Caveat: On Writer’s Block and My Lenten Resolution

So if you read Slay Belle’s writing post from this past Sunday, she made public the challenge that I made in NaNo and Beyond: in the forty days of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, try to write a 50,000 word or more novel.  I’m not as picky as the real NaNoWriMo people are; if there is a novel you have been working on forever and you want to finish it, use this time to do it.  The point is that we’ve all committed to producing something and actually trying to finish it.

How did this come about?  While mulling over what to give up for Lent and discovering that I really didn’t want to do it this year for reasons which I do not care to discuss, I decided to make a resolution: to write and finish a novel draft in that amount of time.  It’s no different than someone vowing to eat better and commit to an exercise routine to try and establish healthful habits that they would maintain even after the Easter holiday.  Forty days allows time for research and outlining instead of actually just writing 50,000 words, right?

The Princesse de Lamballe. Yes, even princesses can experience writer's block!

Well, I thought so.

Then along came the familiar, yet dreaded, obstacle known as writer’s block.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been doing something and an idea pops into my head, and then I write it down to work on later.  Then when it comes to the actual execution of the idea, my mind goes blank as I sit there just staring at my open document.  Then I try to find something to inspire me, like a song or a painting, or historical people whom I want to include in my novel.  I have wasted much time picking my way through the Wikipedia tunnel when I could have been productive and gotten further in my novel.  And then there is always Facebook, or whatever is going on at PMag, or TV, or housework that I suddenly have an urgent desire to do.  The list goes on and on, and I have to virtually fight with my inner procrastinator.  And then there is my adorable cat Gemma, who likes to climb right in my lap and curl up against my laptop while I am writing.  She is one of the biggest saboteurs!

So how do I deal with all of the distractions?  Well, first I kick the cat out of my lap.  Then I keep the TV off on the nights that I don’t want TV.  As for housework?  I make a list of what I intend to do that day and stick to it.  Some things can wait a day.  And then I just sit down and try to write, even if it’s a small scene, or a character sketch, or major plot point, or simply more outlining.  It’s just another commitment: you have to set aside the time to do it, and when you do have that time, you just need to do it, even if you think it’s crap later.

So how do you deal with writer’s block?  Do you have any special things that you do, or are there certain things that distract you?  Don’t be shy!  Share with the rest of us Persephoneers!

10 replies on “Caveat: On Writer’s Block and My Lenten Resolution”

Ok, this is going to sound silly, but I don’t care. I used to write with a tiara on. Not just any tiara, the one I bought as part of my wedding outfit, with big rays of rhinestones on it. When I put it on, I was in writing mode. (It started when my hair used to fall in my face, and one day that was the closest thing I had to hold my bangs back.) If I was wearing it, I never had any problems coming up with ideas and writing them down.

It was helpful to me — I used to joke that the rays grabbed the cosmic creativity for me, but really, it just helped generate a mindset. I had my tiara, I had my computer, it was time to work. I can honestly tell you that I never suffered from writer’s block when I had it.  (Unfortunately it disappeared during a move.)

So much like Opifex’s suggest of having special pen for writer’s block moments, maybe something like the pen or the tiara will help for you.

Alternatively, in the non-froofy way, I find that doing some short writing exercises helps get things flowing.

Oh my goodness. I have done this. Not as a regular thing, but in moments of absolute frustration (usually writing related, sometimes Not Having A Good Day related) I’ve put on my wedding tiara because all the shininess and prettiness does something to my mood, for sure.

Back in art school, we used to break out the crayons when we had artist’s block (a similar disease, so the cure my also be similar). The theory behind the cure was this: If you draw with crayons for a while, your artist’s block will go away. How did we learn of this cure? We made it up.

Basically the problem was in our heads to begin with, so we gave our heads an arbitrary solution to the problem. Anything that breaks normal routine will do. The trick is, much like Dumbo with his magic feather, you must trust it to work. Sometimes this is easier to do if the solution comes from outside yourself, so here is a writers block cure from me to anyone who needs one:

Go and buy yourself a pen that you really like. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should be a little different from the ones you normally use. Store this pen some place special and only use it for writer’s block emergencies. If you use it all the time the magic will wear off, so really save it for when you need it.

I don’t really get writer’s block. I just have periods where my writing sucks…which I’m not sure is preferrable. :) March is my month to do a big rewrite of my current romance novel, so hopefully I’m in non-sucking mode. We’ll see! I’m going to work 2-3 hours a day on it and hopefully I’ll be done by the end of the month.

When I’m still in denial, I visit every website I know off. When I’m done with The Nile, I start a stare contest with my (half-)empty document. Neither works wonders and my writer’s block usually lifts near bed time but.. I’m almost at peace with it anyway.

I tried to deal with my writers’ block by working on something low key that I wouldn’t feel pressured to do perfectly (i.e. just writing something else first)–but then, instead of original work, I’ve somehow managed to churn out over 110k words of a fanfic novel and no original work since late January. :(

If any of you have any tips other than stories that are totally unpublishable that devour your brain, I’d be thrilled to hear them, haha.

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