Monday, June 8, 2015

The Complexity of Writer's Block by Robin Janney

Curiosity - why cats need nine lives...
One of my strengths, which all too often doubles as a weakness, is my curiosity.

Especially when it comes to reading comments on a Facebook post.  There is so much unneeded negativity out there and people feel the need to share it.

There was one day at the end of January that I spotted a Facebook ad for 212 blog ideas for those people who get stumped coming up with an endless supply of ideas to blog about.  It was a download I had already gotten myself, and I was curious what other people were saying in the comments, what they thought of the bulky download which was prefaced by a long winded video we had to watch before we could actually get it.  This was actually a BIG mistake.

I'm not going to quote any of those nasty comments, but the general gist was that either Writer's Block doesn't exist, or if it does and you have/had it...then you're not a real writer.  And if you have trouble coming up with blog ideas, then you shouldn't have a blog.

And maybe if you don't have anything nice to say/comment...then keep your mouth shut?

See, the thing is - I know I'm a real writer, I've been writing one thing or another since the fourth grade.  And I've had my fair share of struggles with Writer's Block.  So yeah, I get a little pissy if you try telling me I'm not a real writer because I've struggled while looking at a blank page or computer screen.

I'm not an expert in any of this, I discover daily just how much of an amateur I am.  I can only tell you my story.  Because that's what I do, I'm a storyteller.

My writing largely started out in the area of fanfiction.  I remember trying to write an Airwolf story in fourth grade; talk about overly ambitious!  Although not nearly as ambitious as the Star Wars novel I wrote in high school!  Fanfiction writing continued all throughout middle school and high school, but I had tons of other story ideas that I would write down in notebooks for 'later'.  Lord only knows what happened to them!

I wrote my first novel, originally titled 'Dominions of Darkness' across the span of about six or seven years.  It took so long because in the early days I let a church friend read some of my draft and I got mixed reviews.  No one wants to hear, "It's good...BUT..."  She was right in saying I had to decide who my desired audience was, although that's not how she put it.  I eventually decided that writing for one genre was overrated, but at the time I was discouraged because I knew the story I had in my head wouldn't be considered "proper" Christian fiction, which is what I was being encouraged to write.  While I was discouraged and put it away, I worked on other projects that may yet see publication.  Obviously, I did finish my story, at least the first draft of it.  I remember writing furiously on the church computer trying to get it done before the service started.

What every writer does with the madness beating at their brains...
Even more the amateur then, I wrote "THE END" when I was done...and felt a door close.  What now?  I asked myself.  Do I submit it to publishing houses and start working on the sequel?  It needed a sequel since I had ended it as a cliffhanger.  Which one?  More than one?  As I began to look into who I could send it to, I tried working on the sequel...only to find that it wouldn't come together.  The harder I tried, the less it wanted to cooperate with me.  I even tried working on my Journey series, and that didn't help.  I just recently found those old drafts, although I haven't gone through them yet to see if there is anything I can use.

So I shelved it.  I emailed myself a copy of my draft for back up, which given how floppies are old news now it was a good thing I did.  I tried blogging, but as life distracted me more and more I did that less and less.  I ended up moving back home with my mother and company, which was interesting as I was working nigh shift and everyone else in the house was decidedly day shift.  I was tired all the time and had no interest in writing anything other than the odd poem.  And most of the time, I couldn't even whip one of those up.

There was nothing there.  No pictures.  No conversations with imaginary friends.  Not even piece of a jigsaw puzzle!  Apparently, I even wrote a poem about it, which you can read here.  Looking back now, I realize I needed to live a little and have different life experiences.  For all that I was writing my own story idea, in a sense, I was writing to please other people.  And I needed to lose that drive to please other people when it comes to my writing (although my mother's opinions still scares the living daylights outa me, but that's a different matter all together!)

I switched from part time jobs to a full time one, on night shift - which was only part of the 'always tired' problem I developed.  I had a failed romance, or what I thought was a romance at the time.  It was the most I had experienced at the time.  As I said above, I gave up my apartment and moved back in with my mother for a time.  I found true love and moved again.

Somewhere in the midst of that, I found the self confidence I needed to write without hindrances.   I'll be honest, a lot of it had to do with the unconditional acceptance I had found in the workplace and also from the man who would become my husband.  Because one day, when we had a good computer - well, good enough for me - I downloaded my story from long ago and gave it a read through.  And I thought, "You know, this is pretty good.  I don't like the ending, and some of it needs to be rewritten, but it's a good story just the same."

I sent the draft I had to a friend for a second opinion and while she was reading it, I thought, "I wonder what I can do differently...what if...???" and unwittingly reopened the dam in my head.  Images flooded my imagination like a movie on fast forward.  They were almost tripping over each other.  It was awesome, a runner's high, invincibility ran through my veins, I could write no wrong...I did, lots of typos but that's after...when the high leveled out and I had to edit.

Two books later and I find myself in a similar spot.  I have no desire to write, the images are faded at the moment anyway.  In part it it an overload of life stress...I'm only working part time, my husband not at all, both due to medical restrictions, which of course leads to financial strain (we've already had our car taken away, but not our truck because that's ours); no doctor wants to do surgery on me until I've lost weight and because I'm limited in my physical activity it has to be mainly through what I eat - which food is my drug, an addiction I have to get under control.  It's crazy I tell you!  And of course, this all contributes to depression, which in and of itself sucks creativity away like a hungry vampire.

I found several good pages of advice and quotes while searching this out.  This article with advice from other writers was a good one, with different advice from each one.  Because what works for one, might not work for another.  We are all different, unique individuals, no matter how much we all love to write.  And this article shows that we are in good company!  Fellow writers who've dealt with writer's block themselves.  While I can't always follow all this advice on "Blogger's Block", there are some good ones in here.  I mean, I can't drink coffee too late in the day anymore!  Another blogger I enjoy following and chatting with as allowed, MJ Bush did  her own article on it here.

I started this post months ago.  I started, stopped...started again, had to stop again.  Sometimes what you're writing is just being written at the wrong time.  You're brain needs to focus on something else, or it just needs to rest.  My advice, which I know from experience is hard to head, is; don't sweat it.  Writer's Block will break eventually.  Experiment with some of the advice in the articles above...go for a walk, drink a coffee, go to a party or a park and people watch...find what works for you even if it takes time.  Even Google "You should be writing" and pic an image of the actor that most inspires your romance writing!

Whatever it takes.

And never doubt that you're a real writer.  No matter what anyone tells you.

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