When You Get Stuck…

All right Citizens of Blogland. We need to have a talk.

“About what?” You ask. Surely you’ve done nothing wrong. And indeed you have not. Mostly I will be talking at you about what’s been happening to me and my writing this past week. Remember I said I would have a Craft Discussion up late last week? That never arrived. Also, I usually have a post up outlining what will happen in the blog late Sunday or Monday. This also never happened.

I have neglected you, dear blogizens. And for that apologize. Let me tell you why, and I promise it all comes full circle into both a look into my daily life, and our Craft Discussion. Even if it is a bit late.

So, I went to that workshop I wrote about. It was productive and fun. I got to enjoy a great Thai meal at a restaurant called the Thai Basil in downtown Phoenix (I highly recommend it for those of you in the neighborhood) and had the chance to listen to Patrick Michael Finn read an excerpt of one of his short stories in his new book. Look him up, he’s a great writer and a wonderful person.

That’s all fine and good. So what happened in the interim for all of this to implode?

National Novel Writers Month. I think.

In general I burned out. I’d spent so much time with my story and its characters that I lost sight of everything. I felt trapped by my own story and its world and events, so I rebelled. I stopped writing. I still thought about it constantly, and outlined like no other (thank you Scrivener!), but not a single scene or line of dialogue was created after Friday the fourth. I didn’t even write a blog. I wrote NOTHING. And watch what happened to me as a person.

I stopped listening to Grunge music, which was working as fuel for character and world building. I started listening to Panic! At the Disco and Snow Patrol. Even a little Sufjan Stevens. This, I think was both helpful and detrimental- I’ll come to that later.

I can’t tell you what book I read last or when. I haven’t read a book all semester. And that’s a sad state of affairs. Why do we write? Because we’re avid readers that have more than active imaginations and want to make people feel like our favorite authors make us feel. Reading is inspiration. It makes us better writers. So why on Earth did I stop? I was afraid that if I read while I wrote, my writing wouldn’t sound like me any more, it’d sound like Kevin Brooks, or Charlaine Harris, or Cormac McCarthy. I was afraid to read because I was afraid to write. A vicious and crippling circle.

I began to avoid my novel. It had become work. It wasn’t fun. It was something I felt I had to do. And it depressed me. I felt pent up, anxious, quick tempered, and on the verge of tears at any moment. I felt wrong.

So, how do you solve this problem? Because it happens to all writers eventually. Someone, I can’t remember who, said, “A poem is an affair, a short story a relationship, and a novel a marriage.” I take this to mean that it won’t always be rainbows and butterflies with occasional Unicorns while writing my novel. We’re going to fight, and go to bed angry. And have to compromise. Yes, I’m talking about my novel here. The Honeymoon’s over and now I have to make the marriage work. It’s about commitment.  The long haul of writing.

So, now you know it’s a commitment. What else can you do to overcome the barricade that is the post-Honeymoon stage, when the initial inspiration and fire have died? What do you do to keep the marriage alive?

1. READ! Today a book was released, maybe some of you have already bought it. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn novel outside of the Trilogy: The Alloy of Law. It’s shorter than the other novels in the series, only 325 pages, and it’s the first thing I’ve really been excited to read all semester. I can’t wait to dig into it! When your inspiration dies, maybe it’s because you haven’t been reading enough. It’s what inspired you in the first place, right?

2. Listen to the music that inspires you (if you’re a writer who finds music inspirational). I woke up this morning with Temple of the Dog’s “All Night Thing” stuck in my head. I knew it was time to return to the music that had helped create Kevin’s world. I feel much better today for having listened to it.

3. Commiserate. In Novel Writing today we were supposed to have a guest speaker, but something went wrong. So instead we talked about where we were at in our novels. How we felt about it. And what we wanted to get out of the class. What we would feel successful with. I was honest about how I felt the novel was a pile of steaming doodoo, and that I was feeling completely down trodden. Turns out pretty much everyone was feeling the same way. We talked about why we felt that way, and ways to make ourselves feel better. Just talking with other writers worked wonders! So if you’re feeling alone and like your work isn’t worth a dime, talk to other writers. Get a community going with writer friends where you meet up or communicate online so that you always have someone to bounce thoughts off of.

4. Take a Break. Sometimes, you really have spent to much time with your work. Step back, do something fun. For instance, listening to other music reminded me of who I am, and helped divide the line between me and my characters. Read books for fun, not to analyze them for elements of writing. Play video games (if that’s what you’re in to). Skyrim comes out tomorrow night, and while my day off Friday is dedicated to typing up my story, Sunday will be all about vegging out with some major RPG action.

I feel better today. Not 100%, but better. I know that my novel’s worth working on. That I am a good writer. But I also know that it’s work. It’s fun, but it’s work. I’m optimistic about writing again, but not ridiculously so. I can do it and that’s all that matters.

Thanks Bloggies,

Brittany

 

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One thought on “When You Get Stuck…

  1. Marc Schuster says:

    Great advice! It’s so easy to get so wrapped up in a writing project that we lose all perspective — and taking a break, as you suggest in point #4, is a way to regain it.

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