Tag Archives: writer’s block

My NaNoWriMo Update!

I finished my 50 000 novel. Yay! However, I clearly thought I could keep up with my novel and post regularly on this blog as well, and that… didn’t go as smoothly. But here’s a post to remind all you lovely readers that I have not forgotten you. 🙂

I learned quite a few things from writing a novel in a month (something I never doubted I could do, but still, something I’d just never done before). However, I’ll just outline two things here:

1.) It’s true you don’t have to feel inspired to write. Sit down with a pen and paper (if you’re like me and still write by hand… otherwise, sure, pull out that laptop), and write something. It might be terrible strings of words. But so often, after a couple of pages of absolutely awful prose, you put down a scene that it actually good. Something that connects with what you actually meant to be writing all along. And you can put down your pen at the end and feel good about writing after all.

Forcing yourself to write a novel in a month really drives this lesson home.

2.) Number one is still true. At the same time – every once in a while there are days where you just cannot write. I think I had only one or two days where, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get my word count for the day. There are days where your brain just doesn’t work properly for some reason.

BUT, the important thing to remember is – you can’t predict a good writing day versus a bad one ahead of time! Many days I thought would be bad turned out to be productive. So the trick is, as so many other writers have emphasized, is to just write every day. Even if those terrible, blocked days do actually exist, and make a writer’s life miserable… the good days absolutely make up for it.


By the way, my writer’s profile on the NaNoWriMo site is here, if you’re interested. Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? And if you did, did you learn anything?

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Filed under Randoms & My Life

Be Still and Write

“Many of the aspiring writers I know talk about writing more than they actually write. Instead of setting free the novel or short story or essay that is sizzling at the ends of their fingers, desperate to set fire to the world, they fret about writer’s block or about never having the time to write.”

– “The Art of Being Still

So says Silas House in the New York Times, and I am guilty of this just as much as any of the writers he talks about. It is far easier to say, at the end of the day, “I’m just so tired, I don’t have the energy to think anymore,” and then flop uselessly in front of the TV or facebook. And then complain that university keeps you far too busy to get any writing done. Instead, Silas House argues, real writers have to find a way to balance their life and their writing, to multitask so they really do get something done. And to do that, he goes on to say, writers need to develop the skill of being still inside their heads while the world is whirling on around them.

The very best writing I’ve ever done is when I’ve achieved that stillness, when I don’t tune out the world around me but absorb details of what’s going on and use them to make my story better. I find myself attempting to balance while standing up on the bus and trying to write notes on my inspiring new ideas. I get stared at in the passport office for scribbling notes for my next scene in my novel on the back of an envelope. Every detail of everyday life suddenly seems relevant, and can be turned just so to add more detail to your story, and your story just gets more filled out and life-like as a result. But I certainly don’t experience this 24/7. Far more often, writing well is difficult, and everyday life almost wipes out both opportunity and ability to write well.

But there is something to be said for being able to be still, to balance out life’s demands inside your head and focus on producing something that truly could “set fire to the world.” Stillness something we could use more of in our fast-paced world. This is something I hope to focus on getting better at, once the craziness of exam season is over.



How do you think writers can overcome the demands of everyday life and actually get some writing done?

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Filed under On Writing

Why Blog?

Typing, by harmamae

Advice for New/Old Bloggers

 Apparently the number of blogs on the net is approaching infinity – if you count everyone’s Myspace and Facebook notes and so on. Still, if that is true, why on earth am I writing another one? Or if it was your New Year’s Resolution to start one yourself, why should you bother? Here are three reasons.


Competing with Infinity:

Remembering that you are competing with infinity forces you to write. Forcing yourself to write can be a good thing. After all, if there are an infinite number of blogs out that, I’d guess ninety percent of that inifinite number are dead blogs (you can probably tell I’m not a math whiz here). People got too busy for blogging, ran out of ideas, or got discouraged when they didn’t get ten thousand visitors in a day. So let me let you in on a little secret: if you blog regularly you are already ahead of ninety percent of that infinite number of blogs. (Statistics may be debatable, but you get the idea). I’ve noticed when I’m very clear about what days I post, my stat numbers are way higher than back when I just posted randomly. So pick several days to post and stick with it.

For Those Who Want to Write:

If you’re like most of the bloggers I follow, you want to blog because you’re a writer, and you want to improve your writing skills. And I’m here to tell you, you’re right. Blogging will improve your writing skills, even if every post you turn out makes you cringe in disgust. That is because one very important skill a writer needs is discipline. Sure, you can complain about writer’s block as much as you want, but are you truly a writer if you never write a word because of it? If you have a blog you have to write something every week. Preferably something good that people will read, but just the act of making yourself write something regularly develops a writer’s discipline.

Good Post? Bad Post?

Lastly, blogging helps you realize what a bad judge you are of your own work. Some days I have terrible writer’s block and I search the web for hours just hoping to stumble across an idea. And when I churn out some kind of post, it sounds like I’m writing a highschool essay and I can’t imagine anyone would want to read it. And then when I check back the next day the post has a whole string of comments, and people are actually really interested in the topic! Then again, some posts you think are great disappear into the vortex of the internet without anyone noticing they exist. So you never know.

Don’t Forget the Followers!

But it is the audience interaction that really drives blogs. It’s thanks to my lovely readers and their insightful comments that I’ve learned so much in my first year of blogging. I cannot express my appreciation enough.


So whether you write a blog, or just like reading them, I hope you have a wonderful 2012.


Filed under On Writing

Does Writer’s Block Exist?

By photosteve101, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Lately, I’ve been coming across numerous writers who insist writer’s block doesn’t exist – it’s just an excuse for writers not to write. I can kind of see that point of view. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure writer’s block exists, because I suffered from it for five years.

“Writer’s block is a fabrication,” declares John Dufresne, in The Lie That Tells a Truth (a pretty fantastic book, if you’re into how-to-be-a-writer books). He goes on to insist writing is like any other job, and no secretary refuses to come in to work because of “secretary block.” And then comes a surprising sentence – maybe if writer’s block keeps you from writing, you never really wanted to be a writer in the first place, anyway. After all, we always make time to do the things we love.

Well-known blogger and best-selling author, Scott Berkum, agrees: “writer’s block is a sham.” He insists that no other creative profession – architects, painters, composers, etc. – complain about the pressures of coming up with something new the way we writers do.

But if writer’s block doesn’t exist, it’s the most frustrating non-existent disease I’ve ever had. But the kind I caught seems to be a strain only mildly related to the kind Dufresne and Berkum describe. They both state the defining symptom is not writing at all. But that wasn’t my problem. My problem was being unable to write anything good.

After all, when I had writer’s block I wrote three novellas (approximately 20,000 words each), and abandoned at least five manuscripts halfway through, not to mention those I started and abandoned after a page, or the short stories that went nowhere. The problem was that every word I wrote was trash. You know that lovely trance-like state you get when writing, when you can see into your characters’ heads and the words just flow right out of your pen? Yeah, that didn`t happen.

In other words, the high that had addicted me to writing in the first place had disappeared. Wow, interesting metaphor…

I used to love describing fantastic dresses. But after writer`s block struck my prose was reduced to: “She wore a red dress with a brown collar.” I used to love to make up fantasy worlds. But though I kept putting my characters in different settings, none of the worlds seemed real. The characters didn’t seem real. And if they don’t seem real to the author, there’s no way a reader will buy in.

Both Berkum and Dufresne insist that part of writer’s block is not just the fear of writing, but a fear of not writing well. A fear of failure. This I can agree with, because during those five years I was writing, but each word I squeezed out of my pen was so wrapped up in anxiety and doubt that my stories couldn’t stand up on their own. Every word on the page was painfully and laboriously extracted from my brain.

So maybe writer’s block comes in different varieties. My variety centered on a fear of writing badly – a fear of writing badly that caused me to write badly (paradoxically). To avoid this, Dufresne assures us that a good first draft is a poor draft because you haven’t taken risks. And Berkum urges, “Deliberately write badly, but write.”

And you know what? Allowing yourself to write badly helps.

If you’ve got writer’s block right now, check out The Lie That Tells a Truth, Chapter 3. There are some great suggestions in there. Or you can check out Scott Berkum’s post, “Writing Hacks, Part 1.”

Your turn  – do you think writer’s block exists?


Filed under On Writing

In It For the Long Haul (or, Facing Writer’s Block)

“Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing,” is a quote I saw online once (apparently Sylvia Plath said it). If so, then my room must reek. I’ve got shelves and shelves of the stuff, and very little published writing. On top of that, most of what’s on my shelves is unpublishable – not only is it not edited, it’s not even finished. I always hope someday I’ll get around to finishing it, but that seems less and less likely…

I’ve realized that I write to escape from reality to a world I can (somewhat) control. So when I start it’s all excitement – I get to explore this situation, this new world, or a set of characters. But then comes fear: what if I screw this idea up (when it’s such a good idea)? What if I can’t write the characters as well as they deserve, and anyone who reads this story can’t see why I’m spending ages and ages describing what this loser does? What if I can’t figure out a way to resolve the plot in a satisfying and interesting way?

As soon as fear creeps in, the desire to write becomes less and less. I put off writing the next bit until I’ve truly lost interest in the story or the characters, and wonder why it excited me so much in the first place.

Then that stack of writing goes to join all the others on the shelf.

A handful of times, I’ve gotten through the fear stage, the excitement came back, and I plowed on to the end of a story or novel. That process looks something like this:

I think I should remind myself why I like writing so much. What do you think writer’s block is? Fear, lack of confidence, or just a plain lack of ideas?


Filed under On Writing, Randoms & My Life

Stupid Decisions and This Past Year

Precisely one year ago, I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. Shoot, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but now I’m a lot more comfortable with the fact.

Last year I entered my last year of my nursing program, knowing full well that doing nursing for a career made me miserable. I had taken three years for this to sink in (mostly because nursing was such a stable career, such a useful career, and had so many opportunities). But entering fourth year, I just couldn’t deny I wasn’t made to be a nurse. I needed a much higher stress-threshold (sigh). So I dropped the program and spent a year deciding what to do next. The “next thing” ended up being me going back to school to add the credits from nursing to other credits in order to create an Arts degree. Now, this may’ve been a stupid idea. Compared to nursing, a BA graduate has poorer job prospects, likely a lower wager, and a less stable future. But Arts didn’t make me miserable, and it would be a degree either way.

So I currently am deciding on a major and am looking to a future just as blurry as last January (What’s next? An after degree? A Master’s? Some sort of job?) But I’m starting to think I was not so stupid after all. I wouldn’t say I’m one hundred percent an arts student (or a science student), but a BA does work well with me. I actually care about what I’m learning, instead of dreading it. And somewhere I got back the confidence that I’ll somehow (with God’s help), muddle through whatever mess life throws at me next.

The last reason I think I didn’t make the stupidest decision in the world? I’ve started writing again. Now I’ve been writing on and off since I got out of high school, but it’s been through and in spite of writer’s block. This December it’s been like the weight has fallen off and all the words that wouldn’t come for the past five years are spilling out all over the pages. Writing is suddenly fun again. I’d forgotten how much fun. So I can’t totally be on the wrong track if I’ve managed to flip that stupid switch in my brain to “on” now, can I? Writing has always been so much a part of who I am…


Filed under Randoms & My Life