Writer Wednesday: Experience Vs. Research

Someone asked me if I write what I know. For many, that would be limiting. We write what we know in some intuitive way, like people, emotions, relationships, and some places. But that’s not all we write.catacombs

Nothing adds to a story like those little details that you’ve experienced, like the slick, moist, near sickly feel of your skin on a humid day in Paris after emerging from the chilled underground of the catacombs.

The difference in squeezing the smooth texture of black sand from Punaluʻu Beach in Hawaii between your toes and walking on fine, compacted white sand of the Whitsunday Islands in Australia.

blacksandEvery beach is just a little different. Just as the light is, depending where on the planet you stand. Being there helps.

But, research is also necessary. Maybe not to describe the sand between your toes, but other important details about place. Incorporating the general details or impressions as well as the smaller, more personal elements creates a more vibrant and more relatable to readers.

Stephen King thanked his research assistant and stated he met a lot of nice people in Oklahoma where his new book, The Outsider, is set. Experience and research.

Many of us can’t fly to Darrien, Washington and spend a week or longer researching a small town setting in the pacific northwest, but we are able to view maps, read the newspaper, follow the instagram sites, ask travel groups and even call the travel bureau in any given state.wander.jpg

I love experiences – Traveling and getting lost in a new place, picking up those sensual memories to infuse into writing and future!

Experience is a great thing, but it’s not the only thing. Research back ups and fills out details we may have missed.

Where have you been that you’ve written about?

Happy Writing!

Writer Wednesday – The Mystery of Flow

Door-Into-MindIdeas come easily to some writers, not so smoothly to others.

There’s a little door to our writing mind which must always remain open and then things will flow in and out. it’s a frame of mind, to be open and to listen, or to always have writing on your mind, like a song playing in the background.

In a supermarket, the cashier says something to me. It could be an every day comment that strikes me a little strange. That (creative) door is standing ajar and a shadow is leaning against the frame when the cashier, red hair piled 50’s high, said something about “blueberry pie.” But I heard Blue Pie. My writer mind twirls within possibilities. That idea that lingered at the door-frame to my writer mind smacked right into the blue pie and it became a dog named Blue and Grandmother’s award-winning pie at a local fair in the height of the home-making 50’s.

I’m standing in the window of my little home watering plants; the catnip falls to my feet and I remember a dream I had the night before. Catnip Dreams begins whirring.doors

Enough of the bleating sirens, says an annoyed neighbor upon hearing yet another car alarm as my dog anxiously howls at the buzz. He says sirens. I hear a howl. I see ancient mermaids sitting on a rock caterwauling.

The space between our everyday life our creative brain must not close. Between kids and to-do lists, work and school, it must become a screen which catches things and holds them, even somewhat distorted, until we race to a notebook and write.

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Writer Wednesday: Napccident’s Happen

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Napccident: when a person rests their eyes

and unintentionally falls asleep. The napccident

may last anywhere from five minutes to two or more hours.

 

I read an article that stated mental and physical exhaustion are different and that those with mental exhaustion nap to re-energize. Writers are, sometimes, prone to mental exhaustion. We are excited by our writing, then we crash. Or, those days when writing is torturous, we want to crash.

Another article stated that naps are ways to procrastinate.nap

Both are true. I’ve rested to recover from a challenging writing day, and I’ve definitely taken advantage of interludes as a means of procrastination. However, when I’m excited about my project and it’s pouring out, I rarely pause. I even have a hard time sleeping at night because my mind is alive with story.

When I get stuck on a piece of writing, a plot point, a character, I use respites to help me overcome that difficulty. By being still and allowing my mind to wander within the story, the challenge is overcome.

Decide if your napccident is avoidance behavior and make it be productive for you.

In yoga, we set intentions. If you lie down or close your eyes to procrastinate, accept that behavior and set an intention to be more productive. It’s not the pressure of a goal or promise, but it’s an email to your unconscious to get back on track.

 

Happy Napccident!

 

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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.