One Cure for Writer’s Block

Jackson 7_7_13Jackson will take treats from my hand like this. He puts his paws on me to steady himself, then plucks the shrimp, or ham, or turkey, or salmon, or beef, or really any kind of meat at all, with his teeth. I’ve never had a cat that would do like this before.

David says I was talking in my sleep a lot last night. That should come as no surprise, since I’m getting heavily back into drafting this novel. The big fantasy novels seem to do it to me much more than the shorter, erotic romance works. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe because it’s more complex storytelling. Maybe because I’m constructing an entire world along with the story itself.

At any rate, it makes me aware of how much my mind works on this kind of thing. I also find I begrudge distractions more. It’s like I already have so many conversations going on in my head that I can’t bear to listen to any new ones. At times like this I understand the writers who lock themselves away in a cabin for a few weeks or a month, to focus only on the book. I try to keep my life as normal as possible, evenly moving along, but sometimes I envy that model.

Quiet is just so crucial.

A few weeks ago, I flew to Ohio to meet up with some CPs and go to a conference. It was a fairly long flight there – about 3 hours – and I happily found a window seat to ensconce myself in. I exchanged hello’s with the gal on the aisle and set about staging my supplies for the flight. I knew the week ahead would be busy enough that I wouldn’t get tons of writing work done and I hoped for some solid writing time during the flight. As the plane filled, another gal took the middle seat. She and the woman on the aisle kept going after the initial greetings. And going. And going.

I even tweeted, before they shut the plane doors, that I really hoped they wouldn’t talk the entire flight.

They did.

Non-stop.

Some helpful Tweeters predicted this and suggested I go for ear buds early. Fortunately I could. I plugged in the music, opened my laptop and worked away. Every now and again – like when I removed my ear buds to talk to the flight attendant about what lovely drink she could bring me – I became aware that the conversation continued apace.

No, I have no idea what they found to talk about for that long.

But they had gone from total strangers to BFFs within minutes. At the end of the flight, once they stood, they reverted to strangers, as airline passengers do. We all wait, sitting, standing, half-stooped because the overhead bins are in the way, not making eye contact, pretending we aren’t Hugely Impatient to get off the stinking plane already. They went their separate ways without another word.

The new found connection was apparently just to pass the time.

I notice that, the deeper into creating I am, the less I want to talk. It’s like I have energy for the one thing or the other. I think that’s worth exploring. I rarely have good advice when people ask me about solving writer’s block or increasing productivity or enhancing creativity, but there’s something.

Try talking less.

It might feel weird at first. Maybe lonely. Maybe TOO quiet. But I do believe that, once you create that silence in your mind, other things will come to fill it.

Ideas.

Images.

Stories and characters and worlds.

Shh…

Hear that?

Tweets for the Sweet

So, I caved.

I’m doing the Twitter thing.

I know, I know — all of you out there are either scoffing that I’m late to the game or stubbornly reaffirming in your heads that you are NOT going to do it.

That always seems to be my place in the pack. I’m never the first kid on the block to have the new thing. But neither am I the one who holds out forever.

I’m a third wave kind of gal, apparently.

So far it’s pretty fun, now that I’m getting the rhythm of it. It’s a bit lonelier than Facebook, because people don’t seem to respond as much. My tweets go out into the world, often to vaporize to indifference. Or passing interest. Hard to tell which.

And this could be just be me. After all, I’m not that fascinating.

I did get a bit of response to my tweeted pic above. (So pleased I figured out how to do it!) But as mediocre as my camera photos are, my Blackberry camera ones are apparently worse. I kept this one small, to minimize the fuzziness. Are there workshops on taking good camera phone pics??

At any rate, this was part of my Connecticut series of tweets. I’m thinking of them like paintings. Or a serial story. On the way in I tweeted about the really need video-poster ads that scatter like rose petals when you wave your hands at it, then coalesce again. On my return flight, however, I was on a different airline, American, which is apparently low dog enough to be relegated to the “B” terminal in Hartford. As in “B” movie.
All the shops and restaurants outside of security were closed, temporarily or permanently — and this at 4:30 in the afternoon. Security was a wasteland, with this very odd Gorey-style guy who held out his hand for my boarding pass at the magnetic arch, never looked at it, but gave me the hairy eyeball and didn’t step back for me to pass. I half expected him to grope me as I sidled past him.
The above pic shows my one option for sustenance. Not pretty. The couple of people who replied to my tweet enthusiastically endorsed sticking to a wine-only meal.
It was fun to have the conversation about it. Which is what this is all about: exchange. Even if it’s about airport trauma.
However, many people, I’ve noticed, are more interested in sending than receiving. Another symptom of our culture, that people seem to want to talk more than they want to listen.
I have one writer-friend who started Twitter quite a while ago. And started a blog, to build an audience for her new book. I supported her by “following” her blog. And by commenting on her tweets that went to Facebook.
I can’t help but notice that she hasn’t returned the favor.
I try not to let it bother me, but I do notice. And I really notice which authors respond to my responses to their tweets. Who is interested in engaging with me and who, it feels like, holds me as beneath their notice.
It colors how I feel. One author who replies to me? I just bought five of her books to catch up on the series. Another who has never once acknowledged me? I’m losing enthusiasm.
A professor from college once told me that I was an unusual student because I took information and gave back interesting things from it. I was surprised that he told me a lot of students don’t do this. To me, it’s a crucial part of engaging with the world.
No one can read everything that’s out there. Respond to everything. I firmly believe in the meritocracy of all these forms of communication: say interesting things and you’ll be deserving of listeners.
But do be sure to let people know that you’re listening.