The Writers' Loop

For Readers and Writers


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Lose Your Muse?

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

Did you ever lose your muse?  Get caught without a thought?august 30 039

Some folks contend that writer’s block is just a myth. They believe that it’s just an excuse for doing something else, like watching the Super Bowl.  Others consider writer’s block a form of laziness, and offer a reproachful “Get over it.”

I don’t think it’s a myth because two weeks ago I looked it in the eye when it raised its ugly head.  Believe me, I mean ugly.  I was completing the latest revision of my manuscript, working nonstop to meet a self-imposed deadline.  I was so close. It was going along beautifully and then the Earth caved in under my feet.  The laptop beckoned, my characters cried for help, and the deadline loomed. But the spirit was not willing and the flesh was indeed weak.  Maybe I had pushed too hard and didn’t take enough breaks, but approaching the manuscript incited all the dread of a root canal.  There really should be a 911 extension for writing emergencies.

Whatever my problem was–writer’s block, prose woes, wits on the fritz, motivation vacation–it passed in a couple of days.  The cure?  Probably taking my nose off the grindstone and giving it a rest.  During that time, my characters continued their chatter in my head, giving me new ideas and insights. I scribbled on the backs of receipts, napkins, unopened mail, anything paper-ish, whenever caught without my trusty notebook.  My unscheduled break proved to be restorative and productive, although I usually don’t suggest disrupting writing routines.

Myth or not, there’s a plethora of writer’s block websites, books, suggestions, cures, software, and yes, there’s an app for that.  There are online plot and story line idea generators to help “break the block,” complete with help for settings, characters, dramatic entrances, dialogue, endings, and even for killing characters.  A Googgle search will lead you to interactive writing games to get your creative juices flowing, and various interactive text generators to provide poems, character names, titles, and even Shakespearean sonnets.

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The Center for Writing Studies at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers a treasure trove of writing resources, including some valuable writer’s block strategies such as:

Taking notes: Jot down ideas and phrases as they occur to you. Free yourself from paragraphs and sentences for the moment… before you forget them.

Freewriting/Brainstorming

Piecework: Sometimes, starting at the beginning induces Perfect Draft Syndrome. It may be easier to get started if you approach the task sideways. If you’ve got a plan for the article or manual, choose a section from the middle or a point you know well and start there. Then do another section.

What I Really Mean Is (WIRMI): When you’re stuck in a quagmire trying to find the perfect phrase, switch to What I Really Mean Is and just say it the way you think it. Once you know what you mean, it is easier to refine the phrasing.

Satisficing (satisfy + suffice): You “satisfice” when you take the first reasonable solution instead of searching endlessly for just the right word or sentence. If you’re unhappy with the choice, you can bracket it and promise yourself you’ll fix it later.

Find the complete strategies for overcoming writer’s block and other writing tips at:  http://www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/tips/writersblock/

writers block

Carrie Visintainer of the Huffington Post offers “10 Simple Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block.”

“…try a writing exercise…take the pressure off…set realistic expectations…change location…stop when the going’s good…commit to Internet-free time…switch to another project… take a break…”

 You can read her article based on these and more suggestions at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carrie-visintainer/

 

 

If you’re looking for solutions to specific writer’s block symptoms,  check out the Perdue University Writing Lab’s  at: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/567/01/)

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MAY THE MUSE BE WITH YOU

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Hitting the Writer’s Wall

By Peggy Morehouse

One day after running in yet another 5k, you decide you’re bored. You need a bigger challenge.

Maybe a half marathon?

Nah.  Half is never quite satisfying enough for me. A half a bowl of ice cream. A half a cup of coffee. A half-dozen roses. Half just leaves one yearning for more. So, you pick a really cool city and decide to run in its full marathon the following year. You find a group to train with. You log your progress. You rise early each morning and jog, jog, jog through heat and cold and rain.

After several months of focusing on your goal, you’ve finally arrived at the big event where you’ll dash 26 miles to the finish line.  Crowds will cheer, bands will play, beer will be poured, food will be served, and it’s all just for you. Then bam! Somewhere around the 20th mile you hit the wall. Your foot stops mid-air, but somehow manages to land on the ground. You can’t take another step. You wonder if limping across the finish line counts or if your medal will be denied. You wonder why you wanted to run in this stupid race anyway. You look around for one of those water stations that also hands out gel packs and a pep talk. It’s in sight, but your leg is cramping. You want to pull out your cell, call for a ride, and head to the beach. Your leg never cramps at the beach.

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I’ve never run in a full marathon although I know several people who have. They all have a story about hitting the wall when they’re so close to finishing. Almost implausible after all that training, but I get it because I’ve hit the writing wall with my novel. I’ve spent two years with these characters on the Big Island of Hawaii and I’m tired. Tired of getting up at 4:00 a.m. to get my writing in before work. Like Bruce Springsteen sings in Dancing in the Dark, “I’m sick of sitting ’round here trying to write this book.”  I find myself leaving my laptop and looking out the window wondering what else is going on in the great big world.

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But like the marathon runner who hits the wall at the 20th mile, I must break through. I’m on chapter twenty-two of my final re-write and it’s due to my editor on December 15. Am I really going to give up now to explore what’s on the other side of that window? For a bit of motivation, I looked up what one of my favorite authors, Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Edges, etc.) does when she hits the writing wall:

“Whenever I kind of have writer’s block, I don’t let myself stop writing, but I’ll back away and kind of approach things differently, like those old-fashioned college-writing-class exercises.”

Flynn went on to say that she wrote the beginning of Amy’s popular cool girl rant in Gone Girl to propel her out of a bad case of writer’s block. She also uses grilled cheese sandwiches to encourage her to the finish line. And, it seems like most marathon runners somehow manage to find the edge that makes them put one foot in front of the other until they can finally say, “The end.”

2013 Chevron Houston Marathon

Yay! they made it past mile 20!

Well, okay. Close the blog. Bring on the grilled cheese sandwich. I’m off to chapter twenty-three.

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