Tag Archives: writer’s block

Writing and Real Life Inspiration: One Leg at a Time

Another successful marching band season has closed for Dear Daughter. Likewise Middle Son’s football team finished the year with 1 loss. (Don’t tell anyone, but it might help that he has an ex-pro-football player as a coach.) Regardless, it was a busy Saturday for our little fam.

But it wasn’t the wins that inspired me. What impacted me far more than Dear Daughter catching her rifle after five mid-air rotations or Middle’s touch down on the last drive of the game was a young gal from another band.

She had a prosthetic leg from the knee down. And yet, she was out there on the field dancing, tossing flags and marching to the beat of the drums. All with a smile on her face.

Wow!

Remind me as a mom never to let my kids take the easy way out when they are pouting about someone getting more football passes than they got. Remind me as a writer never to let another person’s success get in the way of my own ability.

Writer’s block be damned. If a young lady can learn to toss a flag on one foot, I sure as heck can pen a few hundred words. And then a few hundred more.

Ohhhh, how easy it is to bemoan our writing rejections or to blame the wind for missing a tossed flag. Better that we give up and quit trying than to complain incessantly. Seriously, it gets old after a while.

Better yet that we should buckle down and move toward our dreams one step at a time.

I thank this young lady for silently reminding me of my blessings and my short-comings. May I do her justice in my daily writing life.

How about you? What events have inspired you over the years to be something or someone better? Please share your tales of standing tall despite the odds.

Curious minds want to know.

Derailed: writing caution

Once upon a time, DH and I made our way down south for a job interview.  While driving along, we came upon a very recent train derailment.  The damage was incredible.  Cars tipped over a football field off the track.  Cargo scattered across the ditch in ways that defied logic.

Thankfully the train troubles occurred outside of town and far enough off the road that nobody was injured.

Upon our return, the mess had been cleared away and we completely missed seeing the site of the accident.  Virtually all traces of the derailment were gone.  And while the train company must have dealt with extensive  and far-reaching damages, the casual observer would have missed the fact that twenty-four hours earlier, a near catastrophe had occurred.

Our writing is like a train track.  We have a story arc that begins in one station and ends in another.  Along the way, we transport our precious cargo.  We may make switches along the way, dropping off some cars and picking up others.  We may speed up and slow down for towns and bridge crossings, but we never stray from the track.

Unless, of course, we get derailed.

When this happens, we have  two choices: clean up the mess, pay out the damages and deliver our salvaged cargo or go back to the station and start our trek all over again.

Neither option is fun and both require a lot of work.  Critique partner and soon-to-be-pubbed, Calista Taylor, recognizes her risk for derailment and takes another set of tracks to ward off disaster.  When the writing gets tough and she’s “blocked” for longer than a week, she retraces her steps and finds out where she went wrong. 

With my current WIE (work in edit), I discovered yesterday (45 pages from the end) that I had failed to make a detour when I should have.  Instead of switching tracks, I steamed forward and missed out on adding some cargo to my train that will invariably make my novel much stronger and more intriguing.

While I didn’t totally derail, it was like I jumped the track.  I took a short cut and deprived my potential readers of the scenic route.

What do you do when  you find your story floundering?  When do you realize your writing has derailed and how do you fix it?  Do you automatically trunk a derailed manuscript or do you try to salvage what you can?

Curious minds want to know.

The Blocks

Mondays fill me with apprehension.  I’m excited to get back in the swing of writing, yet I inevitably come down with a bad case of The Blocks.

I know, it sounds bad.  And it could be if left untreated.  Without proper care and attention, The Blocks spread rapidly and affect a writer’s mental health.  Severe cases can damage the circulatory system and result in a total loss of heart.  If you, or someone you know, may be a victim of The Blocks, seek support immediately.

General Overview

The Blocks is a mental health infliction that causes writers to question the worthiness of their work.  Typically found in aspiring writers, the onset of The Blocks has two common causes. 

  1. Unresolved Writer’s Block: a milder form of The Blocks contained to a specific project. 
  2. Rejection Letter Overload: a mini-depression brought on by the lack of a book contract.

Signs and Symptoms

Typical symptoms include blankly staring at the computer screen.  The writer may sit up suddenly, smile and gently tap their fingers on the keyboard as if preparing to write.  Inevitably, this is followed by slumped shoulders and a long-winded sigh.  Occasionally, the writer will engage in sudden bursts of typing, followed by a compulsive use of the delete button. 

After a few hours of alternating between blank stares and typing outbursts, activities such as internet surfing and solitair may increase to an almost frenzied pace.  Surfing may completely replace typing.  As the days pass and mental health deteriorates, writers affected by The Blocks become Master Fibbers.  They quickly exit computer programs when Significant Others appear and their faces will transform from an I-just-swallowed-the-goldfish look to a ginormous I’m-working-my-tail-off grin.

A sense of paranoia sets in.  Grand conspiracy theories are hatched regarding the publishing industry.  No amount of discussion can persuade a writer affected by The Blocks that editors and agents do not rip writer wannabees to pieces, chew them up and spit them out for pure sport.

 Writers with The Blocks may become lethargic.  Those with severe cases refuse to boot up their computers, and some have been known to spontaneously throw their monitors across the room or burn half-finished manuscripts in fits of mental instability. 

  Treatment

To completely recover from The Blocks, a writer must follow these steps, repeating as necessary, until stability has returned.

  1. Find Support.  Writers groups abound.  Living in the boondocks is no longer an excuse for solitary confinement.  The internet brings like-minded writers to your desk top.  Agent Query is fantabulous.  The SCBWI is the bomb for juvenile lit writers.  Likewise, mystery guilds and romance associations can be found with relative ease.  I found my first group of support buddies through NaNoWriMo.
  2. Meet the Professionals.  A list of my favorite blogging editors and agents can be found on my sidebar.  Find ones you like and log on.  Subscribe to writer’s magazines and attend conferences.  As professionals in the publishing industry, they usually have something…professional…to say.
  3. Hone Your Craft.  Never does the old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” apply more than in the art of writing.  Writing is a mixture of talent, practice and perseverence.  You will not be an overnight success.  You will pay your dues through writing, editing and killing your darlings.  You will join the multitudes who have spent years penning words to find the right flow.  That’s okay.  It’s how we learn.
  4. Take Yourself Seriously.  If you won’t, nobody else will. 

Prognosis

Good.  However, if left untreated, the death of writing dreams may occur.

How do you shake off the writing doldrums?  If you have a tried and true method of getting back in the writing swing, please share it with others who may be suffering from this debilitating disease. 

If you are a current sufferer of The Blocks, take that first step and comment on a writer’s blog.  You may find a supportive friendship you never dreamed possible.

I hope this post finds you dreaming big and will give you the confidence to break through The Blocks and take control of your writing life.

~cat