Posts Tagged ‘writer’s block’

I think vending machines have a personal vendetta against me. It’s not something I noticed at a young age, but after countless incidents, I began to wonder if they were conspiring against me. 

When I was a kid, I would always make my grandpa hand over all his quarters so I could put them in the 25 cent machine. Gum balls, plastic rings, temporary tattoos, you know the drill. I was always convinced that I would get the exact color, flavor, or design that I wanted. Obviously this was not the case. Never once did I get the Barbie tattoo I so desired. Instead, I ended up with a drawer full of temporary tattoos of dragons, flames, and skulls. I was very girly, and wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than Mattel’s finest. And so began my lifelong battle against vending machines.

When I moved into my dorm last fall, I was happy to see a diverse array of vending options. There were lots of snacks, sodas, a machine with specialty drinks (Snapple, Vitamin Water, Starbucks Frappuchino, etc.) and best of all a refrigerated vending machine with yogurt, White Castle burgers, mini pizzas, muffins, and more. About a month into the school year, the refrigerated vending machine became neglected. Its supply dwindled until it was empty, and it was never refilled again for the remainder of the year.

I found solace in the regular snack machine that featured Doritos, fruit snacks, Cheetos, Skittles, and the like. Pretty much your standard snack machine. However, I quickly discovered a major flaw in this particular vending machine. I suppose it was an effort to provide more variety, but it posed a serious issue. Instead of nacho cheese Doritos being B7 and cool ranch being B8, the flavors were both in B7, alternating cool ranch and nacho cheese. I was particularly fond of the Combos. They’re delicious stuffed pretzels, with many flavor options for the filling. The nacho cheese Combos were the only ones I liked, but the machine offered cheddar cheese, pepperoni pizza, and jalapeño cheddar in addition to my beloved nacho cheese pretzel snacks. I was rarely lucky enough to find the nacho cheese Combos in the front.

Combos-Coupon

I went downstairs around midnight one night to get a snack to carry me through the rest of a research paper. I swiped my meal card once. Pepperoni pizza. I swiped my meal card again. Cheddar cheese. I swiped my card once more. Pepperoni pizza again. This was followed by another bag of cheddar cheese Combos. I swiped my card AGAIN. Jalapeño cheddar. See, I wasn’t joking when I said that vending machines conspire against me. But once the jalapeño cheddar bag fell into the bottom of the machine, where a feast was quickly accumulating, I saw the nacho cheese combos in all their glory.

Finally! I swiped my card and carefully entered A4. The spiraling arm began to release my beloved snacks… Wait. It stopped. The nacho cheese Combos dangled from the A4 slot, but they didn’t fall within my reach. This is not a joke; this is my life in a nutshell. There were people in the lobby, so I didn’t want to violently shake the machine, demanding they release my flavored pretzel snacks. I saw that a bag of cheddar cheese Combos were next in queue. I kept my cool and swiped my card again, and entered A4. My nacho cheese Combos were released, followed closely by the exceptionally repulsive cheddar cheese Combos. I opened the bottom of the machine to retrieve my snacks. I struggled to push the flap back to extract my winnings, realizing that the trough where the snacks fell was full.

I was going to make a spectacle of myself, cradling 7 bags of pretzel snacks back to my room. Should I leave them? Someone left a snack that I was fortunate enough to discover once. I was excited until I discovered that it was an oatmeal raisin cookie, no doubt abandoned in a quest for a honey bun. What choice did I have? I grabbed the snacks and tried to make a clean escape. Of course the elevator was full of people. By the time I reached the 7th floor where I lived, I had given away the bags I didn’t want and rid myself of the less desirable flavors, left only with one bag of nacho cheese Combos. This became a regular occurrence in my quest for nacho cheese goodness.


 

My first thought when I read The Daily Post’s prompt, Vending Wishes, was that I would create a vending machine that dispensed ideas. In theory, it would be groundbreaking. If you were experiencing writer’s block, all you would have to do was go to the vending machine for some inspiration.
Ideas for horror fiction in B8. Romance in F6. Crime drama in G3.
Then I remembered my struggles with vending machines.

Something would go wrong, no matter how simple it seems. I would likely spend 30 minutes in front of the idea vending machine, trying desperately to bust writer’s block and get that idea for a mind-blowing fantasy novel as I flooded the machine with unwanted ideas for comic strips, biographies, and children’s books. 

Every time I hear any promise of alleviation when it comes to writer’s block, I am immediately overcome with excitement, determined I have found the cure. Each and every time this happens, I am disappointed to find that I have not, in fact, discovered a groundbreaking tactic for overcoming the dreaded writer’s block. Some are more helpful than others, but when you find a technique that improves your writing or motivation, that’s a win in my book.

In a recent post, I explained the dynamics of writer’s block and other struggles that we, as writers, face. Well, I’m here to offer you a solution. Okay, there is no solution for writer’s block… But sitting around waiting for inspiration is for the weak! Go find inspiration, don’t wait for it to come to you. This post will help you learn to generate your own inspiration; it will give you new ideas, improve the ones you have, and eliminate the ones you don’t need.

The technique I am going to share with you all is inspired by two parts. One is a great post I stumbled upon called Squirrels and Killing My Inner Editor. Give this post a read, because it’s awesome. The writer of this post shared a tool that she found to be useful.

This wonderful tool is called Scrawl. Once you open Scrawl, you’ll be faced with a message telling you to “write something!” Scrawl encourages unfiltered writing; it allows you to set a writing timer, and if you stop typing for ___ amount of seconds, Scrawl will, ahem, redirect your attention back to your writing (read: make sure your volume is set to a level that won’t burst your eardrums.) You can also instruct Scrawl to keep you from deleting anything you’ve written. Explore the options, see what is most helpful to you.

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In writing my morning pages as Julia Cameron instructs, I have discovered how helpful unfiltered writing can be. Essentially as I’m writing, I’m just thinking out loud. I was facing a bad case of writer’s block working while working on my novel, so I turned to my morning pages. I had a conversation with the journal. I bounced ideas off of the journal. It was a huge help. Sometimes just thinking about it isn’t enough, but trying to formally organize your plot is a little too overwhelming. As you’re writing it, you will probably feel as if you’re accomplishing nothing, but give it time.

I find it most beneficial to begin with the absolute basics of your story. Start with a less details. As you ease into the part of the story that you’re stuck on, start giving more details. Every possible path the story could take, write it down. For example: your main character has just been offered a job in New York City to work for a fashion magazine. Does she give in to her controlling boyfriend’s urging and stay in rural Oklahoma? Does she break up with him and accept her dream job? If she stays in Oklahoma, will their relationship even last? If she moves to New York, will she find love in the city? Will her dream job turn out to be a nightmare, leaving her wondering why she ever left her hometown? How would each of these outcomes play out? How would they affect your story? Write it all down. It may seem redundant, but you never know what will inspire you, so try not to take shortcuts. If it would be more beneficial for you to draw instead of, or in addition to writing, I don’t see any reason why you can’t. Doodle away! Finish out your 3 daily morning pages, and then look back over them. It should look a little bit like this:

So I’m stuck figuring out where my main character, Peter Parker, is going to turn now. Now that he’s been bitten by a mutated turtle, he might not be able to run as fast as before. Maybe I should change it to a more lethal, intimidating animal. What about a raccoon? That could work. Peter gets rabies and turns into a raccoon. Hmm.. There has to be something better. If I was Mary Jane Watson, I totally wouldn’t be cool with my boyfriend turning into a raccoon. What about a spider? A radioactive spider. That’s it! Peter Parker by day, Spider-Man by night!

It doesn’t have to be neat. It doesn’t have to have correct spelling or proper punctuation. I encourage you to write in pen, so you’re not tempted to erase. Don’t over-think this! My reason for incorporating Scrawl into this post, is for those of you who would prefer to type your morning pages, as opposed to writing them in a journal. It’s up to you. Scrawl is a really useful resource regardless, don’t limit yourself to using it only for this exercise.

Side note: The website where you can find Scrawl has some other helpful tools. Know Thyself is a character building exercise; the computer asks you a series of rapid fire questions about your characters; answer as fast as you can. When you complete the questions, the website compiles a character profile from your answers. Even if you think you know your characters inside and out, it really makes you think. Try it out!


 

To anyone who has previously used these methods, or decides to try it after reading this post, let me know what you think. Is there something else that works better for you? Don’t hesitate to share! I’m sure I am not the only one who wants to collect as many tips and tricks as possible. Thanks for reading!

I imagine that many bloggers would consider themselves writers. I haven’t posted any of my real writing on here, but I suppose that writing a blog post is similar to writing a story (be it a short story, a novel, a poem, etc.)

I consider myself a writer but, as I’ve said before, it’s less than a profession but more than a hobby. However, I, like most writers, often encounter problems while writing. We’re all familiar with writer’s block. I refuse to believe there is a writer who has never experienced writer’s block. That writer does not exist.

I, myself, suffer from what I have dubbed “Flighting Idea Syndrome.” Many of you may also suffer from this debilitating disease without even knowing it. Flighting Idea Syndrome (FIS) can be characterized by the sufferer exhibiting symptoms similar to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). You can never stick with one idea for very long. Before you’ve had a chance to accomplish much of anything, a new, superior idea has infiltrated your mind. There’s no going back.

Maybe you know the feeling: You come up with a brand new idea. It’s like a present. It reminds me of the Dancin’ Debbie doll I got from my parents for Christmas when I was 6. I kept seeing Debbie on TV, and I had been begging for one of my own. I just knew I was getting it and I couldn’t wait. Then, on that fateful Christmas morning, there it was. Dancin’ Debbie in all her glory. I feverishly unwrapped the package, while I sent my mom to look for AA batteries. I finally had a Dancin’ Debbie doll. I immediately discarded the instructions and took Debbie’s assembly into my questionably capable hands. Debbie was ready to dance.

Normally, one of two things happens at this stage of the story.

Option 1Dancin’ Debbie is an immediate disappointment. I should’ve gotten the Powderpuff Girls wristwatch. Luckily my birthday is soon.
Option 2Dancin’ Debbie makes all my dreams come true. She is everything I ever dreamed of and more. 2 days later, I’m really tired of hearing Debbie say, “c’mon, lets groove!”

[Spoiler Alert: As for Dancin’ Debbie, she reached the same fate as many a toy… That’s right. Option 2. But I got a Powderpuff Girls watch and a Totally Hair Barbie for my birthday.]

Now I’ll rephrase these options in terms of writing:

Option 1: You think you have a really great idea. You sit down to write. You stare at the wall for 15 minutes, then you finally put pen to paper. You begin writing your name, surrounding it with hearts, swirls, and lots of fun doodles. Okay, obviously this is distracting. You should use your laptop. You know, your laptop. The place where Facebook lives. And Pinterest. And the most deadly distraction of them all: Netflix. After binge watching an entire season of Scandal, you’re feeling inspired. That blank page is really daunting. What was your idea again? Oh, yeah. Would you look at the time? It’s half past “you’re hungry.” Okay, you go get a hot pocket, and then you will write for 1 hour. No excuses. Should you get a ham and cheese hot pocket or should you go for meatball and mozzarella? Is that even a question? Obviously ham and cheese. Good thing it only takes a hot pocket two minutes to cook! You’re ready to start writing. Go ahead and set a timer. One hour. Yes, here we go. Yep, it’s happening. You are writing. Pens and paper and words, it’s all happening right before your very eyes. Your idea isn’t flourishing as you’d expected. Come to think of it, your idea is kind of lame. Really, though. Sigh. You finally get the mindset to sit down and do something with your life. You choose that moment to determine that your idea is actually crap. You should’ve used the two minutes your hot pocket was cooking to perfection to make sure your idea didn’t suck. And if you decided that it did, you could cook another hot pocket and come up with a better idea while that one cooks. But you didn’t. Your paper now looks like this:

the sbsp

(That’s writer’s block with a side of procrastination. Back to the drawing board.)

Option 2: There you are, minding your own business when it happens. You have an epiphany. This beautiful idea is allowing you inside its imaginative world. You’ve never seen anything like it! You begin writing feverishly. This is it. You expand on your idea, everything is falling together quite nicely. You’re already envisioning how your photo will look above the title “New York Times Best Selling Author.” All of a sudden you’re paralyzed. An idea, a brand new idea, has overtaken you. You have been taken prisoner by the new idea. You tell your old idea that you’ll write when you can, and you’re whisked away by your brand new idea. You’ve put your memories of your old idea into the darkest recesses of your mind, and you are completely smitten with your new idea. Your brand new idea loves you back, but it has this feeling that you’re not devoted to it; you’ll abandon it the second that another shiny, new idea makes its way into your sights. Sure enough, your new idea was right. Idea #2 is left broken-hearted, attending therapy sessions every other Wednesday to cope with losing you. Your idea still loves you but, emotionally, this is pretty much where you are at this point in your relationship with idea #2:

not important to huey

You decide to go online to search for new ideas to meet. IdeaMingle.com. Hmm. Maybe you’ll check this page out. Success stories, yes! Stacey, 29 writes: “My idea and I have been together for 3 years, thanks to IdeaMingle.com!” Marshall, 42 also shares his experience: “I owe everything to IdeaMingle.com! My idea and I have been together for 6 novels now. We’re even expecting a novella next month! Thanks IdeaMingle!” Your eyes grow wide with excitement, as you imagine what your own success story will look like. You and your idea on your anniversary, still very much in love, with your 2 beautiful novels. Well if Stacey and Marshall did it, so should you! You create a profile and begin browsing. Before you know it, you have 14 idea matches! You’re meeting #6 for coffee on Thursday at 5:00. #9 is taking you to see a play tomorrow night. #13 canceled on you. Schedule conflicts. But it’s okay, because you have #2, who took you out last night to wine and dine its way into your next novel.

If you haven’t figured out, this is option 2. A severe case of Flighting Idea Syndrome. You would think a lot of ideas would be great, so many to choose from, but it’s clearly stressing you out. You can’t devote your attention to one single idea; instead you’re dividing yourself between them, and now no one’s happy.

Both of these conditions are incredibly hard to overcome. Which is why I come to you all for advice. Have any of you ever dealt with either of these issues? (AKA you have or you’re a liar.) If so, comment and let me know! Tell me what helped you overcome writer’s block or FIS. Thanks for reading.

I think it’s safe to say that anyone who considers themselves a writer has dealt with two things: Writer’s block, and your ruthless inner critic.

I recently posted about my first experience with Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. The first section features a segment about what Cameron calls “The Morning Pages.” Essentially, this is a daily practice of writing three unfiltered, unedited pages of whatever you want. The point is to write without limits; not allowing yourself to look back and criticize what you’ve written. I found myself, of course, over-thinking what I was writing. Isn’t it kind of interesting that your inner critic comes out, even when you’re doing informal journaling that no one will ever lay eyes on except for you?

That’s a problem I’ve been struggling with lately; it’s somewhere between writer’s block and my inner critic. It’s not that I don’t have ideas, but I can’t bring myself to write something that I don’t think is good enough. I’ll begin, writing a couple paragraphs, then look back at what I wrote. Sigh. This sounded so much better in my head. I know all of the how-to books and tips on writing say, “just write!” It’s not as easy as they say. Sure, technically I am writing, but repeated exposure to my inner critic along with lackluster writing doesn’t seem to improve my writing the way all the writing experts say it will.

prof writer

Julia Cameron stresses the endless possibilities of the morning pages. She encourages the writer to include all of the seemingly petty, silly things floating in their mind. Getting them off your chest, and into the morning pages. It will free you; once they’re out of the way, it’s just you and your creativity. The morning pages give you the power to grant yourself the freedom to make mistakes. In the beginning, I wrote my morning pages as a stream of consciousness, but as a narrative. It could be a major production of dueling dragons, chivalrous knights, and fair maidens. It could be about an alternate theory as to how Peter Parker became Spider-Man. I like to alternate my writing setting, and the local Starbucks is one of the places that I frequent. It sounds somewhat creepy, but sometimes I would pick a person in the coffee shop and make up a story about them.
I thought that writing the morning pages as a narrative could spark an idea for a real story. I really enjoyed it, and this practice did generate some worthwhile ideas that I explored further outside of the morning pages. Occasionally I would have a bad day, and wouldn’t feel like being creative. I would just write my morning pages about what ruined my day. It became progressively less artistic, and infinitely more of an angst-filled diary. In my defense, I was around 15 years old the first time I began morning pages. Oh, the pleasantries of pages upon pages, filled with documentation of teenage melodrama. I’m sure you can understand why the morning pages, at that point, were no longer beneficial to my creative process.


 

I have progressed in Julia Cameron‘s book, and am now in the stage of “creative recovery.” She essentially encourages readers to nurture their creative self; protect it from criticism. Evaluate and dissect the appraisal; expose yourself to the constructive criticism. Assess what it is about the purely negative critique that bothers you; if you can create constructive criticism from that, then do so. If not, discard it. If it can’t help you, it serves no purpose.

I wouldn’t say I’m a pessimist, but I’m certainly not an optimist. Perhaps it’s me disguising negativity as being a realist. Whatever you want to call it, I know that I will always be somewhat critical of myself when it comes to writing. I used to be able to just retrieve that spark of passion, and write eagerly. My ideas were exciting to me, and I believed in them with every fiber of my being. I had created characters that became more than characters to me. I developed them, and they were important enough to me that they served as gasoline on flames; I wanted to write more. I loved the story, I loved the characters, and it was my duty to narrate their adventures in a way that was worthy of them. Lately, while I have been writing, it feels forced. I have no passion for what I am writing. My inner perfectionist is constantly reminding myself that what I’m doing isn’t worth being passionate about.


 

My question to all of you is this: How do you overcome your inner critic? What is it that ignites passion for what you’re writing?
This post is for all my writers!

I love when I see collaboration, sharing of ideas, offering advice and constructive criticism, and most importantly praise for a great post amongst writers. Everyone has their own unique style, and writers can learn a lot from each other. Anything that you have to share; a useful tip someone once shared with you, pass it on. A source that provides you with infinite inspiration, share it in a comment below! Also, if you have a favorite author, who is it and why? Let me know! Thank you all for reading!

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“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” -Thomas Mann

To anyone reading this blog who is a writer (more than college essays, less than Ernest Hemingway) I know you’ve been in the same boat. Sure, it’s comforting to know that even the most renowned authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling struggle with writer’s block, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant as you sit in front of a blank page waiting anxiously for something to happen. All the how-to articles tell you to “just write.” They claim that all writing is good writing (*scoffs*) and that it doesn’t matter what you write. Just begin to get the ball rolling. It’s not always that easy when you absolutely can’t think of anything. Every writer has their own technique for writing; some are highly ritualized – same time, same place on the third Wednesday of every month, while some write best in a spontaneous decision to jot down some ideas while you’re drinking a macchiato at Starbucks. Once I get going, I will be glued to my laptop for (literally) hours on end. Other days, when I just can’t muster up anything interesting, I give up after about 30 minutes (if we’re being honest, the last 20 minutes were probably spent browsing Pinterest).

It’s hard, for me anyway, to create a fool-proof formula for success with writing. I would venture to call it impossible, in fact. There isn’t a technique that will magically turn me into Charles Dickens every time I sit down at my computer. So, I come to you all for advice. What is your technique? What is the process that you go through when you have a successful (or unsuccessful) writing session? Do you have any tips that you find helpful in either busting writer’s block, or keeping you focused on your writing.

One technique that I really think helps break writer’s block is to go online and find “story starters.” You can Google it, and find them for any and all genres. They are either prompts for you to write about, or a basic thought for you to elaborate on and build your story from. (Like I said, you can find them for any genre, but here are some horror story starters.) Even if these prompts don’t serve as the premise for your next New York Times best seller, they can help you brainstorm. The prompt will inspire a new thought, and you can build and build, and before you know it you will have the premise for your next New York Times best seller.

Please don’t hesitate to post a comment telling me about your writing techniques, and tips on how you overcome the dreaded writer’s block. I’d love to hear it, so let me know! Thanks everyone!

“You just have to trust your own madness.” – Clive Barker