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Posts Tagged ‘writers block’

Everything in life that’s worth doing is just so much work. Why can’t it be almost as easy as not doing it? It takes work, determination, little fails and setbacks, and pushing on, to achieve your goals.

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Why Does the Climb Up Feel Longer Than the Fall Down?

a k a My Stories Are Rejecting Me.

by L V Gaudet

You want to be fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and feel better. It’s so good for you; your mind, body, and soul. But by all that is unholy, holy, and otherwise, in this world… why is it so hard? Why is exercising so exhausting and muscle aching instead of invigorating? Why is counting calories such a time goblin? Why is life so much easier and enjoyable scarfing down sweet or salty snack bliss, having drinks, lounging about watching shows, movies, or whatever else rocks your viewing boat, and generally feeding your mind and body’s whims? Why should cutting back leave you feeling hungry, tired, and bleh?

The secret to this, of course, is that you are retraining yourself; mind, body, and soul. You may not realize it, but that retraining alone is mentally and emotionally exhausting, and that translates to the physical. It will get easier. In time. And I am saying this despite feeling like a failure this morning. A hungry, achy, tired, emotionally and mentally drained vampire victim who looked miserably down at the scale and silently repeated the mantra, “Baby steps. Baby steps. Baby steps. It takes time.”

Why? Because this is week two down of our self-imposed torture challenge of 31 days of working towards healthier us. “Sober October”, if you recall, which is about 31 days of sobering cutbacks and kick-it-ups in the name of self- punishment, ahem, love, and coming out feeling and looking better. We are at the halfway point and I’m feeling the burn of setback after the 3.2 lbs loss in the first week (with using weight machines three times!) AND hit the second week plateau of losing only 0.6 of a pound with the only exercise being the treadmill and elliptical machines. Really. 0.6 of a pound. What amounts to a good poop. Maybe not even a good one. Maybe just a mediocre one. If only I could have pooped before weighing myself first thing after a pee and before the shower and coffee. I could have doubled that weight loss! FYI, I am committed also to only a once-a-week, same bat date same bat time (oops, that is an old reference some of you might catch) weighing in because the body naturally fluctuates weight day to day, and even between times of day. And because the weight machines thing. Itty bitty muscle bit ways more than large globs of fat and all.

Even knowing this week two plateau is completely normal and to keep going means it will pass, it’s still frustrating. It’s not a fail, but just part of the process. Knowing that doesn’t change what you feel or make your feelings any less legitimate. Make yourself feel pretty and keep trying.

“You are boring me with the ‘I’m exercising and dieting and I hate it’ pity party. What does this have to do with writing?”

Yeah, I know that’s what you are saying, even if only in your head. Read on.

My stories are rejecting me. How is that even a thing?

That’s like self rejection. Wow. Can they even do that?

The reality is that everything you do, from getting fit to learning something new, takes work. Doing nothing is easy. That also goes for writing.

If you’ve been following me, then you know that I’ve been struggling myself with writer’s block since March 19, 2020.

For some of us, writing is that identity we hold near and dear, what makes us truly feel who we are. For some it’s their main, or only, outlet to express themselves, vent, or otherwise have that release others get from talking to close friends.

You sit down and want to write, but your mind just won’t go there. An invisible abyss stretches, impossibly vast and seemingly nonexistent at the same time, between your wish to write and the story so tantalizingly near yet far. You feel for all the world like the story itself is refusing you, rejecting you. This is where I’m sitting, whether it’s tackling one of many novel or short story WIPs, or trying to start something new. Even efforts to think about writing craft tips, techniques, and the million things that help improve your writing and story are a blank empty nothing. A vagueness that is there but out of reach. Like the whispers almost heard in the darkness and that illusive perceived motion in your peripheral vision that is gone when you turn to look.

But really it is you who are rejecting yourself, shutting down. Out of fear the inspiration will fail you. That your writing will fail to bring the story alive. For other reasons you may not even see or recognize. Maybe it’s because of your perception the people closes to you don’t care about or support your needs and desires to write. Whatever the cause, it’s self-deprecating and self-sabotage.

How I’ve been tackling the writer’s block (confession).

If you’ve been following me you might also remember some of the advice I’ve given on getting past writer’s block.

Those suggestions do work. They are effective. The crux of it is that not one of them works every time or for everyone. It’s playing the trial and error game of finding out which methods work for you, and what worked last time might not work this time.

I’ve thought about the various ways to break the vicious cycle of writer’s block. What has or has not worked for me personally in the past. The one thing that usually works for me is editing. Yeah, I’m not a fan of editing either. But, it both is a necessary evil of being a writer, your work must be edited until you want to strangle Editing and never edit again, and for me almost always results in the creative juices flowing again.

Now the confession. You have to actually get past OPENING the story file. I’ve thought about the ways to get past the writer’s block. I’ve even made some half-hearted attempts to start a new story, since the 1000s of WIPs weren’t ‘speaking’ to me. I have gone so far a few times as actually opening one of the primary WIPs I most want to finish. I’ve gently castigated myself for my failure. The reality is I haven’t really tried. Not really.

Not because I don’t want to, or through depression, which can be absolutely debilitating. It’s really just life. Commitments. Time. And feeling like, “What if I get into it, the flow starts, and just as the ideas start coming I have to stop and lose it?” My biggest enemies are that nasty goblin, Time, and not really feeling the urge like I should.

The job that pays the bills, family, household, and the four-legged hairy beasts take up the majority of my time. These are musts on the higher end of the priority scale. There’s the volunteering with the Manitoba Writer’s Guild that takes time, and with proofreading for the Horror Writers’ Association newsletter, which takes less time. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for pursuing writing, or the extra time to break that nasty little writer’s block.

A small measure of success.

Writing these blog posts in the hope of helping others a little these couple of weeks is a small measure of success. It seems that putting my mind to others is the key driver this time against the inability to focus on writing or editing. They are small commitments that take longer than one might expect, especially with the constant interruptions and distractions. Again, repeat the mantra, “Baby steps. Baby steps. Baby steps. It takes time.”

And it does take time. Writing and editing can come in baby steps in between everything else. Sometimes that’s just what you need to do. I’ve written this short article over three days. Some have taken me all week. But just doing this is writing. It is feeding that wicked and fickle muse. With luck I can translate this to managing some time to focus on the fiction writing, my writing goal.

I will speak again of another success. Soon. It’s not huge by any stretch, but in Writers’ World it is something. I’ve already made the announcement on other social media platforms, so you may have seen it. I’m repeating it again and again because that’s self-promotion. You will be sick of seeing it if you are not already.

NaNoWriMo is coming!

Another reason to break the ugly no-writing cycle. I’ve had great success in past years, not recently though. I keep wishing and hoping, but Time just isn’t in it with me.

Are you planning yet? It’s only a few weeks away, the November challenge of 50,000 words written in 30 days. Not so bad when you think about it as 1667 words per day. Some pre-planning your story helps. I’ve got zero on that. Not even an inkling of an idea of a story. Not having time to commit to it the past few years doesn’t help spur the creativity and eagerness for NaNo. The past few years, and this one again, I’m on the fence about whether to try. More fallen off then fence than on it. But still in the past couple years I broke down and made a semi-conscious, mostly non-attempt.

I wish you great success if you are taking the challenge.

Time management is key.

I know. We’ve all heard the many Time Management tropes from so many sources and for so many purposes. But it can be the make or break of everything. Nothing happens without the time to do it.

I need to improve my time management if I hope to turn a few random rambling blog posts into serious get-that-novel (and short stories)-done writing.

Not only is time management a skill, it’s learnable, improvable, and can help in every part of your life, including your well-being. As a writer, writing is part of that well-being, so it’s a double fix for us.

I plan to think about how I can make my time management better. Perhaps we can come together and share our ideas on it, what worked and didn’t work for us. Better time management means feeling less out of control, less rushed, and more enabled to do what you want to do. This is an exercise I hope to have success with, enough to feel like I’m actually writing more than the occasional blog post.


Keep writing, my friends. One word, one sentence, at a time.

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Why must we torture ourselves so?

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

So, we committed ourselves to a self-imposed challenge we are calling “Sober October”. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

It’s about as dreadful as it sounds and we are one week into it.

While the title implies it’s all about the boozing, that’s only part of the package. We have been drinking too much too, among other things this past year plus. This self-imposed torture is about what some might call “Self Love”.

Sober October is committing to 31 days of “sobering” cutbacks and kick-it-ups. Thirty-one days of self- punishment, ahem, love, with a cheat day allowed for Thanksgiving, only because it’s Thanksgiving (Even if Covid means limiting family gatherings. But hey, pumpkin and apple pies, right? You don’t need a houseful of people for apple pie!) but not going all out crazy that day.

Thirty-one gruesome days of watching calories, eating healthier, eating smaller portions, zero alcohol, zero snacking, except for the Thanksgiving cheat, exercising daily at home and/or hitting the gym (or nearly daily, we fail at daily) – basically sucking all enjoyment out of life.

Before Covid shut down the gyms a year and a half ago we went on a semi-regular basis. I did walking exercise at least two to three times a week. Since they shut down I continued regular almost daily walking exercise at home and we did occasional long hikes. So you wouldn’t think it would be such a stretch to do the walking exercise most days with the gym at least half the days.

A week in and I feel more tired, more achy, weaker, and hungry more.

Even now, after a banana for breakfast and a hot coffee at my side, my achy legs are hating me for telling them as soon as I finish posting this it’s time to get walking. And I need to do an extra walk to make up for working through lunch on the job that pays the bills yesterday and missing my noon walking.

Got to get ‘er done to get on with the cleaning house and walking the dogs (One at a time because they are arseholes walking together, yay dogs.), before exercising again, showering, picking up the kid from work, and supper.

Maybe by the end of the month it will have given me some new fodder for dark stories of depravity.

Be good to yourself and keep writing my friends.

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Sometimes life just gets in the way of our promises we make to ourselves and to others.

At times life just makes us suck, right? We make promises we’ll do something and then before you know it time has passed and it didn’t happen. Of course, we can’t just put all the blame on outside sources, Old Man Time, Mother Nature, demands on us for work, family, and friends, or the wickedness of surreal time and memory lapses causing time to pass quickly or drag endlessly while we forget some things while focusing too much on others.

Ultimately we are in control of our own actions and lack of them. We own how much actual effort we put into meeting those deadlines, self-imposed or not. And in keeping promises we made whether they are to ourselves or others.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Maybe you just overreached what you can manage. Good intentions and all that.

And life does constantly throw up little roadblocks, bumps in the road, and a thousand mini obstacles.

Still, we have to reflect on ourselves and look inward, but with the same compassion and understanding we hope others will give to us, and that we must give to others because we strive to be good people.

A promise to both myself and you to commit to weekly blog posts. One I am still failing on at the moment. It is a surprisingly large time commitment when your time is stretched. But, ultimately, I own the fail on that.

Committing to self-care, that term floated to you that often seems intangible. As illusive as that hint of motion caught in the corner of your eye that is gone when you turn to look.

A promise to myself, and perhaps to my all of three fans, if they truly exist outside the realm of fiction, to finish some of the endless WIPs taking up disk space and eating away at my guilty subconscious for neglecting them, stories waiting to be told. To write new stories. To have some of these shorts published and finish the novel length works so they too can be released upon the world with all their pervading darkness. Another fail, but a wish not abandoned entirely.

March 19, 2020, my first day working remotely due to Covid. Today is October, the start of the best month for us writers of horror and everything dark. This is one year and almost 6 1/2 months of ultimate fail to my writer self, failing to write, to feel that energizing driven inspiration. The crossing of that 1 1/2 year mark of writing rut that began on that very strange feeling day when it seemed I was in my own insidious dark story of a world gone upside down where the down below became our world.

Am I alone in feeling a little down, a little like I lost myself, for not being able to be embraced by that feeling of being swallowed into the heart and bowels of a story I am writing? I don’t think so.

Am I alone in feeling like life just keeps ponderously moving along second by second by minute by hour oblivious to my wants? Certainly not.

A lot of us find ourselves in exactly this spot and it will happen multiple times in your life. Sometimes it lasts longer than other times.

I actually started writing this post yesterday, what should be a quick knock off of a few words, on October 1st. Intended to post it yesterday. But life happens.

As a simple necessity, the job that pays the bills always takes priority over everything else in life, and takes up the majority of your waking hours. The needs of the household and family take the second priority.

Your partner. Your kids need help or just attention. Groceries, cleaning, meals, and a million other mundane life duties. Right now there is a massive mound of washed laundry in the process of being folded next to me and the vacuum is waiting to take a turn right after washing everyone’s dishes and the general clutter of a household.

Somewhere in there you try to fit in five minutes, ten, twenty; you hit the jackpot at thirty minutes of writing time. But that’s okay.

Allow yourself the courage to push through the niggling little things getting in the way, the dramas large and small, chores, day jobs, and the time goblins, all seemingly conspiring to suck away any writing time. Your life is the sum of all of its parts. Embrace it.

Our attempts at training the Big Dumb Bunny have so far failed. The first of two kids started university and the first student loan application was denied on the assumption we should I guess borrow the money ourselves to pay for it. Still, an interest free and payment free until graduation loan beats anything we could get, assuming we have enough equity to get the loan, and then more loan when the second kid starts university. Between school, work, and boxing, you’d barely know she lives here. The second kid got her first job and is learning to drive. Meanwhile the bus schedules have her walking or relying on us to drive her to not be 45 minutes early or 15 minutes or more late for work. We are trying harder at self care, something as parents we neglect too much.

These are barely a drop on top of the day to day with each of us in our own little worlds that sporadically merge one with another a few hours a day while we all live under the same roof. And here I am giving that time to you with this random rambling.

Mom! Mom! Mom! Pay attentionz to mee!

When I can’t break out those precious moments for a little writing time, I may feel a bit sorry for myself, but it’s still just one part of everything that is my world and overall it’s not a bad world. It’s worth embracing.

So when you feel like it’s been forever since you could get that time to do what you really want, embrace it all and take greater pleasure in those moments when they do come.

And now Roxy, aka the Big Dumb Bunny, is demanding my undivided attention.

Here’s to hoping I can post again in the next month.

Be good to yourself and keep writing my friends.

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Or, more accurately, did you even notice I was gone?

Photo by Jasmina Rojko on Unsplash

No, this isn’t one of those feel sorry for me deals. Those are so cliché and overdone, aren’t they?

I’m more of a realist than that. With the world going a little more down that dark twisted path of an angst horror story each day, its contradictive every person for their self strongly political egotistical self-righteous “only I’m right” political grandstanding and apocalyptic “nature is trying to kill us” story plots at times clashing like a badly written narrative, I half expect each one of you and everyone else to be swallowed up in that darkness, along with me.

The weirdness is even more striking with that overall story thread of mundane normalcy casting its deceptive veil over reality. Or is the mundane the reality and the rest the waking nightmare our narrator is playing us with?

Life goes on.

March 12th, 2020 Manitoba officially reported it’s first cases of Covid-19 as a stunned populace watched the progressing news story in stunned disbelief.

The stories coming out of places like Italy were staggering. Heart wrenching. Hidiously unreal. People singing to each other from their imprisonment in their homes creating a surreal uplifting moment in a lockdown where people stole food to survive with their world in a complete lockdown, and stories of care homes with the elderly and infirm left abandoned by the hundreds, dead and dying in filth, stink, and overrun with insects, rodents, excrement, and rotting waste, a plotline straight out of a fictional apocalypse story.

March 20th, 2020 Manitoba declared a state of emergency, and the lockdown began April 1st with the ordered closure of all non-essential businesses, as if there truly is such a thing when that income feeds and homes people reliant on it.

People cried out that it’s all fake. It’s not real. It’s made up to control us. (Have you read Orson Welles 1984?)

With a sinking feeling of what was as yet unknown to come, it all feeling utterly unreal and entirely fabricated, two days before the announcement, our office was shut down at the end of the day and everyone sent to work from home. March 19th, 2020 I began the odd journey of mostly self-isolation.

Ill prepared schools, teachers, and students scrambled with schools being shuttered to move thousands of kids practically overnight to online learning from home.

Businesses shuttered, mass numbers of people suddenly became unemployed with no job prospects, people were forbidden seeing or touching friends, family, and other loved ones. There was an eventual run on animal shelters by people seeking companionship. Unscrupulous people bought up mass quantities of basic staples: cleaning and sanitizing products, and toilet paper of all things, leaving none for others, those jerks!

Masses of people voraciously embraced new home projects and hobbies with the audacity of assuming everyone had the endless time and financial resources to do the same. By the way, this is also just one of the things that happened during the 1918 “Spanish” flu pandemic (called the “Spanish flu” then much in the same vein as some call Covid-19 the “China virus” now, only there was zero evidence of any Spanish origins to the 1918 flu.) that is being mimicked during Covid-19 today. People then also embraced anything to push away the boredom of quarantine, weird and self-destructive cures, false political wins became more important than protecting people, and people embraced conspiracy theories.

And with all this, for many, life felt relatively untouched. All the horror was distant, someone else’s story.

Interspersed with this has been a nonstop eclectic list of political farces, dramas, and atrocities. The never-ending inhumanities of war in countries that long ago forgot how to exist without war. And the planet seems bent on annihilating us all like a bad case of lice, throwing nonstop global destruction at is in the form of storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, pandemics and other too common and weirdly new illnesses, and unprecedented fires, heatwaves, flooding, and droughts with the apparently requisite grasshopper pestilence to decimate what little will grow. And don’t forget the Murder Hornets. We will never forget the Murder Hornets.

Seriously, who is writing this stuff? Is it any wonder it all feels like a far away unreal story to so many? Is it any wonder anyone in your world may have seemed to have just checked out?

And yet our mundane lives go on. Strangely normal and untouched for many while billions suffer just beyond the reach of our little enclosed lives.

We have to eat, sleep, work, volunteer, deal with the dramas of family and friends, raise our children, and pick burs out of our dogs’ ears. We have birthdays and anniversaries, teenagers being teenagers, kids being kids, and partners who we love to be around but sometimes need a break from. We get lonely for the friends we wish we had, miss the ones we do, and watch in sick fascination the train-wreck relationships among us.

And our life goes on, mundane and unchanged for many of us.

The surreal ugly of the world can be a depressing place. If it doesn’t depress you, it can still envelope you in the morose sense of the pain endured by others. Shocking headline after headline. Social media filled with sympathies for others’ suffering and castigations of failures to offer sympathies for that author’s righteous cause. It is impossible to offer sympathies to every pain and loss, and offering daily generic all-encompassing sympathies lacks the merit of sincerity.

And finally, you have been asking where is this going? Nowhere. Like everything else it is going nowhere. Our mundane round and round of daily life, for many sheltered from the reality of others. From the reality of their neighbors.

All during this world and local news unravels in a daily horror story that leaves many screaming to be felt and heard in the most ingloriously strange ways, embracing things they never would have before, some becoming increasingly hostile to anyone not sharing their voices. Many embracing what feels ludicrous in the face of what is happening locally and globally.

As much as I’d like to pinpoint for each week why is has been almost a month since my last post, more than a month since posting something that involved actual writing, the truth of it is that mundane round and round life. The daily commitments of work, volunteering, and family. Teenagers being teenagers, the partner you love to be around but sometimes need a break from, being lonely for the friends we wish we had and missing the ones we do. Picking burs out of Roxy, the #BigDumbBunny’s, ears and between her toes. Watching with that dulled dissociation and disappointment the train-wrecks that some among us have become. The fact that there just is not enough time to fit it all in and so sometimes something must give.

Unfortunately reality holds that by necessity the job that pays the bill takes priority over all else in your life. After that comes the needs of family, pets, and others you care about in your life. Home and house. And finally at the end of the day, behind everything else is you. Writing is for me. It’s my passion. It does not benefit anyone in my immediate world, and so that puts it last after all else.

Over the past five weeks, among other things, we had our first training session with an experienced and qualified dog trainer to try to fix Roxy (and us, because dog training is as much about fixing you as it is the dog). The air conditioner quit during the heat wave. We discovered a nice walking trail close by, an hour round trip walk where we can go partially woodsy deer trail or all grassy field, whichever strikes our interest.

And today we celebrate my nephew and his wife, married in 2019, but she finally now managed to immigrate to Canada.

My attempt to write a simple blog post weekly, large or small, helpful or not, in depth or mediocre ramble, has proven to be an incredible challenge. As in it is very challenging. To find the moments to write even in bits and spurts of a few minutes at a time. To edit it. To be creative.

I went into this knowing I would fail at times to pull it off every week. Heck, I barely managed to edit this at all, so bear with any mistakes and let’s just call this a “rough draft” published publicly.

And today’s random rambling lesson is this:

Don’t let those times when your desires, your driven passion that is what you want to do, gets pushed to the back and, frankly, shoved right off that backburner (cliché, yeah, bring it!) onto the floor behind the stove get you down.

Our world has fallen down a dark abyss of strangeness that belongs in an episode of The Twighlight Zone. Expect to be derailed.

Just because you couldn’t do it for a while, days, weeks, months, or even years, that does not mean you have to call it quit or abandoned. It’s not even a setback, really. It’s just life.

It is way too easy to let yourself slip into that daily drudgery and not make yourself get back at it. Not let yourself get back at it.

Don’t let those times quit you from what you love. Get back to it. Embrace it. Yes, you may feel morose, neglected, rejected, defeated, given up, and a whole of of other negative feelings at times while you quietly yearn to be able to do what you have a passion for, like writing. Life doesn’t care about what you want. It moves on around you, oblivious to you.

It’s up to you to embrace the good. The people you care about and the things that give you joy.

My writing has suffered since March 2019, but it is not forgotten. The passion and drive wanes and flutters back to life, but it will not die. Don’t let yours die either. It is never too late to reclaim your passion.

Be good to yourself and keep writing my friends.

P.s. This was not intended to be a Covid life rant, but the fingers will go on the keyboard as they will sometimes.

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The end of April is quickly sneaking up on us and May is around the corner. A new month is a good time to plan a new writing challenge. Right?

Photo by x ) on Unsplash

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER:

Challenge Yourself

by L V Gaudet

Sometimes breaking past that barrier preventing you from writing is as simple as putting your mind to it.

I know what you are going to say.

“But I have been doing that! And now all I have is a headache from banging my head on the table. (Or desk, keyboard, wall, etc.)”

And when I say “simple” it does not mean easy. It’s more of a deceptively seems simple, but can still be an insurmountable mountain of doom.

Regardless of its cause, breaking past that barrier preventing you from having the ability to write is a mental challenge. It’s emotional, a mental crutch. It boils down to somewhere inside you something is telling you that you cannot do it.

For some, challenging themselves can break down that invisible wall.

Make that challenge something new. The same old isn’t working, right? Let’s explore a few possible challenges.

Make it a job. Take the passion out of it.

Yeah, but writing is a passionate endeavor. We live, breath, and exist through writing in the heat of the moment when the words are pouring out as if of their own volition. They have a life of their own through that passion we embrace them with.

But, for this exercise, you are going to approach your writing with a dry calculated businesslike manner. It’s a chore, but not the nasty sort like cleaning the toilets or picking up the dog poop. Make it a routine chore. Something that must be done which you have no particular feelings about good or bad. Like emptying the dishwasher or putting groceries away; making your bed or dusting.

Instead of tackling that article, story, poem, or book that you want to finish or start, write something dry and businesslike.

Try committing yourself to writing a weekly blog post. Or bi-weekly if time doesn’t allow a weekly one. It doesn’t have to be long. You can target 300 or 500 words and see where it goes from there. It can be about anything, literally. And you don’t ever have to publish it.

Explore different facets of writing. Character or scene development. Character archetypes, plotting vs. pantsing, what makes different genres different, and so on.

The best way to fold towels. Maybe you just can’t bring yourself to write about writing, or don’t feel you know enough about it to write about it, so write about something else, anything else. Write about how something works, how you do something, why you like or dislike something. Fly fishing, wine making, knitting, 3D printing, or another hobby. Something you are learning. Heck, it might even help you remember it better or learn more about it. Write a recipe blog of your favorite recipes. Keep in mind recipes also fall under copyright laws, so you would need to give credit where it’s due or write an original recipe you made up yourself.

Starting and never finishing.

That’s the problem? You start the writing piece, but just can’t finish it?

Let’s take your mind off the writing you are struggling with by making a project out of starting and not finishing. It’s okay, because that’s the whole point of this challenge.

Every day, every two days, maybe three… challenge yourself to write a beginning and only the beginning. Whether it’s articles, poems, or stories, it can even be a mash of them, your goal is to just write starts.

I know some people who pick a month each year to challenge themselves to daily starts. The idea is like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where you commit yourself to writing 50,000 words in 30 days in November.

In this case, you are not tied to a minimum word count. Rather, you are tied to coming up with an idea and writing the start of a writing piece each day. It can be a single sentence, a paragraph, or go as far as it takes you, but each day you must start a new one. You might even end up with a few pages of writing some days. However you contrive to come up with the ideas, your goal and only goal is to start each one, a new one each day, and then put it aside.

Going back to finishing those starts can be a project for another time. I know people who have successfully finished and published some of their starts after the challenge.

Drabbles. Dribbles and drabbles, dabbles of writing.

First, what is a “drabble”? No, this isn’t an Urban Dictionary thing. “Drabble” is another term for micro fiction.

Simply put, a drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly 100 words long, not including the title. It is the ultimate challenge in brevity. Can you write something interesting and meaningful in only 100 words?

I’m a fan of encouraging writers to challenge themselves to writing flash stories. Usually, coined as “flash fiction”, but who says it has to be fiction, right? Keeping it short, but trying to write a complete ‘story’, challenges you to tighten your writing like nothing else.

Whether you are writing dribbles (50 words), drabbles, (100 words), 55 word nano fiction, flash fiction (1,000 words or less, but often requested at 500 words, sometimes 300 or less), or dabbling on a napkin, the goal is the same: make is short and sweet and feel complete.

Can you do it? How many drabbles, dribbles, nanos, flashes, or other dabbles in extreme short writing can you do over the next two weeks, three weeks, or 30 days? Can you write a single stanza poem?

The goal is to take your mind completely off what you are failing to write and turn it onto a fun and completely irrelevant game of extreme short writing challenges.

How random is that character?

This challenge is great for those, like me, who have struggled with creating characters. You can have a great story, plot, write fabulous scenes, and awe inspiring descriptions of the events taking place, but your characters can fall flat.

The first and most important rule in creating a character is they must be believable. Okay, unless it’s satire. In that case the unbelievable and insanely weird rules. Heck, even in fiction it’s okay to blur the lines and push the boundaries, but there still needs to be something about the character the reader can invest in, believe in, and feel an affinity to the character.

And if you want your characters and stories to have that little extra something, make every character real no matter how main or insignificant they are. When I write, I mentally create characters with their own lives even for the bit players. You stop at the coffee shop. Did you give even the smallest thought to that person serving you the coffee as a person? Or are they just as inanimate as the counter to you?

In the real world, every person you encounter, however briefly, has a backstory. They have a personality, quirks, needs, problems, wishes, and probably would very much like it if you smiled, thanked them, and told them to have a great day.

In this challenge, you are going to create random characters.

How many? Let’s say twenty-five. You can change the number, of course.

Now, let’s randomize their details.

Heads or tails, odds or evens: flip a coin. Heads = female, tails = male. Roll a die. Odd = male, even = female.

Use a random number generator, 0 to 110, to determine the character’s age. Adjust the number range to choose their weight and height, keeping in mind that a 7 foot, 300 lb, infant might not be human. So, that might actually change their species. Ogre maybe?

Make some lists, tear them up, and put them in the proverbial hat. You will probably want to use a few (bags are useful). For example, you need to choose their housing, family, and job situations in addition to personality and physical specifications. List every one you can think of: traits, mannerisms, emotional scarring or lack of, jobs, hobbies, desires, allergies or lack of, ailments, disabilities, types of housing or lack of, socio-economic background, single or not, family living and not, and anything and everything that can potentially go into a person’s physical, mental, and emotional makeup as well as their situation. Are they destitute with nothing but the clothes on their back or have more money than they can possibly spend in a hundred lifetimes, or where on the spectrum?

To add a little something to your character profile you can use this random character generator. It’s weird, but that adds to the fun.

Stuck on names? Use a random name generator. I like the Behind the Names one. You can even choose to allow it to generate a life story for you, male or female, and nationalities. The life story is very basic. It gives you age and birthdate, height, weight, left or right-handed, and blood type. It even gives you the date, age, and cause of death, but no real life story details.

Here is another character generator. This one has random generators for personalities, cause of death, sexuality, and more. Even a dating profile for your character.

So there you go. Create and write twenty-five random character profiles. Fill in the dry details and then actually sit down and write that character. Describe them. Feel them. Be them for a drabble or dribble of getting across who they are.

You can toss your characters after or file them away for when you need to throw a random bit character in the mix of your story.

Dial up the dialogue.

Even more difficult than creating characters, I could not write dialogue to save my life. The idea of writing it terrified me. How stupid it will sound. Forced. I can’t even talk to people let alone write brilliant, sane, and authentic story dialogue. It took me a lot of practice, and I mean a stupid lot, before I actually allowed dialogue to permeate my stories.

I even wrote an entire novel with almost nonexistent dialogue. Yeah. All action, no talk. Great if your characters are all mute, but how believable is that? And they weren’t all mutes or trapped in a situation where they could not talk. I could write a flash fiction of an event or scene, but could not add dialogue. That story, by the way, I completely rewrote after years of working on improving my writing and has been published. First by Second Wind Publishing, then under the imprint Indigo Sea Press, and now it’s all my own baby and the first of the McAllister series: Where the Bodies Are.

In this challenge, you are going to write dialogue. It doesn’t have to be good; it just has to be.

Let’s call this the “30: 30: 30 Dialogue Challenge”. Thirty days, thirty random characters (you can reuse them more than once), and thirty situations. No two dialogue days are the same. Now who is your character talking to? Well, it can be another character or multiple characters in the scene, pet, inanimate object, mirror, their self, anything goes. But it’s dialogue.

Set your scene. Where are they and what is happening?

Set your characters in the scene, living or not; your character and who or what they are communicating with.

Get inside your character. You are the character. Live the moment, feel it, what they are thinking and feeling as if it is happening to you, and go.

30 scenes of dialogue, 30 unique situations, 30 writing bits of one or more characters. You never have to publish it, include it in a story, or let anyone see it. This is all for you.

How do you feel about your ability to write dialogue after?


For more writing challenges, you can browse calls for submissions. I posted a bunch of them two days ago, on Friday. You don’t have to plan to submit it. It doesn’t have to be good; drafts rarely are, that’s what the magic of editing is for. The idea is you are plunging into writing something not of your choosing, but to challenge yourself to write something different and unimportant to your real writing goal of that story you just can’t get done.

What other challenges can you come up with to help break through that barrier stopping you from being able to write?

Keep writing, my friends. One word, one sentence, at a time.

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It’s mid April already. When did that happen?

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER:

Facing The Beast

by L V Gaudet

Well, I succumbed again to the anti-siren call, that un-mesmerizing numbing of the dull-eyed slack-jawed drooling sloth-like beast which slowly sucks away your will or ability to write. That, and the lack of time.

Thus, the two week hiatus on the blog. Has it been two weeks? Three? It feels like longer. At the same time the weekly posts feel more like near daily posts that I have to push out without feeling them when I can’t get inspired to write.

It’s more than lack of time, isn’t it?

It could be that the time available just is not at the right time. Or you simply cannot find that moment without distractions. You are surrounded by a bedlam of noise and activity that closeting yourself away behind a closed door cannot satisfactorily drown out, if you are fortunate enough to have the ability to lock yourself away somewhere. That would mean you aren’t the mom, most likely. Ha ha, right moms?

The first two paragraphs of this post took me multiple tries over an eight hour stretch, until after bedtime. Then the distractions and interruptions lessened, but didn’t go away.

This is the beast we, as writers, have to face. The distractions of family, pets, friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, and work. The housework, yard work, groceries, and all the other things that come up. The lure of social media, mindless distractions, and simply feeling distracted. It tirelessly conspires against us at times.

There simply isn’t always enough time in the day. Something, like this blog post, that shouldn’t take more than an hour at most, minutes at best, takes a few days or more.

The people in your life may not seem to get it, or you. That this is who you are, what you do. They don’t understand that you yearn for that time alone to write. They want your time for them. That’s okay. Do you eagerly embrace and understand every one of their interests? Having something that is just yours is good. Having separate interests is healthy. It grounds you in who you are. Your specialness.

All is not lost. There is one way to best this beast: perseverance. Embrace the minutes you can and don’t let the lack of blissful time away from all the interruptions and distractions defeat you. Every hard won sentence is a victory.

The other face of this beast is the doldrums. That wretched feeling of sluggish lack of inspiration. It slowly claws its insidious way inside you. You’ve lost your mojo, your drive to write. Your inspiration.

I think of this as the writer’s depression and maybe that isn’t too far off the mark. When you feel good, you feel inspired. And, when you feel inspired, you feel good. That’s the writing high. At its peak it can be exhilarating. In the low points you lack feeling. You might wonder if something is wrong with you. Why you just can’t seem to sit down and write. To want to sit down and write. Your mind is blank and the inspiration and ideas just won’t come.

Whichever face of this multifaceted beast you are facing, take the small wins and cherish them. Every five minutes of writing is progress. Instead of focusing your thoughts on what you are not doing, turn to what you might do. What you can do.

Being a writer is an endless long-term goal. It’s a way of being. It’s what and who you are. Many great books took years from inspiration to completion. It has its highs and lows, the hotspots of inspirational bliss and stretches of breaks. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t written in two days, two years, or two decades. It doesn’t have to mean you quit forever.

And if you can’t manage to write, then edit. Editing and revising has helped me innumerable times to get back on that writing bus. You have nothing to edit? Or perhaps you just can’t bring yourself to pick it up? Then edit something someone else wrote. Critique someone else’s writing. Your favorite author’s perhaps. What did you like or not like about that last book or the one you are currently reading? Did you find mistakes? Something you thought could have been better or you would have done differently? Even the top publishing houses’ teams make mistakes. The top writers are human and thus imperfect too.

I’ll start. I used the word “inspiration” and contractions far too many times in this short bit of writing.

Keep writing, my friends. One word, one sentence, at a time.

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March is coming to an end and spring is around the corner. Let’s wake up our minds, hearts, and muses, to a new season of writing.

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER:

Finding Inspirations to Write

by L V Gaudet

When you just can’t get into the writing mood, finding inspiration can feel impossible. But, without inspiration, your writing is likely to be flat, lacking the vitality and life of its own of great writing.

You can force the prose, but it will feel just as forced to the reader as it does to you. And sometimes that’s what you have to resort to in order to get yourself back on track and producing something, anything, with the hope of fixing it later with the magic of editing.

Inspiration cannot always just be willed to come. Sometimes we have to woo it. Coax it along. Like a shy beast loathe to venture out of the safety of its dark den.

There are things we can do to help it, and us, along.

Relive the inspiring feelings.

Whatever inspired you to write the story, return to it if possible. Was it a location? (Taking a picture of the inspiration at the moment it happens is a good practice for when you cannot return to that place and moment). A song or show you can replay? Anything that can help put you back mentally and emotionally in that moment can trigger that inspiration to return when you have the time to write.

Habit makes a good writing buddy.

Is there a particular spot in your house or time of day you find your muse more open? Forming a habit of writing in a particular spot or time can help train your brain that it’s time to get to work and be creative.

Have a playlist.

Set a playlist that gets you in the mood. Multiple playlists for different writing scene moods can be truly inspirational. I find music without words, or with minimal lyrics or lyrics that are more muted, blending with the music rather than bold, are best. You don’t want those lyrics distracting you from writing.

It can be hard to find a good mood fit in songs with minimal lyrics. I’ve spent too much time searching Spotify without success. The few writing mood music songs I came across that work for me were by accident while watching shows. A few I like are If I Had a Heart by Fever Ray (the Vikings series theme song and the only Fever Ray song that hits the writing mood button), and some of the music from The Walking Dead series like Blackbird Song by Lee DeWyze and Bad Blood by Alison Mosshart and Eric Arjes (search Waking Dead on Spotify).

The sweet thing about Spotify is that once you find your music niche you are likely to find more songs that fit your needs in their recommended songs.

Visual inspirations are helpful.

Sometimes when I’m stuck on a story I make a mock-up of a working cover for inspiration. It goes hand in hand with your working title to remind you what the story is about and drive inspiration, but won’t be used on the final product. The working cover is about creating mood, putting a visual to the emotions of the story’s essence.

Surrounding yourself with images that resound with your story can be great motivation for your muse. Images that also draw out the emotions and mood of the story. That evoke inspiration and a thirst for creativity.

Don’t underestimate the power of smell.

Think back to moments that touched you or vague memories that seem to always be there. Memories that are more feelings than clear. A warm childhood Sunday morning kitchen ripe with the smells of coffee and fresh baked bread. The crisp fall air surrounded by the blaze of colored leaves ready to fall from the trees. Hay and the ever-present smell of farmers burning off the stubble in the fields in the fall, barns, and the easy freshness of open air. Hot summer days with the smell of the lake hanging heavy in the air, or freshly mown grass. The cloying smog of a city, ugly gas and oil smells of cars, or the rot of garbage, decay, and spoiled food. The sharp turpentine and perfume of a rotting orange from your child’s hidden Thanksgiving school craft.

These don’t stick in the mind because of some memorable event. They are smell-triggered memories.

Certain scents can bring on warm feelings, like baking apple pie, and others inspire a romantic or invigorating mood.

What odors can inspire the right emotional ambiance to write about the grimy overheated sweatshop of a workhouse or inner mechanical workings of a steampunk powerplant? How about the overbearing stifling swampy stench of a bog? The dank deep and dark cavern where the remains long gone to dry morbidity of a thousand year old vampire are lain awaiting that ill-fated cave spelunker?

Whatever wakes your inspiration, embrace it and revisit it. Like writing in a particular place or time of day, or writing just ten minutes a day, these inspirational nudges revisited regularly can help train the writing mood to come more easily with their influences.

Keep writing my friends, and share what inspires you to get into the writing mood.

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It’s frigging March 2021. More than a year since Covid-19 made its wretched world debut. More than a year since it started spreading across the globe like an insidious plague storyline. A year since it was declared officially a pandemic.

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER:

Talk The Words Out

by L V Gaudet

Keeping your intentions a secret means no one ever has to know you quit, failed, or slacked off. You can spend months in silent misery bemoaning your inability to write.

Or you can get proactive about committing yourself to writing and opening yourself to talking about it.

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

Make yourself accountable to someone who is not you.

Break your silence and talk about it. Not everyone is going to listen, or care. The odd person might even be a jerk enough to be negative. But if you tell enough people, “I’m writing a five thousand word short story,” you will find someone who is going to ask you about it later. Maybe multiple people.

Now you are on the hook.  After telling all those people you are doing it, won’t you feel just a little silly if you don’t even try? The key word here is ‘try’.

It’s okay to not make the word count mark, or the deadline you preached, especially if they were too adventurous. But you can’t exactly tell everyone you are doing something and not even make the effort. How would that look? More important, how would it make you feel?

Now you are accountable to them, even if only in your own mind. It’s an added incentive to push yourself a little more to find your writing voice.

Bounce your ideas off someone.

You have half-formed ideas. Maybe just nigglings of them. They are just there beyond your mental vision like that shadow in your peripheral that moves away with the turning of your head. You sense its presence, but it is teasingly just beyond your reach to grasp it and pull it into view.

No matter what you try, you just can’t seem to pull the ideas together into something coherent, recognizable. Something you can work with.

Maybe there are just too many details that you can’t pull together to make it work. They just won’t come to you.

Find someone to talk about your story ideas with. Someone you can bounce them off of. Other writers are great for that and probably the most understanding. It doesn’t have to be a writer. It can be anyone. You don’t have to like or use their ideas.

The point to this exercise is that just talking to someone and getting feedback can open up that place in your mind where ideas come from. Crack open the door, push aside the barrier just a little, and you open yourself to your own imagination.

Suggestions, good or bad, inspire other ideas. Write them down, work with them, and let them fill up as many pages as you need to. Somewhere in there you will find what you need.

But you still can’t find the ‘right’ idea?

When I’m completely stuck on a story, at some point I let myself consider the unimaginable: something just isn’t working. Actually, it is entirely common.

The problem is, you might not find the ‘right’ idea because something else in the story just doesn’t work.

Go with the next best idea and flag it for review later, and write on. The point is getting past the spot you are stuck on, even if it isn’t what you envisioned for that moment in the story. You can try to get back on track, or follow the new path your story takes. You can fix it later with editing.

By continuing to write, often the problem will become evident. It may be something else in the story needs to be reworked, or that your idea for that moment just didn’t really fit your vision for the overall story.

Create word and idea association tables.

What if you can’t find anyone to bounce ideas off of?

If you really have no one to talk about it with, try making yourself a word association table.

Word association games are not just to give grade school kids something to do when the teacher wants to kill classroom time, or as a vocabulary building exercise.

Start with some basic words associated with your story, genre, or scene. Throw in some completely random words to throw you off being too focused on the overly perfect word for the story.

Our game will have a little twist. You are not just expressing words, you want to capture impressions and feelings too, since that is what writing it about.

Write the words on little slips of paper and as you run through them the idea is to flash them to yourself as quickly as you can, writing down the first word, impression, or feeling that comes to you for each one. Write down any and all of those three the word inspires. A speech to text app might help you with the speed here, so you don’t have to stop to write down each word.

Build your chart however you think will work best for you. Categories along the top and feelings and impressions along the side for example. Put all your words in the box that fits each one best.

To help you get started, here are some word association word generators:

Need a word association generator? These are free and better than your average thesaurus . . .

You can take the word association table further and use it to make an idea association table.

The same principle applies. You won’t be able to flash through them as fast as the words. Start by writing down the first idea that comes to you from each word. They don’t need to have any relation to your story. Keep them short and generic. Add any other random ideas that come to you while doing it.

Put the ideas on slips of paper and flash through them just like the word association game, writing down the first impression or new idea you get from them. When you build the chart, you can color code impressions in one color and ideas in another.

Each time you run through your word and idea associations; you expand your tables. It also helps train your brain to be better at coming up with new words and ideas. Like everything, practice makes you better, no matter what you do. After you’ve been dong these exercises for some time, you’ll have an expansive resource of ideas and word associations you can use any time to help spur the creativity.

Write on my friends. We will get through this inspiration drought together. For now, I will try to make this topic my weekly post. Finding that inspiration together, and ways to break through that wretched barrier stopping our creative muses from shining bright.

Update on: p.s. I’m trying out this “Convert to audio” “Create a podcase episode” click-link on the sidebar. Anyone use it? We’ll see that it does. I have no idea what it’s going to do.

This is still a big learning curve, how to edit the sound in Anchor to add pauses, remove unwanted things like, “photo by…”, and improve the flow (Hint: use the + thing to make the sound wave as BIG AS YOU CAN). Unfortunately there seems to be no way to fix words Anchor imports using the wrong word sound or words it skips altogether.

I have been trying out other (free) apps and programs to see if I can find a better text to speech than the importation of WordPress blogs to Anchor. So far the WordPress to Anchor is by far the winner in not sounding like a bad robot.

I also broke down and ordered a not super crazy expensive (because I’m a writer and broke) sound mike and anti-‘PUH” screen to keep the P, T, and TH sounds from exploding on the mike. Next I’ll have to learn how to actually talk without sounding like I have a mental stress speech impediment; without stuttering, stilting, pausing, umming, uhing, or otherwise tripping over my own face or tongue, and sounding actually semi-normal.

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It’s frigging March 2021. More than a year since Covid-19 made its wretched world debut. More than a year since it started spreading across the globe like an insidious plague storyline. A year since it was declared officially a pandemic.

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER:

Make Something Old New

by L V Gaudet

Sometimes breaking through that barrier preventing you from writing is about retraining your brain and your psyche. Tricking it out of that mindset that has convinced you that you cannot write.

Try this exercise: pick an old piece of writing that you haven’t looked at in months or years and re-edit it. Rewrite it as much or little as it needs.

This exercise services a couple of purposes.

It helps get your head back in the game. Yes, the editing game, but that is a step towards writing something new.

It also shows you how your writing has changed and improved from then to now, and that is the first job of every writer: to always seek to improve your craft. Let this get you excited. You improved because practice really does make you better and nobody starts out being great at anything new. Everything takes work and practice to improve and become good at it.

For this exercise I chose a short story published some time ago: Blood.

I presented this version of the story at Horrorcon in 2017 for a short story competition. I lost, obviously, to an author who was both a better writer and had the ability to verbally present his story. I, on the other hand, choked through rushing the words out, eyes glued to the page before me and terrified of looking at the audience (if I can’t see them, they can’t see me, right?), and messed up and skipped lines multiple times in the simple-seeming task of reading in the sheer panic of public speaking.

I didn’t actually change much in the story; just tweaked a few words here and there. But you will see how even small changes can dramatically improve your piece.

Simple changes like:

  • Better word choices for that odd word that doesn’t quit feel right
  • Avoiding repetitive word use (This is a big one! And one I am very guilty of, especially in earlier writing.)
  • Paying attention to the flow, the feel of the piece

Here is the original short story Blood.

Here is the updated version of the short story Blood.

Blood, as so often happens with short fiction, is the inspiration and drive behind a larger project I have in the works: Blood & Canvas. Let us plead with the almighty Muses that Blood & Canvas sees completion and the light (or rather darkness!) of life. I’ve been working on this project for a few years.

Write on my friends. We will get through this inspiration drought together. For now, I will try to make this topic my weekly post. Finding that inspiration together, and ways to break through that wretched barrier stopping our creative muses from shining bright.

Update on: p.s. I’m trying out this “Convert to audio” “Create a podcase episode” click-link on the sidebar. Anyone use it? We’ll see that it does. I have no idea what it’s going to do.

Have you ever used “Anchor” to create podcasts? That is what it brings you to. If you currently have an Anchor account, you will need to create a new one to sync it with your WordPress blog. It is a big of trail and error.

I am completely new to the creating a podcast thing and am learning as I go. Attempts to record my voice are dreadful. I chose the auto-conversion from WordPress blog text to voice. It is not perfect a perfect transition. Some words the pronunciation is for the wrong definition of the same word spelling. It has even skipped over the odd word. And if you use initials in your blog, I recommend something like “L (double space) V (double space) Gaudet” to get the voice pauses correct. You can fix it in your WordPress blog after importing the post to Anchor. Double spacing after sentences is old school. but it helps in the transition to have better spacing between words in the Anchor sound clip.

Don’t create the Anchor account first. It won’t sync your WordPress if you do. I did that and had to delete the Anchor account. When you are publishing the blog post click the link that shows up in your side bar to convert it to a podcast. The page it brings you to is where and when you need to create that new Anchor account in order for it to sync with your WordPress blog.

Two pluses for Anchor:

  • (1) It is available FREE! You don’t have to go with a monthly subscription to use it, and
  • (2) I tried out a few other text to speech auto-conversions available for free and Anchor was the least robot sounding.

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Screw Covid and Lockdown, and Get Back to Writing!

by L V Gaudet

It’s frigging March 2021. More than a year since Covid-19 made its wretched world debut. More than a year since it started spreading across the globe like an insidious plague storyline.

A year since lockdowns began. In two weeks (March 19th) it will be one year since my work had us all pack up our desks and haul our computers home to work independent of co-workers who can give that cubicle away mental, emotional, and ‘how do I do this’ work support to each other. Since the world started systematically shutting down businesses, schools, churches, mandating people to stay home and have no in-person contact outside their households.

I do delight in not losing two hours a day relegated to ‘the commute’. 45 to 50 minutes really, as long as there are no delays for accidents, breakdowns, winter road conditions, forced to detour through the city instead of taking the highway around it, or the ever present non-winter road construction that is EVERYWHERE any time it’s not winter. (I’m still trying to figure out what they are really digging for under our roads!) And in being able to spend my lunch break exercising to wake the body from the drudgery of spending hours sitting at a desk. But, it also means I have not seen my co-workers in person in a year. They are all really a very nice bunch of people.

The one year anniversary also means once again feeling the burn of shame for neglecting to check in with those people you once saw every day. We get busy. We forget. It’s simply human nature. But, maybe you are a better person than me, than many of us, and have not neglected keeping tabs on those people. There’s no shame in being human, and by nature faulty, after all how many of them checked in with you? And there is no shame in admitting you yourself can do more than you have. It’s that very acknowledgment that makes you a better person than those oblivious to their own faults.

Along with the physical, mental, physiological, emotional, and in every other way toll our self-isolations have taken on us, for many it has also killed our ability to get into that happy creative place.

Photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash

Myself, I haven’t written, or even edited really, for almost a year. Packing up my desk and hauling my work computer home, setting it up, learning the hard way it won’t work on Wi-Fi but only on ethernet (nobody told me that, I had to learn from trial and error when it wouldn’t even try to connect to my internet, I am not tech savvy), all felt so surreal. Starting that first day in the basement hunched over an old coffee table with the ethernet cable stretched across to clothesline any unwary passerby because I was working with a short cable, on the phone with my supervisor and then with IT because after all that I wasn’t even set up for remote access, was a dream I would wake up from at any moment to drive to work.

And then school was cancelled and in addition to working from home the kids were suddenly thrust into e-learning, struggling with that and trapped in home isolation with you, horror stories coming out of Italy and other countries of massive death tolls in their elderly, the region of Hubei, China locked down, an entire city of over a million people in China locked down, massive lineups at groceries stores and the ridiculous run on basic necessities being scooped up and bought out by greedy inconsiderates hoping to get rich selling it at massive markups no one can afford, forcing everyone else to go without.

People becoming afraid to leave their homes for fear of catching the virus. Of spreading it. Or simply of having neighbors give you that side-eye suspicious look suggesting you are contributing to their being stuck in the same horror story you are in.

People growing angry, frustrated, lashing out and hate-filled towards anyone who didn’t share their views on the whole Covid, restrictions, and lockdowns situation.

The horror stories from other countries of large death tolls in nursing homes, the elderly and infirm suffering neglect as their caregivers fall to the virus or to fear, of hospitals and health care systems over capacity and overrun, drowning in a tidal wave of the sick, people ordered to stay home, jobless, urgently needing food they now don’t have the money for, all of that coming home to you, to your nursing homes and hospitals, and to your neighborhoods.

Is it any wonder so many of the already creatives have lost the ability to create? It’s like we are all trapped in a never-ending plotline.

While others pick up new creative hobbies with the time they suddenly have, seeking some form of escape from the walls they are trapped within, our new world too often had the opposite effect on those who already lived for that creativity.

Fear, anxiety, depression. That is the ‘new reality’. Lost jobs, furloughed, laid off, businesses closed, borders closed, and forbidden to see friends and family. The inability to pay your rent or mortgage, fear of losing your home, how can you possibly feed your kids, your pets, without that lost income. Some of us got lucky and could work from home, or have jobs that are in essential services like grocery stores, manufacturing, transportation, the trucking industry, and many more needed to keep the world functioning on its most basic level. While others had jobs in essential services, because every job is essential, that the world can survive for a time without even if the workers and owners can’t, restaurants, selling scented body products and candles, the entertainment industry, and many more.

We are all in a state of shock in one form or another.

Fear, anxiety, and depression are the great killers of the creative muse. They destroy inspiration like last week’s rotting food, moldering, dried up, and deteriorated. It sucks the life out of you. The will. The drive.

This has always been the way.

But eventually you need to push your way through it. Snap back to living. And for us creative types living means creation. Inspiration. That energizing drive to create, let that inspiration fill you, and make you feel alive like nothing else can.

The problem is that some invisible and intangible barrier is stopping you. You can’t name it, like some demon in a horror flick, who can be vanquished and banished by simply uttering their name and demanding they leave you in peace. It can’t be torn down like you probably have been tempted to do with the physical walls keeping you from the world in this wretched Covid lockdown. You can’t even identify it. It’s just… there.

It can be hard to break through that barrier. It can feel impossible.

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

Instead of telling yourself it’s all or nothing, that you have to sit down and write write write, maybe try working up to the actual writing.

Go back and edit previous work, even if you have no rough drafts.

Write down your story ideas to get them on physical ‘paper’ (or computer/phone/any media, it doesn’t matter what).

Find someone to talk about your story ideas with. Other writers are great for that. And probably the most understanding.

Pick a scene, any scene. Make a list of the scene in a story idea. Where it is; inside, outside, a room. When is it? What exists in the location? What is your backdrop? Props? Who is in that scene, both active characters and backdrop characters? Let that imagery flow in your head.

Do the same for the characters in that scene. List their details, what they are doing, and who they are interacting with.

Make it point form if you have to.

And finally, tell yourself you are just going to turn those point form lists into sentences that don’t have to relate to each other. Allow yourself to do that without it having to be good. Then let yourself string those together, build on them, and you are writing without overthinking about the fact you are writing. It can be rubbish. That’s ok. A lot of first drafts are rubbish. That’s what the magic of editing is for. You’ve got this!

How did I break through that barrier? I’ll let you know when it happens.

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

Like I said, I haven’t written or even edited really in almost a year. From that fateful day I packed up my desk a year ago less two weeks, and drove home feeling numb and like the world just took a bend into the Twilight Zone.

Making a self-promise to commit to others was a first step for me. I already was doing that with volunteering with the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and Horror Writers Association, but this is on a more personal level that requires me to write.

It’s a struggle. I don’t feel the inspiration. But committing myself to write a weekly blog post in hopes of helping others is the start of helping myself. It’s writing. I won’t always succeed in getting it out every week, but that’s not failure, it’s a small setback. Like not writing isn’t a failure. That, too, is a temporary setback.

I am also trying to find the time, hard when you are exiled to your home with your co-habitators and together almost 24/7, and still required to function on the 9-5 job and as a housemate / partner / parent / dog parent, to edit a novel work in progress that is so very close to complete. I’m focusing on just the one right now, although the WIP pile is huge.

I have hope that will lead to finally finishing The Woods and it seeing the light of publication and life. Hope that will lead to more inspiration.

The third goal and self-imposed promise / commitment I made is to force myself to find and submit to publishing calls. Mostly it will be already finished work. I still can’t muster the ‘feel’ to write with inspiration. It doesn’t help that no matter how you tell yourself you will not be discouraged by rejection, it’s not personal and everyone gets many rejections for every submission accepted, that it doesn’t mean the story or your writing is garbage but rather that they simply can’t take all the great stories, every one of those rejections you get is a needle that jabs and deflates you just a little. Maybe a lot. Every rejection seeds self-doubt despite your best efforts to not let it.

Write on my friends. We will get through this inspiration drought together. For now, I will try to make this topic my weekly post. Finding that inspiration together, and ways to break through that wretched barrier stopping our creative muses from shining bright.

P.s. I’m trying out this “Convert to audio” “Create a podcase episode” click-link on the sidebar. Anyone use it? We’ll see that it does. I have no idea what it’s going to do.

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER episodes:

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