Writer’s block. Real or imaginary?
I’ve heard different definitions of writer’s block over the years, but I think my favorite is from writer and teacher Victoria Nelson in her book On Writer’s Block. Writer’s block is often our subconscious mind’s way of letting us know something isn’t right, Nelson says.
I’ve definitely experienced this kind of writer’s block. Years ago, I was working on my memoir and I got to a point where I just couldn’t write anymore. I was totally blocked. So I stopped and thought about Nelson’s words and discussed my problem with a fellow writer. I finally realized that my memoir was focused on the wrong person! It took me two attempts to fix it but when I finally got it right, the story just flowed from me. Poof! My writer’s block was gone.
But not all writer’s blocks are created equal. A writer can experience what I call minor writer’s block. Nothing major is wrong, but when you sit down to write you feel resistance to putting words on paper. This mostly happens to me when I’m working on a project that feels scary or outside my wheelhouse—when I am stretching my comfort zone.
How do you conquer this kind of writer’s block? I’ve tried different things over the years, including: Read more
Actually that is a lie. There’s plenty of crying in writing. You know those days. You want to bang your head against the wall, throw yourself on the floor, and kick and scream like a toddler having a supermarket meltdown.
We love the moments when everything flows and every sentence feels pristine with jewel-like words and images. Everything is clicking into place. But we have plenty of days when that’s not going to happen.
The sentences on the page aren’t matching up with the vision in your mind. That’s usually a sign of overthinking, trying too hard, or getting too analytical instead of staying in your wild mind. (To learn more about how you can practice writing with a wild mind, read Natalie Goldberg’s book, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.)
Have a little cry if you want and then try these tips:
Put yourself in your story. Regain your connection with your plot by inhabiting scenes as you write them. Visualize yourself in a scene as you write it. Taste, touch, and smell the action. Now reveal the sensory images as you write the scene. Read more
I recently presented a memoir writing workshop. A couple times in class, I gave the students writing prompts. When I asked the students if they wanted to read their writing, almost everyone did. I was inspired by all of them. Each one had something special to say. Each piece of writing had humor and sadness and beauty.
I’m sad to say though that I saw a trend repeated in this class. Almost every student who read, qualified what they were going to read with a statement, such as:
“It’s kind of short,”
“It’s kind of long,”
It’s not very good.”
No matter how many times,I tell students, “Don’t think, just put the words down on the page,” or “the first draft is just a draft,” or, “writing is a practice,” they still feel the need to devalue their words. Read more
Learn about Margaret Atwood’s creative process in the 4-minute video below. I love her metaphor of using a rolling barrage to help you write your novel. I’ve done this and it works!
In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of joining a critique-style writing group. Another popular type of writing group is one that is focused on the writing.
Writing-Focused Group: I’ve been involved in a few writing-focused groups, where we typically write to a 20- to 30-minute timer and then read our words aloud afterwards. Sometimes, I use prompts. Sometimes, I just write whatever needs to get out of my head. A Seattle-area group is run by authors Jack Remick and Robert Ray who are advocates of the Natalie Goldberg style of free-writing. There’s something about writing with a group of people that’s magical–to sit side by side doing the work helps me stay in the flow of my words. Read more
Have you noticed lately that the world has gotten louder? I often feel overwhelmed by music and noise almost everywhere I go, from supermarkets and hair salons, to coffee shops and restaurants. And it’s not just audible noise. Information overload in general from so many sources cuts away at my focus. I confess that I have a love-hate relationship with technology.
So when I saw an interview with writer Jonathan Franzen, author of “The Corrections” (fiction winner of the 2001 National Book Award) and Freedom, I identified with his perspective about writing. He says his goal when he approaches a project is to produce a book that can stand up to the noisy culture – a book that will grab readers from all the distractions that bombard them.
To do that work, Franzen isolates himself. That means no Internet or phone at his office. Read more