, I’ve known that writing is my passion, but in the last couple of years, I’ve realized that I’m not living up to that passion.

I’ve written six novels, dozens of short stories and hundreds of poems, and I write two blogs. Most of my work is unpublished. I’m aiming for traditional publication of my last two revised novels, both literary and character-driven, one young adult and the second adult. I’ve considered self-publishing, but will try the traditional route for now.

That’s not where I’ve got the lack. I’m querying agents, and I’ve compiled all the background materials. I’m also sending off my short stories and poems.

What I’m not doing is being courageous, the 100 percent, full-throttle kind.

I’m accepting, or making due with, my small dose of courage, but not the kind that’s allowing me to blare to the world that I have a great body of work. Even writing this makes me feel scared. I’m supposed to put on a brave front, right?

We all are.

I met Jennifer Tracy, a speaker and mentor, through my daytime writing job that serves as a way to expand my nonfiction writing and editing skills.

Jennifer’s business, Jennifer Tracy-Inspire, focuses on being courageous, overcoming adversity, making positive changes, having resiliency and becoming self-aware.

On her website, she has this quote, “Be inspired to change your life, regardless of where you are or what’s happened to you.” She says, “Look inward and find personal growth,” “Find courage to never give up,” “Discover power in self-awareness” and “Replace excuses with empowerment.”

When we met for coffee in June, I was amazed at her story and how she overcame a traumatic incident to rebuild her life, finding her own passions in the process. To me, she seemed happy and settled. She’d found her place in the world.

I sat across from her, keeping it all in, or most of it as I hinted to her about reeling from my own trauma. Trauma disrupts and causes a sense of loss that brings up those big life questions. It harms, hurts, dislodges, breaks, interrupts, and causes you to stagger. Who the heck am I? Who are you, world out there? Why did this happen to me?

What do I love?

Do I love?

Am I lovable?

What, why, how, who, where? Why? Why? Why?

I smiled at her. And I’ve been smiling as the tears slip through. I always thought I had it together, because I’ve always had my passion anchor.

After our meeting, I wrote in my journal: “I felt intrigued and a little more healed after talking with her. She said she’s learned a lot from her trauma and came up with self-talk methods, including a series of questions, all with the aim of being positive. What she said was so thoughtful and based on a lot of life experiences that it was hard to take it all in. I wish I could remember it all.”

I walked away from our talk—and wanting to meet her again—feeling like I need to let go, continue looking inward, and think about being positive, live being positive and bat away the negative.

I need to continue the slow hope and progression of finding and living out my passion.

And I need to be confident that I’ve written, love to write and am a writer no matter what happens in the world out there.

–Shelley Widhalm/ Shell’s Ink Services

Top 10 writing tips

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing Tips on October 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

Nature can be an inspiration for writing, such as this baby rabbit at the library.

Nature can be an inspiration for writing, such as this baby rabbit at the library.

Every writer I meet has their top tips for writing and the rules they live by to make sure they write, both in the sense of discipline and inspiration.

Writing takes both, because there has to be a little bit of the spark, as well as the willingness to show up and do the work. Granted, I’ve felt a flutter of an idea only to tamp it down, because I was busy, tired or overwhelmed. I didn’t want to write.

And then there have been times when I made myself write and produced terrible work, forcing out each word, deleting, starting over or focusing on anything that provides distraction instead of getting out the words.

But these are the exceptions.

So, too, are those occasions when I start and stop just as suddenly. I tried and then didn’t try, giving up too easily.

For example, earlier this week, I wrote for 15 minutes because I felt inspired and then stopped at 200 words, because I did enough, right? I didn’t feel like writing. I made up an excuse, because I wanted to work on editing my novel—for me, editing is work and effort, so what I want to do when it’s time to revise is be finished.

I don’t want to do the work. I want to have the work done.

But to write requires work and lots of it, so:

  • Write as much as you can, setting a writing quota with daily, weekly or monthly goals, such as writing three to four times a week. Write for two hours or 1,000 words, reasonable goals I’ve heard from other writers.
  • Get rid of distractions and the inner critic, which can keep you from writing by serving as excuses to not write or invite in writer’s block.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration, because the more you practice writing, the easier it is for words and ideas to come to you.
  • Have more awareness, using all the senses when making observations and creating scenes.
  • Cherish silence even in noisy environments to let the words come.
  • Think about where your writing wants to go, realizing that, with fiction and poetry, you’re not in total control of it. Trust your subconscious to make connections your conscious mind isn’t ready to or won’t necessarily be able to make.
  • Realize that rough or first drafts aren’t perfection on the first try. As you write, the story unfolds and isn’t readily formed until it’s written. Get the story down, then fine tune it with details, nuances and deepening of the plot, character and setting. Revise and revise again.
  • Accept that writing is supposed to be hard.
  • Focus on the process instead of the results. Enjoy that process.
  • And, last but not least, read. Reading makes you a better writer.