The Secret Uncertainties of a Writer

Armour yourself against the secret uncertainties of your writer soul.You know something?
The inner critic is mean.
It loves to play on existing insecurities and drill into them as if debriding an open wound. It digs and hacks away at the flesh in those weakest parts of ourselves, and then, sensing the blood already drawn, circles and attacks in lancing strikes until we’re tempted to whimper in a corner, defeated.

The key as a writer is to armour ourselves against these abuses. As writers, we must harden ourselves against our own doubts and trust in ourselves and the work we are producing. (Tweet this!)

Today, as I was editing a scene from Birth of the Sacred Mother the inner critic was picking on my grammar and sentence structure. I have a habit of doing interesting things with what might be considered a comma splice. Grammatically in the strict, academic sense, it’s WRONG. But the truth is, when the inner critic gets out of my way and my creative, playful self is allowed into my writing the inner me LOVES how I play with sentences like this. It likes the technique I use, and it thinks the reader will have no trouble understanding the sentence so why change what is ultimately a part of my writer’s voice or style in the hope of making it more ‘correct’.

But it’s an insecurity, because as I’ve told people to reassure them traditional education is not necessary for a writer, I failed ninth grade English and never really learned all the rules and intricacies of grammar. What I do know, I’ve learned through experience or self-taught with thanks to wonders like Grammar Girl, Strunk and White, and Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I know grammar is one of my weaknesses as a writer, and the inner critic knows I know it. It’s an open wound and that dark voice inside loves to work on it in the most vicious and cruel ways.

The trouble is, if we let these uncertainties fuel the inner critic it can tear us down and get in the way of creation. These doubts lead to writer’s block and as much as some professional writers decry the very existence of writer’s block I believe this is the root of it. At least it has been for me. That voice inside torments and ridicules the inner child that is our writer self. And like a child, if we have trouble standing up for ourselves against the bullies, we might shut down, run away, cower and hide. That leads to words not getting written.

In my case, there are ways to strengthen myself against the critique. Obviously, since I know grammar is a weakness I should do further study until I’m confident I know the rules enough that when I break them I can feel comfortable telling the inner critic with logic and reasoning why I’m doing it rather than responding emotionally. And that’s the thing; Every time the inner critic digs into an insecurity, it’s an opportunity to look at how you can strengthen yourself. (Tweet this!) Perhaps that’s why those professional writers decry the existence of writer’s block, they’ve had years to build their defences against the inner critic and no longer cower from the bully. They stand tall, even against the inner doubt, and find the words regardless of the criticism their inner critic tries to heap upon them. I’m not there yet, but I’m in it for the long haul and I’m learning, and building my defences. Are you?

Which of your open wounds does your inner critic debride? And what can you do to strengthen yourself against the beration so that you’re creating a defence that keeps the bully from standing between you and getting words on the page?

Going Into The Dark: Writing The Scenes Your Whole Being Cries Out To Avoid

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Shut up and do as you're told.I had a hard scene to write tonight and my Resistance to it was so great that I was crying my eyes out at the Muse arguing about having to write it the way They demanded. I’m terrified of this scene, it’s brutal and dark and takes the story places that will definitely alienate some readers. I wanted to step back from the scene, write it from a different character’s POV so that it’s less violent and breaking, but I couldn’t make it work and the Muse kept insisting that I needed to get into that dark place and make this happen to my character. And not just to have it happen, but have it visceral and in a POV so close that the reader is ripped through the experience with the character. Good writers are evil to their characters; they push them to their limits and force them to experience the worst of things so that they can rise above their experiences to become the people they were destined to be.

Anyway, after a lot of tears, and an argument with the Muse I did what writers always have to do when the Muse is insisting one thing over what you think you should be doing. Shut up and do as you’re told. So I wrote the scene. 1500 words of hell. And it wasn’t hard to write once I got out of my own way about it. I’m sure it’ll need a hell of a lot of editing and I’m terrified it’ll make it into the final draft because of the public perception part of it. But I also know that the Muse was right, this scene is a crux-point. Without it I wouldn’t be doing the story or the characters justice. It’s brutal, and honest, and dark, but it’s also rich and emotional and compelling. And it shapes my protagonist’s whole, entire future.

So, it was a painful night’s writing, but as usual, worth every minute. And hopefully it’s the hardest scene of the whole book. Although, while my Muse did promise me that, I have a hard time believing it because of the position of this scene in the entirety of the story arc. The climax is only just beginning to build, things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better. Still, I know the Muse means from a personal sense within myself. There will be violence and darkness in the rest of the book but what happened in this scene doesn’t ever happen again. From here, the character begins to heal. This scene was the breaking, everything after this is building her back to greater strength.

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20 Creative Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is the bane of anyone and everyone who writes. You’ll be cruising through a story, your words are flowing nicely, until suddenly you’ve hit the brakes and can’t restart the engine. Most of us try to work through the road block, endlessly searching for inspiration, but sometimes you just can’t produce anything worthwhile. Instead of cursing the writing gods or pressing the delete button, take your hands off the keyboard, take a deep breath and consider trying one of these 20 creative ways to overcome writer’s block:

  1. Relaxation Techniques: Practicing relaxation techniques can be extremely effective for overcoming writer’s block. Relaxation techniques can improve concentration, boost confidence and increase blood flow to major muscles. Taking a break from your writing to do a relaxation exercise will get your blood flowing and your brain back on track.
  2. Attend a Writer’s Workshop: Attending a writer’s workshop is a surefire way to inspire you and overcome writer’s block. You may not be able to attend a workshop at the onset of writer’s block, but you can take the lessons and tricks you learned that will help you rise above writer’s block.
  3. Jot in a Journal: It’s a good idea to carry a journal with you whenever you’re out and not sitting in front of a computer, so you can jot down story ideas, character names, conflicts or anything that comes to mind. Then, when you’re stuck on something, you can refer to the journal for ideas or inspiration.
  4. Sleep on It: You may have exhausted your brain of ideas for one day, so it might be in your best interest to sleep it off. More than likely, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to tackle your story the next day.
  5. Read Inspirational Quotes: Sometimes the only way to get inspired is to read other’s inspiring words. Try reading inspirational quotes that will rejuvenate your spirit and get you back to writing.
  6. Go for a Walk or Jog: Sometimes the only way to get back on track with your writing is to get moving. Go for a walk or jog to clear your mind and take in your surroundings. You never know what observation could be applied to your story and overcome your writer’s block.
  7. Do Something Mindless: When you’re experiencing writer’s block, it’s best to step away from the computer and calm your brain down. You may find it beneficial to do something mindless like watch television, a movie or read a magazine before you return to writing.
  8. Switch to Another Project: When you’re experiencing writer’s block, take a breather from what you’re working on and switch to another project. That way you’re still being productive and exercising your brain, before returning to your original project.
  9. Writing Exercises: When you’ve fallen into a writing slump, try a writing exercise that will help you brainstorm and keep your mind fresh. Some writing exercises provide a prompt that narrows your focus, while others are free of constraints.
  10. Stream-of-Consciousness Writing: Stream-of-consciousness writing allows you to use interior monologue to put your thoughts on paper. This kind of writing is raw and often difficult to follow, but it can clear your mind of nonsense and help you get back on track.
  11. Change Sceneries: Your desk and white walls will get pretty old after a while. Venture away from your normal workspace and change sceneries when you are struggling with writer’s block. Even changing rooms within your house or going to your backyard will offer enough variety to get you out of your funk.
  12. Play a Game: Playing games is a nice break from the frustrations of writer’s block, but it can also help you overcome the challenges in your writing. Games of all kinds can have a positive effect on your creativity and problem-solving skills.
  13. Make an Inspiration Board: An inspiration board is an effective tool for overcoming writer’s block. This board is a collection of visual ideas like newspaper clippings, magazine pictures, photographs and just about anything that can be used to inspire you when you’re in a major slump.
  14. Switch Art Forms: Sometimes you’ve got to step out of your art form and into another to start fresh. When you have writer’s block, you may want to shift your efforts toward another art form, such as playing a musical instrument, painting, drawing, dancing or photography. Whatever experience you choose, it will surely boost creativity and freshen your writing.
  15. Unplug the Internet: Unplugging the Internet is one solution to overcoming writer’s block. This will put a temporary end to the countless distractions that circulate the web, like Facebook, Twitter and even e-mail. Getting back to the basics is refreshing and can make a huge difference in your overall productivity.
  16. Read Blogs: One way to overcome writer’s block is to read the work of others. Blogs are fun to read and they touch on so many different topics that are bound to give you an idea or two.
  17. Cut out the Rules: Writing without rules is especially helpful for those who have writer’s block. This approach allows you to write without inhibitions and let the words flow without interruption. In order to practice this difficult exercise, you’ll have to ignore spelling, grammar, formatting and context rules and just write. You can always edit later.
  18. Listen to Music: Music can be extremely inspirational and relaxing at the same time. Listening to the right song can spark a new idea, help you solve a problem and collect your thoughts, which may be all you need to get over a bad case of writer’s block.
  19. Talk and Ask Questions: When all else fails, spark up a conversation with others to get past your writer’s block. Better yet, ask fellow writers what they think of your topic or how can you expand on a particular part of your story. You’d be surprised by the amount of great ideas that come from the people you interact with everyday.
  20. Follow the News: Whether you pick up a newspaper, turn on the local news channel or read a story online, the news is filled with real, raw stories that can be incredibly inspiring. News articles are also great references for expanding your vocabulary.

This post is shared by Corinne Reidy and originally appeared here, 20 Creative Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block.

In Due Time – Writer’s Block

It’s amazing to me that I’ve spent a year blocked in many of my writing mediums. Blogging became a chore that caused more stress than pleasure, writing a short article came with as much pain as a tooth extraction and everything else, down to advertising copy, seemed “blah.” I was fighting an enormous block, mostly surrounded by medical conditions, treatments and therapy. But blocked, I was.

I finally went out and purchased a brand new journal and wrote only when something incredible happened. Not all those incredible moments were good, but incredible still. As I found comfort in working with words again, I ventured outside of my self-imposed barricade and began taking note of extraordinary happenings in the world around. With that, I had a little more fuel for that only-sometimes-used journal.

I decided that I was going to no longer work as a paid writer.

Yep. I said it.

I evaluated why I once loved writing and why that changed. I received my first-ever blue ribbon that came from writing almost twenty years ago. I loved words then. I explored new avenues of writing, didn’t harbor any self-doubt. Everything I did was perfect, because it was done. I cherished that time in my life as a writer.

But today, I can say that I don’t like deadlines. I do not like stress. Simplicity is what I need; in writing, living and life. So simplicity it is. And a very long hiatus from writing, at least writing anything for anyone.

And now, I have a great relationship with my Muse again. I only write inspired words and write them when inspired. I keep my notebook and pen handy for the moments when I cannot devote hours to writing as to retain that which my Muse delivered. And I play. I am nurturing all aspects of my creative self – including painting, again. The process of keeping myself readily available for my muse in all creative aspects has made me able to write again, for an audience.

Every writer experiences writer’s block. Good writers know when to put down the pen. For me, that pen was down for nearly a year. And now, it feels good to write.

Do you spend time nurturing other creative avenues in your life?

Beat Writer’s Block: Leverage Your Freelance Writing Relationships for Accountability Partners

When WRA owner and fellow writer Rebecca Laffar-Smith gave me this title as a topic for a blog post, I teased her a little bit: “Can you fit one more social media buzz word into that headline?”

But it sparked inspiration and soon, I was off to write. Sharing great ideas is just one thing Rebecca and I do together as fellow freelance writers. We also use each other as “accountability partners”.

How does that work, you ask? What exactly is an accountability partner?

An accountability partner holds you accountable for finishing the writing you’ve made a commitment to yourself to complete.

I don’t get writer’s block. I’d go so far as to say writer’s block doesn’t exist — unless you believe it does. I don’t get writer’s block (ever) because I’m motivated by three factors:

  • Money
  • Deadlines
  • My writing friends (“accountability partners”)

Money & Deadlines
The first two go hand-in-hand. As a full-time freelance writer, I get assignments from clients (private clients, website owners, or magazines). They give me deadlines, I meet them, I get paid. With a mortgage to pay, bellies to feed, and a toddler to clothe (not to mention a mild shopping addiction), that’s all the motivation I need to write.

But I also have a few private writing projects in the works: eBooks, writing courses and a non-fiction book I want to shop around to print publishers. How do I stay motivated to complete these projects, knowing there’s no immediate return-on-investment (ROI)? That’s where my accountability partners come in.

Writing Friends
Some resources recommend prioritizing your writing tasks by setting “fake deadlines” for yourself to beat writer’s block. These don’t work for me. I know they’re fake, and my immediate ROI projects take precedence over fake deadlines.

But when I ask a writing colleague — like Rebecca — to hold me accountable, I feel a sense of shame when I have to tell her I didn’t meet the deadline we agreed upon. You can set up this arrangement with your accountability partner in any way that works for you: monthly updates / progress reports, weekly deadlines to a complete a project, or daily word count quotas.

Where to Find Accountability Partners
Writing is a solitary profession. If you don’t already have a network of fellow writers, start building one today. Where? Here are a few suggestions:

Writer’s Round-About - Right here at WRA is a great place to start. Comment below and start building relationships with our staff writers and regular visitors. I’ll volunteer some time to be an accountability partner to any non-fiction / freelance writer who asks. (If you sign on as one of my writing coaching clients, I’ll become your accountability partner as part of the deal.)

Twitter – Just as the #FollowFriday meme has become a great way to find people to follow, #WriterWednesday helps connect you with writers to build your online network. You’ll need to follow a few writers in order to meet more. I recommend following one or two writers with a “list” of other writers, follow that list, and watch your network grow.

The forums at AbsoluteWrite.com – Fiction writers, freelance writers, Web content writers, non-fiction authors and more gather in the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler, the website’s huge forum. I met Rebecca there years ago, and it’s still one of the best places for writers to hang out in cyberspace.

The list could go on… Where are your favorite places (online and off) to meet writers and how do your writer friends help you?

To Begin: Breaking Through The Blank Page

There is nothing more dreadful to a writer than staring at a blank page on the computer. There is a sense of stage fright that hangs in the shadows, taunting your every attempt to begin writing the grand novel or article that has inspired your soul. The number of words looking to take that blank page to a completed piece scream in your mind as your heart begins to race. You are there, facing the firing squad in your mind. You are a writer. WHY CAN’T YOU WRITE?

First, take a deep breath. It’s only letters placed in such a manner as to form a word. That word will begin the sentence. The sentence will begin the paragraph and the paragraph starts a chapter. Beginning the chapter means you’ve officially begun the work you’ve set your sights upon. Congratulations!

Recently I had the privilege of chatting with a few writer friends online. As the conversation turned to beginnings, I chuckled at how I had begun writing this very piece, though unfinished. I had begun, something one writer was struggling with on her own. I mentioned at that point I was working an article tailored specifically to beginnings – and she couldn’t wait to read it for herself.

Having an idea is only one part to writing. To be a writer you must write.

Beginnings can be quite ugly. Especially if you have ignored that calling to sit down and write for any amount of time. It doesn’t matter what you do to start, what matters is that you’ve placed a word on a page and began expanding upon it to form a sentence; there go, writing.

What is incredible about writing – whether by pen or through typing – is the opportunity to edit that ugly beginning once the middle and end are complete. As a writer, you might produce one brilliant piece in your lifetime. That doesn’t mean that the rest of what you write is garbage. It just means the editor in you has to come out, but not until after you’ve written.

Taking the time to journal or freewrite about the subject you desire to write about will help break the silence that sends you into a near anxiety attack. Journaling and freewriting also reduce the stress you feel by the editor that nestles inside. It is only when we are writing an article or a large work of art that the editor likes to cause a disruption.

Next time you are looking to begin an article, short story, or novel; begin first by writing in your journal and transfer that writing to your blank page to reduce your anxiety. After all, it matters not how you begin, but that you do.

Do you ever struggle with the blank page? What do you do to get past the anxiety and begin?

Fear and the Blank Page

We’ve all stared down the blank page, fighting an inner turmoil, fear, anxiety, uncertainty, a disquieted soul that rumbles at the expanse of white. I’ve often wondered if I suffer more than any other as, of course, is a common egomaniac response to phobic anxieties. Because, by it’s very essense, these fears are irrational and larger than life, which means no one could possibly have lived through such an experience and written to tell the tale.

Fear and the Blank Page: How do YOU conquer your fears?The truth is, fear of the blank page is common. I suffer it every day to varied extent and fellow writers have suffered it since the dawn of the written word. Perhaps that dawn was delayed by the fear too!

How do YOU conquer your fear of the blank page?

Just Do It!

In the end, one tried and true method seems to be the only one that works every single time, “Just Do It!” Unfortunately, the theory is as usual, easier than the practice. It is one thing to say, “Just start writing…” and another to quell the beast within long enough to put a word on the page, any word at all. What’s worse is that each word feels tortured, ripped from the gut and splattered in all its messy gore onto the formerly pristine perfection of a blank page.

Writing is messy. The demon within begs us to be neat, orderly, tidy. Backspace! Delete it! Scratch it out! We beat him down, and beat him down again, “Not now!” His screams make us more uneasy but we’ve been told that by facing the page it gets easier to face again and again. We subdue the demon, vowing to call on him when his time comes. He has a purpose, later…

Meanwhile, we scrawl in blood on the page, drip by crimson drip, because putting something on the page is the way to get back to breathing. Putting something, anything, on the page is a way to loosen the knot in our stomach, the tingle in our fingers, the stutter on the tip of our tongue. Still, the words feel awkward, stupid, clumsy…

Today, I wanted to write. My heart aches from being locked away from the words but even with my deepest passions calling me to the page I quiver, anxiety’s baited breath against my throat. I stare at the blank page as words fall upon it and wonder, “WHEN!?! When will this get easier?”

And, with over ten years experience it dawns on me, “It won’t.”

Choosing to be a writer is an act of desperation. No one would choose this life of inner agony, heightened emotions, and tremulous turmoil if they could live their life another way. I find comfort in the fact that sometimes, sometimes fear gives way to a soul-encompassing joy. Sometimes, writing is like breathing. Sometimes, it is bliss, it is harmony. Sometimes…

Facing Fear and the Heart of Truth

I’m dealing with anxiety so instead of trying to push through that to continue with the Stargate Series I thought I’d do as Michele suggests in Part Two of her Mini Series. (8. Unlock your heart.) Instead of trying to ignore this fear I thought it might be better to face it, write about it, share the experience with others and ask if there are other writers out there who deal with unexplainable fears about writing.

I’ve never known a time when I didn’t desire, to the depths of my heart, to be a writer; to write, to create worlds, and to tell stories that could change a person from the inside. I have big dreams. Dreams that involve giving something to the world, or at least sharing something real with readers, something that makes them look at themselves and at life and say, “Wow, yes, that’s so true.”

Despite having a real passion and drive to make writing these sorts of self-discovery fiction novels I frequently struggle to face the page. I don’t know if the anxiety is tied to other elements of my mental health (Bipolar).

I know that there are all sorts of phobias I’ve had to face in my life. I used to fear driving, the social elements of something as simple as taking my daughter to school or buying groceries would make me violently ill. But over the years I’ve pushed through fear and come out the other side, more confident, more whole and much more capable of facing the world.

The page, the words, and a future I want desperately creates a new horror that tears me apart. Full blown anxiety freezes me, can send me running in the other direction, frantically trying to find something else to do, and the frustration of struggling to do something I truly love often ends in tears.

Even writing this I’m using all my distraction techniques. I have Evanescence blaring into my ears and I’m breathing, in/out, in/out, concentrating on putting my fingers where I need them despite my hands shaking and my stomach revolting against me.

I AM writing, and in facing the fear, moving past it, pushing on, forcing the action, things get easier. This is how I’ve conquered past fears. I can drive, I can shop, I can chat to the mothers at my daughter’s school because I did it, despite being afraid I just kept pushing the boundaries of my phobia until I broke through. I can do this with writing too. I just wish I understood anxiety better. Why am I afraid?

Do you ever deal with fears when it comes to your writing? Do you know what you fear? Do you fear the page? Is it fear of success or fear of failure? How do you deal with your fears in life?

Finally I’ll leave you with my favourite quotes about fear and courage:

  • “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow”. ~ Mary Anne Radmacher
  • “You gain strength, courage and confidence from every experience which makes you stop, look fear in the face, and do the thing which you think you cannot do.” ~ Unknown
  • “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” ~ Ambrose Redmoon
  • “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ Andre Gide
  • “Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.” ~ Erica Jong
  • “Courage is very important. Like a muscle, it is strengthened by use.” ~ Unknown
  • “All our dreams can come true…if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~ Walt Disney
  • “Creativity takes courage.” ~ Henri Matisse
  • “Courage is being afraid, but doing it anyway.” ~ Unknown

Wordlessness…

It’s a strange feeling. Wordlessness. A sense of silence in the creative soul. My thoughts are running, I’m percolating, I have story (FoT) doing spiral staircases in my mind but I’m totally wordless. It’s not like writers block. It’s a sense of waiting instead of a sense of frustration or procrastination. Wordless…

In a way this feeling is rather relaxing. I’ve given myself a break to account for the school holidays and it’s freeing to approach each day with no expectations. It’s a good time to take a step back because I’ve gone over my past draft this past week and a half both in my mind and in my notes and I’m at about the half way mark building intensity into the novel. I’ve been noticing gaps and making annotations in preparation of the revision process and I need to nail down the remaining scene layout before proceeding.

I’m also still trying to lock in on my characters. In a way they’re all solid but they lack a 3D element in my mind. I just can’t FEEL them as fully as I’d like to. I’m not absorbed by them. It’s part of what I’ve always had trouble with. When I was role playing (Dungeons and Dragons) I could lose myself in character. It made for some fun gaming because I’d jump up from my seat totally immersed in the role. But I can’t seem to get that deep with the characters in my book. They don’t fill me.

How do I find that point inside me where they come to life. Tori and Lucas have a story to tell. They’re roles are vital and vibrant. Crey is screaming to be heard and Zara and Tempany have this residing pain that sort of floats there in ethereal expectation. But it’s not enough. I THINK too much. How do I draw them out? How do I immerse myself in these characters so that I KNOW them? I need to be able to feel their actions and motivations coming into the scenes.

Meanwhile, it’s all part of this wordlessness. I’m comfortable and there is another week of school holidays before my oldest returns to the grind for 10 weeks. Another week of watching the book run around in my mind and enjoying the way its filling out and becoming real. Another week of wordlessness…

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