Sometimes when it’s still dark, I unwrap from my cocoon of covers and creep downstairs to write in the dark. Mind you, it’s at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning, not 1:30. I absolutely refuse to get out of bed any earlier than 3:30. But writing in the dark affords focus when I can’t seem to find it anywhere else. I don’t turn on any lights.
When it’s dark I can’t see this:
I only see this:
That's a blurry photo of my computer screen! If you are struggling with distractions from your writing, sometimes I think it helps to clean your immediate area and face the wall. That way you don't see everything in the house that's needs to be cleaned, washed, mailed, weeded (if you happen to look out the window) or filed. It's just you and the computer screen and a wall. Happy writing!
Two minute read.
I don’t know who first said, “You can’t edit a blank page” because it’s been attributed to more people than I care to count but that’s probably because we like the truth of the statement. We like that it gives us room.
What’s more intimidating than a blank page? A blank page you’ve been staring at for fifteen minutes. I’ve been there. I took all the advice others gave to me and wrote garbage on the paper but I knew it was just garbage. I understood that you can’t edit a blank page but I felt like I was boxing in a straightjacket. I couldn’t get out of the blank page.
In my humble opinion it is usually psychological (I am not a doctor and am not advising you to do anything. I also don’t play a doctor on TV.). It’s fair to say that if you are struggling to write, you are trying to write for the wrong reasons.
As a writer you have to give up the idea of writing a NY Times Bestselling book that is turned into a movie so that you can make a million dollars and be wildly famous and happy. You must write to write as I call it. If that’s sounds kind of Zen and nebulous…it probably is. But you might find that your writer’s block is a matter of “I want to write so that I can show my dad that I am worth something.” You are writing in order to prove something or some variation of that theme. At the end of the day, you must write because that is how you must express yourself. Creation is always about your vision and bringing that vision or idea to fruition.
Writing to write means writing your very best that day, which may be terrible. Writing to write might mean writing a letter, a blog post, a condolence letter to a friend. It might mean writing down the next three index cards to plot your next book. On a good day, it might mean writing fifteen pages in a fever of production and you already know how you’re going to write tomorrow’s scene. One day is not better than the next because to have that fifteen-page day, you also have those one-paragraph days. They were both your best effort.
You need to find out what’s blocking your writing. I was in a writing class once and we traded writing assignments. I was reading my fellow student’s chapter. She wrote “I’ll write more about Charlie’s business empire here,” and then she moved on with her story. That little trick was an epiphany for me. I can’t write that right now but I’ll fill it in later and carry on with the rest of my story while I’m flowing here. She didn’t let herself be stopped with getting the job done. I’ve adopted her technique many times and have found it helpful. Once the structure is there you can go back and fill in the details.
I’m not saying to give yourself an easy out. You have to write something every day and having a goal of writing ‘x’ many pages a day is great and worked for me for years. Until it didn’t.
I was very anxious and frustrated for years and felt pressure to write a great book and people kept asking me how’s the book coming and I finally said I don’t know if I’ll ever publish this book (or in my case these books). I’m writing to create and I’m having fun. That’s when I began feeling free to write from my heart. I quit worrying about what other people would think about me.
I hope you will too.
One minute read.
Jim Fixx wrote The Complete Book of Running in 1977. Fixx is largely credited with starting America's fitness craze. Fixx quit smoking and shed 50 pounds after he started running at age 35. I read this book years ago (obviously). The one thing that stuck with me was an idea he had in there that he didn't make himself run every day. He did however, make himself put on his running shoes every day, even if he didn't intend to run. All he had to do to fulfill his commitment to himself was to lace up his running shoes.
What Fixx noticed was that after he laced up his running shoes, he frequently decided that since he had them on, he might as well go for a short run. He'd been on some of his best runs when his only promise was to lace up his shoes.
Sometimes writing is like that. I don't want to write a scene in the book I'm working on for whatever reason. I am looking around the house at everything else I need to get done. I am tired. I am antsy. My writing isn't flowing. Any excuse will do! I remember what my commitment to my writing is, and I honor that. I make myself sit down at the computer and open the scene, the page, the outline, whatever. That's it. If that's the very best I can do that day, I can still walk away feeling good about keeping my promise. Sometimes, just like Jim Fixx, I do some of my best and most effortless writing at that moment because doing the first thing sometimes leads to the next thing.
One minute read.
Goodbye Summer! September always sounds like fall with roller-skates on. It brings back memories of new school supplies, starchy plaid dresses and navy blue sweaters. The truth is, in Oklahoma we wait for October for temperatures to drop so that you might want a sweater. Our first freeze doesn't happen until early November.
I don't let the heat deter me from September walks and a few end of summer gardening chores before I sit down to write. I've always loved the change of seasons. In the garden that means planting fall crops like Swiss chard, kale, lettuce, garlic, turnips, onions and radishes. I would say carrots too but I've tried so hard to grow carrots with very poor results! Mine taste like dried soap. Any advice would be welcome!
On the writing front I have been busy learning Instagram. That sounds crazy but half the time I can't tell which menu I'm on. Please follow me @thekitchendancer and we'll learn more about current books and what's on my reading list. Happy Fall!!