Not Writing is Not an Option: Rethinking Writer’s Block

I’ve been under the impression that writer’s block was actually procrastination; however, someone wrote recently “whoever doesn’t believe in writer’s block has never experienced the sheer frustration it can cause.”

This, and the comments that followed, made me reconsider my position on writer’s block.

Experts state that very few people actually experience the psychological issues that cause real writer’s block. That statement, and my observations of procrastination in action, have lead me to believe that most people who say they suffer from writer’s block aren’t actually suffering from deep mental disturbances but of more common problems that plague us all – distractions.

However, the advice this person received caused me to pause:

“Drink heavily.”

“Don’t force yourself to write, it’ll come.”

These seemed the least helpful. While I know there’s a stereotype that follows artists and writers – the best ones suffer, and suffer from addiction in many forms. I doubt very seriously whether getting drunk will help the person. And, if you don’t write at all, how will anything come?

Other advice went something like this:

“Just write.”

To which one person wrote a long response about the ridiculousness of this answer. I, however, disagree. When asked by my students “what if you get stuck on a part?” I answered, I go on to a different part, or I write something else. I usually have more than one project going at the same time. I know some writers don’t do this, and I understand their reasoning. At this point, it works for me.

“Go for a walk, do yoga, meditate.”

This is actually pretty good advice. Studies show going for a walk or exercise in any form can feed creativity. Yoga is meant to calm the energy in the body so one can focus and/or meditate.

Others said, “listen to music” or “write a character study.”

This could help. While writing one novel, I listened to blues and jazz to help me give the character depth and personality.

Finally, someone asked the person who’d posted they had writer’s block and needed a solution: “What’s bothering you?”

Now, that’s a damn good question. Most of my writer’s procrastination comes when some thing is bothering me.

The person’s answer was different than I expected.

“I can’t make the story go where I want it to go.”

OOOOHHHHH!

This is a whole different type of problem. I learned writing in two ways. One method was to write a formulaic story with beginning, middle, and the end in mind. Use an outline and stick to it. And I can do this. But it’s no fun for me. The second way I learned was to just write and see where the story wants to go or needs to go. Most of my writing comes this way. It’s natural, it’s organic, it’s unforced; maybe that’s why it flows.

Think of how much power water has. Human-made streams run over their banks, create their own pathways; in one way or another, they defy the path man made. Think of how much concrete and lead it takes to build a retaining wall to create a dam, and still they must have holes or release valves. How many still end up crumbling, breaking, or overflowing?

That’s what writing should be.

Ideas and words should flow. Let them live. Trust them. Trust yourself.

If they are dammed up, forced into an unreasonable plot or direction, then I can understand that type of writer’s block.

The advice offered for that was: “write the end, and work backward,” and “move on to another scene.”

This should probably work if the plot of the story is strong and the elements are all in place. However, the person maybe be stuck because a needed plot point is absent.

Before any solutions can be offered, the type of “block” the writer is facing must be addressed.  Is it really, “I’m stuck,” or is it “I’m distracted”? If there’s a phone in front of you, and facebook, twitter, or your blog open while you’re writing – that’s probably writer’s distraction. If the writer is stuck at a plot point, at a character arc, I’d suggest to meditate on it, sleep with it, think about it until it works itself out, but I also suggest skip ahead, write another scene, write that scene/character you tell yourself you’ll never use.

See – it’s still writing. NOT WRITING IS NOT AN OPTION. No one ever got better at something by NOT doing it. No one ever finished a project by not doing it. No one ever became successful by stopping what they were doing.

 

 

Best advice for new writers?

READ!

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Seems pretty commonsense, right?  I don’t understand when students or writers say they don’t read.

I think it’s common knowledge that reading helps you gain knowledge. Some of the most intelligent and sensitive people I know are not (or not only) college graduates, but are readers.

One faculty member said, how do writers who don’t read know what came before them. If you’re a writer, you should know who and what came before you. Whether or not you agree with them, like them, admire them, writers needs to be aware of the talent, the styles, the accepted and the outcasts who made literature what it is today.

One writer said – it ruins her style to read other writers.  What is her style and how did she come up with idea of style if she hasn’t read other writers?

Numerous articles and books cite findings and research that state readers are more empathetic, understand human motivations, reactions, and emotions, than non-readers. How do you write an authentic character not having an understanding of these basic things?

Intelligence – so many people like to cite those people who didn’t finish college. (I did another blog about this.) But they read! They worked! They learned their craft prior to becoming successful.

We read not only for these things, but to form our own opinions, to be able to think critically about the world around us, to continue to grow and understand the world around us.

I mean, yeah, definitely, you can stay stuck in your little narrow world. Good luck with that. With the world of self-publishing, you can still publish something and call yourself a writer, too.

BUT – what have you learned? what can you pass on?

Our purpose lies in more than publishing and calling ourselves writers. Our purpose is to spread knowledge, add to the conversation of literature, to become better people than we are so we can positively affect others.

Have you heard that old saying, “Hard work won’t kill you, but why take chances”?

Well, a good book won’t kill ya, take the plunge.

BTW – Author Interview – Leonard Foster took time to interview me for his blog. Thanks, Leonard!

 

 

A True Halloween Creeper Story

There was a challenge today in one of the writing groups to write 1000 word flash fiction Halloween story. This is a true story. It happened a few years ago. (It was written in an hour – so it’s not perfect)

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A True Halloween Creeper Story

 

Syd and I spent Halloween jogging in the rain. Our neighborhood doesn’t receive many trick-or-treaters, so this gives us a chance to see kids in costumes making their rounds. Sometimes the costumes scare Sydney; while dogs get the whole idea of doing crazy things for treats, they’re a little uncertain of masks and make up.

There are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood, which makes running difficult because of the social factor. The neighbors with friendly dogs stop and chat. So, toward the end, it’s more walk than run for us.

As I slow toward my own block, I run into Dan with his dog. Dan has a newfoundland; if the dog stood on his hindlegs, he’d be over six feet tall. A strong, powerful rescue dog, Dan said. “In case I ever need rescuing,” he joked.

“Where’s your wife?” The rain slowed to a sprinkle.

“Work trip. She’ll be gone til Saturday.”

“I didn’t realize her job required travel.” I’ve never seen one of them without the other. They walk their dog through our neighborhood on a regular basis.

Dan shrugs. “Yeah, once in a while.” His dog pulls him forward, and he yanks back. I smell the alcohol on his breath as he yells, “heel!”

Syd’s half the size of his dog, but the same color. She turns to look at him, even as his dog ignores him.

“What are you doing tonight?” Dan asks.

“Hiding from the kids. I didn’t buy candy.”  I laugh.

“Oh, yeah,” he says as if he forgot it was Halloween. “You can hide at my house if you want. I have beers.”

I laugh again. “No. I wouldn’t want your wife, or anyone else for that matter, to get the wrong impression.”

He shrugs and almost loses his balance. It becomes apparent, he’s had more drinks than I first assumed.

“It doesn’t matter. She’s used to it. I do photography in my spare time.”

I don’t know Dan or his wife that well. I only know them from our run-ins when walking the dogs, a few moments spent here or there chatting.

“You’re a photographer, right?”

I shake my head, “No, just pictures of flowers once in a while.”

“Yeah, I can see that. I see you covered in flowers.” His eyes shine as the last sprinkles of rain hit the ground and he pauses to look at me.

“Uhm, excuse me?”

“I photograph women, models. I’d like to photograph you.” He gets that half smirk that I’ve seen on men in bars when I was younger. A last ditch sales pitch that’s sure to hit. They, like he, doesn’t realize how incredibly silly they look. Dan’s older, he’s heavier. He has the appearance of someone who indulges in too much of everything except self-care. His skin is ruddy, hair unbrushed.

“No.” I say. There’s another block before my house and he’s heading the same direction. I hope another neighbor comes out to say hello.

“It would be strictly professional,” he slurs. “I’ve photographed hundreds of women, thousands. I used to run a website.”

“A website?”  He told me before he worked for the city; he’d retired early. I hadn’t believed that at the time, but didn’t care. Much like I don’t care about this conversation and I’d rather get to my warm, dry house and give Syd a treat.

He leans in, the scent of alcohol billows in front of us. “I don’t tell many people; it’s not something to be talked about in pleasant company.” He half laugh, half grunts.

I fall back a step, lean over to adjust my shoe laces. Maybe he’ll keep walking. When he stops and waits, I ask, “Does your wife know about the website and the photography?”

He shrugs again. The dog yanks at him and he yells louder than before. “Freaking, g’damnit, heel!” The giant, near panda bear, turns his head, seems to snub him, and pushes forward with less force.

Sydney slows down, lowers her ears, then she stays by my side as we start walking again.

“You know, I told my wife, it doesn’t really matter if we’re married or not. I mean, she could take one house, I could take the other. You know? Who stays married anymore, right?”

I see another neighbor, Jenny, coming toward us; I wave madly. She’s jogging with her little terrier, Fritzie. I hope she’ll stop, talk; I think, if she does, I’ll walk in the opposite direction with her.

“Hi, Jen!” I say loudly. She’s wearing her earbuds under her hoodie and I’m not sure she can hear me.

She waves, picks up Fritz and quickens her pace around us. I imagine she’s afraid of Dan’s dog. But when I see her sideways glance, I wonder if it’s more Dan that freaks out her. Suddenly, more things make sense.

“I could do the pictures very tastefully.” He half chuckles. “It’ll only be me; what are you afraid of?”

I decide to take the clear, hard line with him. “Well, I have children, and I’m a teacher. I’d be afraid to compromise my ethics and lose my job.”

We’re just a house from mine. I cut across my neighbor’s and my own lawn. The misty night has left my skin damp, but it’s him who makes my skin crawl.

“Well, if you know any young girls….” he calls behind me.

“I’ll be sure to warn them away from you!” I call back. Once in the house, I see him pause at the end of the drive, probably trying to make sense of what I said. I lock the door, turn out the lights, and give Syd treats; then we sit in the dark to watch someone a little less creepy, like Michael Meyers.

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October

Is one of my favorite months!

We have Halloween. Libras. And, this year, the 168th anniversary of Poe’s death. This is not necessarily a good reason to like October, but it is part of what makes October so memorable.

Edgar_Allan_Poe_daguerreotype_cropSo… 168 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe visited some friends at a pub, saw a doctor who suggested he not travel, then boarded a train, forgetting his trunk, mistakenly with the Doctor’s cane, to pick up his “dear Mother,” Maria Clemm. She was to come and live with him and his new fiance, Elmira Royster Shelton.

The rest, we know, is surrounded in mystery. I was interviewed in June regarding my thoughts of what happened. Thank you to the members of Super News Live.

 

 

Another reason to be excited about October – REaDLips has released a short story of mine. $1.00 Stories. They called it a “chilling” story. Well, you’ll have to be the judge of that.1story

Available on e-book:    

Or soft cover:

Cris is an author who’s lost his magic touch. He meets a homeless man who might have the inspiration he needs.

But what happens is anything but magic or inspirational.

Random facts stalkers don’t know…

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I grew up in a tough neighborhood. (don’t stereotype me)

I was in a band. (for about 5 minutes)

I was in a few movies. (another 5 minutes)

I wrote my first “novel”at the age of 11. (an angst ridden piece about a girl who is kidnapped because she witnessed a crime)

I was actually kidnapped. (not at 11/that story is waiting for publication)

I always have wanted to own a Munster-like house.

I’ve gotten lost in every major city I’ve ever been (including abroad. Trust me when I say every country/every city has neighborhoods you don’t want to be lost in at dusk)

I keep a lot of random facts as well as insignificant details in my brain. (jokes don’t stick tho)

now the stalkers know – don’t be a stalker….

Writing Wishes and Publication Dreams

I’ve been working on a new story – not only working – OBSESSED!  I don’t think I left the house for most of January and part of February until the first draft was done. I’m currently working through it again and again.  I’ve begun to gather my beta readers, and I’m quite excited.

Weekly, I spend time submitting. This is what a working writer does. Writes and submits. Rejections are no fun, and I get plenty of them. I read one statistic that read, “a writer gets an average of 26 rejections for every acceptance.” Not sure how they came up with that… I feel like it’s three times that much; however, things change!

Malcolm Gladwell, estimates it takes 10,000 hours to master any one thing. I feel like I should have reached those hours long ago; but, maybe, it takes some of us a little longer to get it. (That’s the story of my life!)

So – I have to update you.

My poem, “All At Once”, was a finalist in Medusa’s Laugh NanoText Contest. I didn’t win, but it’s still to be published in their anthology and in an e-book version. This should be available soon!

My poem, “I’ve Never Looked So Beautiful” has just been accepted by Mother’s Always Write. Before you start thinking I’m quite full of myself – the poem is about my lovely daughter! This should be available in the next month.

My story, “How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party” has been accepted by The Oleander Review. Sometimes, I write something and I think, this is pretty damn good, and I think this story says a lot about our humanity. I’m so happy that it will be published. It will be available mid-April

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, Writer Advice has just notified me that my story, “Memorial Day Death Watch”, has been chosen as a finalist in their Flash Memoir Contest!

We must have a purpose – I’ve always wanted to reach people, tell them they’re not alone. I think I’m just beginning to do that.

Live an Inspired Life!

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Free Audiobook!

Hello, Beautiful People!

I want to give away free copies of West End, now on audible.com!

Comment here or on my facebook page with a positive affirmation and the hashtag #hope.

A winner will be chosen at random in the next few days!

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One young women’s struggle against hopelessness and madness.

Reviews:

A great story about the cards we are dealt with in life and the choices these characters made with their less than desirable hands. Not all choices made are popular, but at least understandable. And our nameless protagonist shows us the consequences of apathy, and letting life make choices for you. There are no heroes in this story, just the author for showing us how a place like West End does not have to be a dead end.
Noreen Lace creates such wonderful and beautiful scenery for the reader. It really transports us to that moment and time. The most enjoyable feature of her writing would be the continuous awareness of the beauty and joy found in the simple things in life. This was an easy and enjoyable read.
UPDATE: There has been a winner. Thank you and enjoy!