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?

Identifying Writer’s Block – and Resolving It

One of the fun things about where we stayed on St. Thomas was watching the cruise ships glide by in the mornings and evenings. Extraordinary how these small sailing cites come and go.

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Okay: Writer’s Block.

So, those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time might be surprised by today’s topic. I’ll be up front: I have never believed that Writer’s Block is a real thing. In fact, I had to create the label for it just now. I’m a big believer that habit and ritual will get words down. I’ve always thought that Writer’s Block was more about angsting over the process – and maybe a bit of resistance towards just doing the work – than anything real.

And then I hit it.

I didn’t even know what it was.

See, what happened was, last Friday I got my developmental edits on Platinum. They’re not bad – Editor Deb Nemeth is excellent at her job: specific, clear, good insights. I even wrote a post last week about how she pushes me to write difficult scenes. She also asked me to layer in more detail about the setting in Charleston, SC, and my heroine’s daily life owning an art gallery.

Several of my friends joked that I clearly needed to take a tax-deductible research trip to Charleston. I laughed.

Now, I’ve been to Charleston a few times, but not since, um, maybe ten years ago? And I’ve shopped in art galleries there. I have friends who own small businesses that sell to the public, but they’re more coffee shops and bookstores. But hey, I’m the queen of networking, right? So I set to finding someone to talk to.

I hit wall after wall after wall. Nobody answered their phones or responded to the messages I left. The one gallery owner I talked to, from Santa Fe, was very weird to me. The Charleston Chamber of Commerce interactive marketing director advised me on how to look up galleries on their website.

It was all very weird.

I tried to work on the edits and got nowhere. The layering thing bothered me. I kept Googling, placing calls, asking my email loops.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

So, at lunch on Wednesday, I was whining expressing my frustration to David and he said something was clearly in my way. That I was blocked for some reason. “Normally,” he said, “you just do stuff like it’s no problem. You’re doing something wrong here.”

As soon as he said it, it all made sense. It described precisely how I felt: Blocked. Nothing was flowing as it should. Nothing was going my way on this.

“I think you should just go to Charleston,” he said.

And I laughed, like I’d laughed before. I started to tell him how I didn’t have the time or the money for such an extravagant move. Then it occurred to me that I’d just been told I needed to fly to Providence, RI on June 3, for the day job. That’s at least the correct side of the country. I checked into the plane tickets and I could fly to Charleston on Friday, spend the weekend and be in Providence by Monday morning.

So, that’s what I’m doing.

I’ll tell you what – as soon as I bought that ticket, everything started flowing again. People returned my messages, I started revising happily and easily. Bluebirds perched on my desk and sang sweet songs of joy.

I don’t know why I have to go to Charleston, but it’s clear I do.

I don’t recommend this method for resolving all Writer’s Blocks, but I think the lesson here is to listen to yourself. When you feel blocked at every turn, there’s a message in that. Sometimes the answer is to do that thing you think can’t be done.

It might open all the doors.