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?

Get Out and Write!

Get Out Of The House And Write!Most writers work from the comfort of their own home.  This can be both a blessing and a curse.  It can mean you don’t have to worry about showering, throwing on clothes, and rushing out the door every morning.  That’s great news for those of us who are alarm-clock-impaired.  Of course, it can also mean sitting around in your pajamas all day… not too attractive.  If you’re self-motivated and enjoy your own company, then writing from home may be the perfect profession for you.  But even if you prefer to spend a lot of time alone, there are several reasons you should make an effort to get out.

For one thing, writers need inspiration in order to work.  A lot of it comes from inside your own head, but you don’t want to turn into an episode of House.  True, he discovers a unique disease in every new patient, but the tired formula of rejections and revelations is so predictable!  Even Sue Sylvester from Glee is out-snarking Gregory House.  Why?  Because we get it in every episode!  The point is, you need to mix it up if you want to avoid repetition and boredom.  Just as you sample multiple forms of media, you need to experience distinctive environments if you want to keep your writing fun and fresh.

Writers are social creatures: meet with friends for lunch.Plus, people need companionship.  We are inherently social creatures and if you don’t nurture that aspect of your biology, you are going to be an unhappy camper.  By cutting yourself off from others, you are likely to develop feelings of depression at the very least.  Even worse, you may find yourself unable to write.  So why bite the hand that feeds you?  Just because writers have historically been an antisocial lot doesn’t mean you have to go down the “tortured artist” path.  Take advantage of the fact that you are one of the few lucky people in the workforce with the ability to set your own schedule.  Meet friends for lunch, take a class, or pencil in a jog.  All of these out-of-office activities will reboot your brain and leave you feeling reinvigorated for your next writing assignment.

And don’t forget about relationships.  It takes two to tango and if you’re padlocked to your computer all the time, you risk alienating the ones who love you.  So for your own mental health, to preserve your relationships, and to excel in your chosen profession, make an effort to get out of the house once in awhile.  It will ensure that your life and your work continue on a path of growth instead of running into almost certain stagnation.

Where do you go and what do you do when you need to get out of the house to refresh your writer’s mind?

Thomas Warren is a content writer for Go College, one of the oldest and most trusted resources to guide students on how to finance and succeed in college.

Photo credit: 03-28-09 © Jenna Wagner
Photo credit: 03-13-09 © webphotographeer

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?

Rescue your Darlings by Kenji Crosland

This post is part of the Guest Post Giveaway at the blog Unready and Willing. If you think articles about writing or personal development (or personal development for writers) sounds like a good fit for your blog, please take a look at the Guest Post Giveaway page and see if any of the articles spark your interest.

You may be familiar with the phrase “Murder your Darlings.” This is the mantra repeated over and over again by teachers of the revision process. For many writers this is a painful ordeal that seems to take the life from a piece. Painful as it is, cutting out the parts that seem most precious to you is essential in polishing your work. Oftentimes when an editor will suggest that you cut a passage out of your story or novel, it’ll be one of your favorite sections–this is probably because you felt very good writing it. You were in the flow, and everything that fell onto the page just “felt right” to you. And now this editor wants you to cut it? To trash it as though it never existed? How could they be so cruel?

Is this the part of the writing process that you hate the most? Do hate the feeling that the passages that you had had so much pleasure writing will not see the light of day? I certainly did when I started out writing, but there are good reasons for cutting the fat. Although certain passages are beautifully written, they may do nothing to contribute to a story’s plot or give any insight to the characters. Exchanges of dialogue, though clever, may not really be important at all. The character that you snuck into chapter three was forced into the story just because you thought he or she was interesting. Lost in the flow of your writing, you might have spent two paragraphs describing a horse-carriage and not even know it. These passages simply don’t belong.

Instead of getting out your ax and murdering your darlings right then and there, however, why not consider dropping them off at the orphanage so that another story might be able to pick them up? Essentially you can create a database of written material that just didn’t make the cut for your other stories. Not only does this take some of the pain out of revision, but it also can give you a place to access characters, descriptions, and clever turns of phrases that simply didn’t fit in your other work. Whenever you feel writer’s block coming on, you can infuse some of the good stuff you didn’t use from your previous work into your new one.

To establish this orphanage, create a folder on your computer for your rescued darlings and then make sub-folders with names like “characters,” “descriptions,” “dialogues,” “settings,” and so on. Every time you cut a substantial part from your story, copy it and paste into a new document. Title the document in a way that you’ll be able to recognize it easily when you come back to it. Your “settings” folder would have documents titled “Roadside Cafe,” “African Village” and so on. The “Characters” folder could have documents with the character names, or just a short description like: “Nerdy Mobster” or, “Obsessive-Compulsive Stockbroker.”

Personally I find that I tend not to use too many of my rescued darlings in my new work. It’s comforting, however, to know that they’ll always be there waiting should you ever need them.

Kenji Crosland is a creative writing major who, scared of becoming a starving artist, became a corporate headhunter in Tokyo. Since then he’s regained his sanity, quit his job, and now blogs about creating an ideal career at unreadyandwilling.com. He is also developing a web application that just might change the internet. Follow him on Twitter: @KenjiCrosland.

Have you ever cut a part of your story that you really wished you’d kept? What do you do with the darlings you cut? Have you used a character or scene that didn’t make the cut in one story for another? What kinds of safety nets do you use when editing and revising your work?

How to Get Back to the Roots of Writing

I’ve been in danger lately of getting overwhelmed with blogging work. I have all my ideas on my editorial calendar, but with so many topics in so many niches, I often sit down to write and still don’t know where to start.

Which blog? They’re all priority. Which idea? Each one tugs at my attention, begging to be released onto the page. Which client? They all pay well and on time — no favoritism here.

When Pen and Paper really means anything you can write with or on.I decided to take a unique approach last evening, almost like freewriting with purpose. I couldn’t find paper or pen so I grabbed my calendar and a blue, fine point Sharpie. (So blame any grammatical errors on the fumes please… and the fact that I often have trouble reading my handwriting the next day.)

I started writing. I had no topics or even a particular blog in mind. I let the words come, in the messy, haphazard way I write hand-written first drafts on the rare occasions I choose to.

First,  I wrote a post about types of blog posts for business owners. One Long Island Exchange column done.

Then I decided to blog about the entire experience here at WRA. In an odd way, the juxtaposition of the Sharpie, the calendar, sitting in my daughter’s room as she played for a bit before bed, took all pressure off me as a “professional writer with too much work.” (Is there such a thing as too much work?)

I completed my first post in record time. It is only now that I stop to think about what I’m writing, and, at this point the magic, the flurry, begins to vanish. The moment is gone.

Now I’m wondering about word count, graphics, linkback opportunities. (I know Rebecca and some of WRA’s other contributors have written about freewriting in the past.) I’m no longer writing. I’m “working” again.

And that’s not a bad thing. After all, those of us who love what we do everyday hesitate to even call it work. I am grateful every day to be blessed with this career path.

But for a brief time, it was nice to immerse myself in that “zone” — a writer, a pen (of sorts), paper… it’s cozy. It reminded me of a time when I thought of all writing as a hobby, not a vocation.

Writers, what do you do when you want to get back to basics — either to beat writer’s block, jumpstart a project or to simply begin enjoying the act of writing again and forget that you do it for a living?

Finding New Inspiration: First Words and Beyond

Words, words, and more words…. They float around in our heads – until our brains feel like mush. At least, mind does (sometimes).

freelance, creative, muse, writing, inspiration, first words, Wordle

But there are also times that our brains look like a vast, white space. And no matter how hard we try to tap into our inner muse; no matter how many different techniques we use, we can’t seem to find those perfect first words. Sometimes, it seems, the only words that come to mind are: contract, deadline, SEO, or even bills.

I mentioned my lack of words on a social media media site a while back and got the following response:

“Start out writing your name, address and a description of the room in which you’re writing. I wrote a newspaper column for nearly 20 years. I’m very practiced in breaking up log-jams in the writerly brain. Just remember, there’s a torrent just behind that dam!” – K. C. Compton (Editor, at Ogden Publications)

Excellent advice, K.C.! (Of course, I guess that’s why she is one of the Editor’s-In-Chief for Ogden Publications, huh?)

It’s during the times that we’re grasping desperately for words – any word – that we can apply the following tips, as well as K.C.’s advice.

7 Surefire Ways to Find New Words

  1. Grab a notebook and start writing a list. This list can be about anything: your dreams,  pros and cons of something you’ve been considering, maintenance or other projects for your house – even a grocery list.
  2. Take a break and play Scrabble. What better way to enjoy some time – and company – than being hands-on with letters and words?!
  3. Write a thank you note or friendly letter to someone. Think warm thoughts and share your heart with the recipient.
  4. Email or IM a friend. If that friend is a writer, that’s even better. They can help lift your spirits and jog your memory about past times you’ve had abundant writing inspiration.
  5. Read your favorite blog or a few pages from a book that’s nearby. Words from one of your favorite authors/bloggers will help get your creative juices flowing.
  6. Get up from your computer and go in to another room or outside. It’s amazing how much difference a view makes. By simply stepping in to the next room or popping outside for a few minutes, you can refuel your mind. Look at old photos or sit on your porch or deck for a spell – absorb your surroundings and soak up the inspiration life brings!
  7. Pamper yourself. Something like a cup of hot tea and your favorite magazine, a 20-minute soak in a warm bath sprinkled with lavender essential oil or bath salts, or a short nap can provide just the amount of rejuvenation your body needs to crank up your muse once again.

What do you do to find new words when your writing well has run dry? Do you stand beneath the idea waterfall? Or use any of the tips I shared above? Do you have a fabulous technique to share with us? Chime in!

Did you enjoy this article? Feel free to visit the other articles Michele has written for Writer’s Round-About–or contact her to write for you.

Photo Credit: Wordle, created by Michele Tune

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?

Pep Talk No. 16 – Welcoming Your Demons

Recently on Writer’s Round-About I talked about inner demons. Those nasty creatures that sit on our shoulder snarling negative propaganda about us and our writing. Well, they certainly sit on my shoulder but I’m sure there is a little demon with varied degree of power for each of us. Who is your little demon? Do you have just one or many?

Welcome Your Demons: Inner and OuterGeorge Singleton has a fantastic little pep-talk, number 16, in his book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds:

If it is true that the audience members applaud as a maestro takes the stage, or when an actor emerges from the wings, because they wish to rid the venue from spirits and demons, then please make sure that you never enter your writing space while clapping. In fiction writing, it may be best to have as many specters and demons perched in the rafters as possible.

What do you think George meant?



How Can Our Demons Help Us?

Demons, inner or otherwise, gain power through fear and intimidation. Their ability to scare creates emotional and sometimes physical reactions. Sometimes, fear hinders us, freezing us in place, but fear is also a natural and positive response.

Fear can cause an adrenaline release. Adrenaline lets us move faster, think faster, act faster. It speeds our responses, heightens our senses, and energizes our endorphins. By embracing the fear these demons create we can bring emotion onto the page and we are more likely to feel the emotion coming off the page as we write. It helps us develop the right tone and depth and gives us a positive boost in motivation and momentum.

Our demons also force us to be cautious. To examine options, evaluate choices. While this may be more hindrance than help in the first stages of writing, welcoming our demons in the editing stage is a must. It is their voice that helps us meticulously comb our manuscript for errors and inconsistencies.

Other Demons To Consider

Our inner demons are not the only ones who play a role in our writing. These demons are a creation of the mind. They are our brains way of compartmentalizing our fears and insecurities. Our ability to create inner demons is a sign of fertile imagination and creativity. These demons are not the only ones who accompany us during the writing process.

Your protagonists must have demons of their own. They can be real or imagined, inner demons, or physical demons. Readers tend to associate best with well-rounded, balanced, characters. Characters need to have flaws and weaknesses. They need to have room to grow. It is normal for characters to face fears of their own.

More literally they also have the demonic aspects of their mirror, the antagonist. The antagonist has demons also, and can be the dark element of the story, a demon in his own right.

Can you see the demons and specters that haunt the rafters of your writing place? What influence do they have on your work? How do they help you? Answer these questions in the comments!

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…

Bloggers And The Wall: Breaking Through Barriers

Writers And Bloggers Confront The Wall
After a year of blogging I’ve noticed that growth happens in spits and bursts. There can be long periods of stagnation and during these it becomes hard to keep blogging. This phenomenon echos a challenge writers come across known as “The Wall”. These days, weeks, or even months of stagnation are the hurdle before massive growth. If you keep pushing onward you’ll break through that wall and skyrocket into success, or at least the next major leap forward toward your own perspective of success.

The pro-activeness of each blogger plays a large role in the growth and potential of their blog. A blogger who can settle into a niche and feel comfortable posting a quality blog entry every day might find their blog boom earlier than one who chooses to post every other day or three times a week. If you can maintain the integrity of your posting schedule you’ll find your growth more stream-like and steady.

Committing to a niche with which you remain passionate is a key element in maintaining the momentum and motivation to push through challenges and break through “The Wall”. Understanding your personal boundaries, potential, and resistances will help you know the best way to approach your blogging goals.

Recently, I asked readers Why Are You Here? In my way I was attempting to get a feel for Writer’s Round-About’s audience. Writing a blog is never something you do as a solo except in life and I wanted to make sure what I wrote here was productive. Nobody likes spending several hours a week on a pursuit that has zero potential for growth, it’s the true loathing I have for housework that makes me so certain of this fact.

Reflecting on this time of personal turmoil and indecisiveness I recognize, “The Wall”. It rears it’s ugly head and is familiar at this point since I’m facing it with my current novel-in-progress also. In fact, many of those who faced National Novel Writing Month are perhaps intimate with “The Wall” right now. You might be hitting the 29th of November firmly face-planted into it or are rejoicing in the rush of energy having successfully broken through.

Move Forward, Move Upward, Break Through The WallFor writers and bloggers the solution is the same. The only way to get beyond “The Wall” is to move forward, push ahead, keep writing, keep blogging, and put one foot firmly in front of the other. If your blog feels stagnant, if you are struggling to maintain a consistent posting schedule, if you’re facing the blank page with horror and remorse, if you’re looking back over days or weeks when there have been zero updates, take comfort in the fact that there are others around the world facing the same thing each and every day.

Of course, in the end the only solution is to BIC (Butt-In-Chair). Sit yourself down, decide that you really want to accomplish this goal, and begin. If it helps, return to your Goal Setting Workshop notes to discover why this accomplishment is so important to you. If you haven’t created leverage do it now. Then get back to the grindstone, write onward, move forward. The rush of adrenaline and euphoria is just over that wall.

Break through the barrier with me!