Category Archives: Writer’s Block

Just Take It Bird by Bird

Mentally-Exhausted-Writer-2

How do you view the world right now? For some, the world seems smaller as we weather this pandemic together. Others feel overwhelmed by a world filled with pain, suffering and conflicting information. Maybe everything that’s going on in the world right now is affecting your ability to write. If so, you are not alone.

When you quarantined at home, you celebrated having plenty of time to write. You set goals: I’m going to start writing my novel. I’m finally going to finish my novel. I’ll write a thousand words a day. Two thousand. Three. Four. Five! Chances are those lofty goals fell by the wayside leaving you in a slump.

American novelist, Ann Lamott, keeps a tiny, one-inch picture frame on her desk as a reminder to give herself short writing assignments. Viewing the world through a frame the size of a postage stamp helps her to zero in and focus on one thing at a time.

In her book Bird by Bird, Lamott shares this autobiographical story:

usps_1_0“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table, close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

Maybe today you are sitting at your kitchen table staring at your computer screen or an empty sheet of paper. Maybe you feel immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.

Stop. Breathe.

Peer through that one-inch frame. It can only hold the image of one bird. So sit down and write “bird by bird”. Just take it bird by bird by bird . . .

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Filed under Encouragement, Inspiration, motivation, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, Writing Tips

Why a Coronavirus Journal Could Make You a Better Writer

Discouraged-Writer-2The Coronavirus has taken possession of the media causing writers all over the world to say they can’t settle their thoughts enough to write. Maybe you can relate. You sit down to write a piece of fiction, but the words won’t come. That’s okay! There’s something you can do right now to improve your fiction writing in the future:

Start a Coronavirus journal.

In fiction writing, thoughts lead characters to act. Your thoughts right now are likely all over the place! But if you can organize them and work through them, you can apply  what you learn to characters in your stories and write better fiction.

Use the following questions to guide each journal entry. Dig deep with your answers. Try to get at the roots of your thoughts and feelings. Think about how you can shift negatives to positives.

What thoughts are playing through my head today? Am I facing a problem? What is it?

What emotions am I feeling? Can I identify the cause of my emotions?

What is one thing I can do today to stay grounded?

What is one thing I can do today to solve my problem or to feel better?

What is one thing I can do today to shift my negative mindset to positive?

When your head is clear of the Coronavirus, see if you can apply some of your thoughts and emotions to write great characters who your readers can connect with emotionally.

A key phrase connected with Coronavirus is “We are all in this together.” But while we are in this together, we face different battles. Some battle depression. Some fight the virus and win. Some lose the fight. Everyone’s story is different.

Journal your Coronavirus story today. Then bank it. Store it away for that time in the future when things begin to feel normal again.

mp,550x550,matte,ffffff,t.u3You will write again, and you will write well—
better than before you ever heard
the acronym CoVid-19.
Believe that!

Be well, my friends, and stay well.

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Filed under CoVid-19, Encouragement, Uncategorized, Writer's Block

Six Unusual Ways to Get Your WIP out of a Slump

2013spring-smells5Is your work in progress in a slump? Here are six techniques to help you come up with some fresh, new ideas.

1. Sniff Something! Your sense of smell connects directly to where your brain stores emotional memories. Think about smells you associate with specific events or people—your grandmother’s perfume for example, or a camping trip. Better yet, sniff things—herbs, spices, flowers, cologne. See if they evoke your own memories.

Visit some of these “smelly places” and think about how they might fit into your WIP:

fish market
antique shop
zoo
botanical garden
fertilizer aisle in a garden center
spice shop
bakery
laundromat

woman-doing-laundry-pf.jpg2. Borrow a Character’s Personality. Share this activity with a writer friend. Plan an outing where each of you take on the personality of a character in your works in progress. React and interact as your characters might. Along with having loads of fun you will get deep inside your characters’ heads and come away with a fresh perspective.

Go shopping.
Have lunch in a restaurant you haven’t been to.
Do a project together.
Take a short road trip to an unfamiliar destination without using a GPS.

CilkWChWsAA813C3. Read Fiction Outside Your Genre. Pay attention to how characters react and interact in the situations they face. While you read ask yourself:

How would the characters in my current work in progress react if they faced the same situations?

Could I borrow a situation from this book to create a plot twist in my current work?

get_smart-tv4. Watch TV shows from the 60s and 70s. Television writers from the 60s and 70s created entertaining stories with straightforward plots, interesting characters and witty dialogue. Watch shows from these decades to discover ideas for your WIP. Find these and more on YouTube and other online sources:

Gilligan’s Island
The Beverly Hillbillies
Green Acres
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Andy Griffith Show
The Twilight Zone
Get Smart

improve-your-cash-flow-by-leasing-business-equipment5. Think Like a Kid. When your plot gets complicated, your characters might act out or act addled in ways you don’t expect. It’s enough to make you threaten to delete your work in progress and start over. Stop! You might be stuck because you’re trying too hard. Get back to the basics by allowing yourself to think like a kid.

Get to the root of your plot. How might a ten-year-old describe the story?

What adjectives might an eight-year-old use to describe each of your characters?

psychologist6. Be Your Character’s Therapist. Imagine that you are a therapist and your character is your client. Work to unravel the confusion in your character’s head. Sit down with that unruly character and ask him or her to explain what he or she is feeling and why.

 

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What other methods have you used
to get your work-in-progress
out of a slump?
Please share by leaving a comment.
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and inspiration for writers.

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Filed under motivation, Uncategorized, Writer's Block