I seldom get writer’s block anymore with regard to fiction. My problem there is just the opposite—too much writing to be done, too little time to do it.
Blog posts are another story. I am actually one of the few writers that works on her novel as a way to avoid blogging. (Novel-writing is a highly underrated tool in the procrastinator’s toolbox. Writing a novel allows you to put off unpleasant tasks for a long, long time. And if you start outlining your next project while revising the one you’re on, you can procrastinate indefinitely. Or until whatever you didn’t do suddenly precipitates a crisis, whichever comes first.)
Recently I made a commitment to myself to blog at least once a week. So here I am, about a week past this week’s self-imposed deadline, and naturally I’m thinking about writer’s block.
Writer’s block has many causes, each requiring a different treatment. Kind of like headaches; you would treat a tension headache the same way you would one caused by a brain tumor, nor apply the surgical techniques for removal of a tumor to a blunt-force trauma brain injury.
Many non-writers think of writer’s block as a lack of ideas. In my extremely unscientific research, which consisted of recalling some chats with my writing buddies, most writers have more ideas than they can use in a lifetime. It’s the nature of the beast. If, however, you are one of those writers suffering from idea deficiency, there are some simple remedies. Pick up a dictionary, flip open to a random page, and without looking put your finger on a word. Write it down. Repeat the procedure twice more. Look at your three words. There’s your writing prompt. Go write.
A more common, and more pernicious, cause of writer’s block is lack of confidence, either lack of confidence in your ability to write or lack of confidence in your ability to get published (sometimes, but not always related.) Hard to get excited about writing when you’re sure it all sucks and anyway no one’s ever going to read it. Watching a Doctor Who rerun seems like a better idea (especially if it’s a David Tennant episode.)
If the problem is a lack of confidence in your craft, the first step is to take a hard look at your writing. It might be worth it to pay for a professional critique. These are often offered at writer’s conferences, and some professional writers also do critiques on the side. (Caution: make sure the person is worth your time and money. Check credentials closely, especially if it’s someone you never heard of. But that’s a blog post of its own.)
Maybe your skills need some work. No problem. The best writers are the ones that never stop working on craft. There’s truth behind the old saying ‘if you stop getting better, you stop being good.’ There are resources out there. Join a critique group. Take some classes and workshops. Read books on craft (I suggested some titles in an earlier blog). Not only will you improve your writing, you may find a fresh breath of inspiration.
The never-gonna-get-published blues as a source of writer’s block is harder to address. Any glance at bookshelves at the nearest bookstore (they do still have bookstores somewhere, right?)will confirm that it’s not exactly a direct correlation between the quality of your writing and your ability to get a publisher to fork over an advance. Yes, there’s some great stuff being published right now. There’s also a lot of schlock, and a lot of great stuff I’ve seen from fellow writers that never finds a home with mainstream publishers.
I can only say, hang in there. The first short story you sell to a ‘zine will give you enough energy to make it to the point where you have a handful of sales. Those handful of sales will carry you through to your first anthology sale, which will keep you going until you finally sell a novel. Haven’t made your first sale yet? Hold on to the fact that it took J K Rawling something like ten years to sell the first Harry Potter book.
There is another, more complicated type of writer’s block, but this blog post(ironically, given its subject matter) is running a bit long. So in the interest of not missing another blogging deadline I’m going to save that for Writer’s Block 2: What Are You Not Saying?
BTW, my collection of three short-short stories, The Three Tunes, is free on Amazon through 6/25/13
The camera does not love me, and the antipathy is mutual. I balked at the idea that I needed a PR photo. Shouldn’t my words stand for themselves? (I suspect if I looked more like Keira Knightly, I might feel differently.) Anyway, I put the questions to friends on an online forum, expecting their support and sympathy. I got a chorus of support, all right. For the opposing position.
Resigned, I set out to figure out how and where to get the photo done. Now, let me say at the outset that if you are in this situation yourself, you probably want to follow the common wisdom and hand over some money for a professional photographer. I’ve tried that a time or two and got pictures that I didn’t completely hate. (See above re. my relationship with the camera.)
I do, however, have an amazing friend, Julia Jean Murton, who is not a professional photographer but easily could be. Julia had previously taken one of the few pictures of myself that I actually kind of like. I contemplated using that photo, but it was intended to impress a gentleman I was romantically interested in at the time, and the look says ‘come hither’, not ‘come buy my book.’
Julia also sells Mary Kay, and though she cannot apply makeup to someone under Oregon licensing laws, she is very good at telling me what to do and over the years has even managed to train me to follow directions. (Another aside, if you are in this situation and are not fortunate enough to have a fabulous friend who is also a makeup wizard, it pays to get your makeup professionally done. And let the makeup artist know that the occasion is a professional photo shoot. What works in regular daylight simply doesn’t stand up to the bright lights of a photography studio. If you check out my photo in the ‘about’ section, it looks like I’m barely wearing makeup. When I went straight from the shoot to the barn to clean stalls, the barn owner’s kid couldn’t stop laughing. In the plain light of day, I looked ready to front for a heavy metal band.)
So, we got my face painted on, we reviewed an assortment of clothes and figured out what would work (flattering but not distracting, not too formal nor too casual). Time to accessorize. Julia surveyed the selection of jewelry I had brought with me and decided that none of it was quite right (Again, what looks good and what looks good on camera can be two different things. If you are not blessed with an outstanding eye, find someone who is.), so we started digging through her boxes of bling. We ended up trying about half a dozen options. The wine-red necklace that I thought would perfectly compliment the green of my shrug was all wrong; the purple necklace she picked out that I loved but thought would clash turned out to be perfect.
So, now to find a place to take the picture. After surveying options, we decided that the one perfect place that had proper lighting was. . .the bathroom. Yep.
A black tablecloth slung over the shower curtain rod covered up the distracting bright-patterned shower curtain, and in the photo looks like the standard backdrop a professional might use. We carefully angled the chair I sat on so neither the toilet, the sink nor the towel bar were visible in the shot. We both kept on breaking into giggles at he absurdity of the situation. . .and this was even before Julia broke out the wine.
I think the wine showed up the same time as the floor lamp from the next room (because she couldn’t get the lighting right with just the skylight, the flash, and the bathroom ceiling light.) It was definitely before we lit the candles to try to warm the light. I’m not even sure how much wine I drank, because Julia kept refilling my glass. (She said she was trying to get me mellow enough that I stopped glaring at the camera. I maintain that I was not glaring at the camera. And if I was, it started it.)
It took us hours and about 70 shots (that’s photographic shots, not alcoholic shots, I hasten to add), but the final result is. . .not too bad. Julia wants me to point out that the photo was neither photoshopped nor airbrushed, and she would probably add that I am, too, pretty.
It’s a nice photo, anyway.
Writer-person is working on a blog post about PR photos. Really, PR photos are easy. You just have to be born beautiful like me.
Samhain the cat here. I absolutely did not eat her blog post, and she knows it. I only ever eat kitty crunchies, even that time she put slivers of her Thanksgiving turkey in my bowl so I had to pick them out with my teeth and drop them on the floor to get to my crunchies.
Other than the horrid slander (which I’m quite used to by now), I’m pretty pleased with my human this week. The Stolen Luck was listed by one of the reviewers over at Joyfully Jay as one of the Best Books of May.
Not bad, though I still say the book needed more cats.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Plus, there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on around planning for an indie launch of my urban fantasy, Ravensblood, and so that’s taking a bit of time. Meanwhile, I have an interview over here:
Maggie is a great interviewer so I had plenty of opportunity to go into depth about my thoughts on writing The Stolen Luck as well as a sneak peek into future projects.
And there will be a blog post soon, promise!