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Posts Tagged ‘writers block’

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.

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER episodes:

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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.

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER episodes:

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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.

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER episodes:

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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.

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER episodes:

Read Full Post »

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.

BREAKING THE ANTI-WRITING BARRIER episodes:

Read Full Post »

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:

Read Full Post »

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:

Read Full Post »

Photo by Riccardo Mion on Unsplash

The other day I talked to a young budding writer with a kind of problem that can afflict writers of all talents, ages, and experiences. Perhaps especially so of a less experienced writer.

You might call it a writer’s block or any of a thousand names. This writer’s issue is that she gets through the beginning, the first two or three chapters, and then gets stuck. She is a linear writer, writing from start to finish, and at this point can’t push through the insurmountable wall that comes up.

She can’t think what to write next. Where the story needs to go. What the characters should do. It’s not for lack of thinking out the storyline. She does plenty of that, hours of planning, plotting, and working out an outline. She is convinced the writing is bad, the story, plot, characters, all of it. It needs to be fixed; that she needs to go back and not edit it, but completely rewrite it or even scrap the story altogether.

I’ve read some of this writer’s short pieces and she is not a bad writer. Inexperienced, yes, but not bad.

In this case, the block sounds like a combination of the desire for perfectionism and being filled with doubts. No surprise there. The story needs to be perfect before it’s ready for publication, no writer should settle for less, and doubt is natural.

The challenge is pushing past this wall to keep writing. For me, if I’m stuck, I’ll jump to writing another scene somewhere else in the book. Oh, the horror for a linear writer for whom that feels utterly unnatural and twisted.

 

So, how does a linear writer push forward without jumping scenes? I gave three suggestions.

  • Deeper outlining. Taking the outline to the next level can serve multiple purposes. Absorbing yourself in the details can help you forget the feeling of disappointment or failure with those first chapters. It grounds you in the story and characters. And, when you feel stuck because your mind won’t let go of those worries to let you write on, the more in depth your outlining, the more you give yourself to work with. You can’t tell yourself you don’t know what needs to happen next when you’ve detailed it in your outline.

 

  • Writing practices. I’m a fan of suggesting doing writing practices. Flash fiction, micro fiction, random scenery and scenes. My suggestion to this writer, who feels as so many of us do the drive to get this story done, was to use it for writing practices. Write little backstories about characters, places, and details of the world being created in the story. Things that will never be in the actual book and nobody is ever going to read. This will help with the character and world building, as well as finding her voice in the story. And the most important thing is that practice makes you better.

 

  • This is the toughest piece of advice. Get over it. That’s it. I’ve been there too, stuck and feeling

    Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

    like writing is impossible. You just can’t form the words in your head. You’ve inconceivably lost the ability to focus, to think, to make coherent things happen in your head in relation to storytelling. You have to just make yourself get over it and force yourself to write. Write something, anything. It doesn’t have to be good writing because editing fixes that. The challenge here is to get over the need for perfection, get over letting the self-doubts control you, and push on. Push through that wall and just write.

 

Keep writing, my friends.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What do you do when you just don’t know what to write?

 

It happens to all of us. Okay, maybe not to Stephen King (but it probably has at some point even if he won’t admit it), however it happens to the rest of us. You sit down to write and . . . your mind is blank. That’s where I came up with the idea for this subject. I couldn’t think of anything, so I decided to write about that.

 

But if you really wanted to write, you would just sit down and write. Right? If only it were that simple. The reasons for the blank mind syndrome are as varied as we writers trying to write are.

 

 

Perhaps the biggest culprit is self-doubt. Who hasn’t faced off to that one at some point? You might not even recognize this is the problem because self-doubt can be a sneaky thing. It is the anti-muse of a thousand wicked faces. You don’t know if you can do it. You question how to start, what to write. Will it be garbage? Will anyone like it or are you wasting your time? And those are only a few easily recognized symptoms of self-doubt.

 

No one is going to want to read it. No one will like it. Will even you like it? You doubt you’ll ever be published anyway, or find that ever elusive agent you need to get your work considered by the big publishing houses. You can give yourself any of thousands of excuses that all boil down to one simple thing . . . self-doubt.

 

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Time is not on your side. We all get that. Life is busy. How many things are you juggling in your daily life? Full time or part time work; maybe both with two jobs. School, maybe both school and working; homework, studying, meetings, and volunteering. Family, extended family, friends, and pets. Household and life chores, running errands, and meeting your own basic needs.

 

Before you know it day after day has been sucked away and you haven’t had a chance to even think about writing. And, we all still need a little downtime to catch that favorite show, read a book, and just have a little bit of fun and time to unwind from the hectic everyday.

 

In the constant whirlwind of life it’s too often the just for you things like writing that get pushed back and left behind.

 

 

The story has stumped you. Fiction or nonfiction, prose, essay, short or long, whatever it is, sometimes it just stops us dead and can’t move forward. You can stare blankly at it all you want, but that inspiration just won’t come. Maybe you feel something is off, but cannot pinpoint what.

 

I always find that for me if it feels like something is off, then it turns out something is off. Maybe I need to delete the entire beginning, or it might work better moved much later in the story. Something somewhere is off track so the pieces just aren’t fitting together right like trying to force in puzzle pieces that don’t go there. Scenes need to be moved or removed, details expanded on, and bridge scenes created to fill in gaps in the story.

 

Twice I have taken the drastic step of actually tearing up and deleting an entire story, scrapping it completely because it was going nowhere. They still haunt me.

 

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

You’ve been away from writing for too long. It can be hard to get back into it after not writing for a while. You’ve been hit by the lack of time, and now it’s compounded with self-doubt. Or maybe life just got in the way and you sidelined writing. Whatever the reason you took an extended break, you feel like you haven’t written in so long that you forgot how.

 

Or maybe writing has been that dream you wanted to do, but just have not managed to actually start yet. Does that mean you are not a writer? No. In the dry technical term of the definition, you do actually have to write something to have written. But self identity is a powerful thing and is what drives you to be a writer. Think of the age old saga of the chicken and egg. The chicken must lay the egg to birth the chicken, but the chicken came from an egg laid by a chicken, so. . . Are you a writer because you felt like a writer and were driven to write? Or because you wrote, which you would not have done had you not been driven to it?

 

 

Regardless if you are having an extended dry spell, have yet to dip your toes into your dream of writing, or are facing off against the inability to make the words flow, the result is the same . . . you are not writing. So how do you get back into it? Or start in the first place? Let’s explore some tips.

Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

Getting back into writing can be like riding a bike. You never really forget how, but you can feel pretty rusty at it and need to get back that sense of balance and relearn the comfort zone. That takes time and practice.

 

It doesn’t have to be good. Not everyone can write a carefully thought out perfectly planned and executed word by word draft of perfection. If they did, odds are pretty good they actually wrote and rewrote it over and over in their head before committing it to the proverbial paper. The magic of editing fixes all . . . later.

 

 

There is power in small. This is one of my favorite project tools. It’s the same trick I used when overdue schoolwork snowballed out of control for my kid in grade school, or when one of my kids is overwhelmed by the size of a large project. I also use it when I just can’t think what to write when trying to work on a novel, although it probably works better if you actually outline first. I write mostly long fiction. The whole project can be daunting.

 

It is also an effective tool to combat writer’s block in all its forms. Where to start? Start small.

 

Pick a scene. If you have to number scenes and draw a number from a hat, then do it. If it’s something more epic those numbered scenes can be a mix of scenes, locations, characters, peoples or creatures; or anything else. Whatever you picked you must write. Block out everything else to do with the story, write it and own it. Put everything you have into it and make it the best little piece of writing you can. If it doesn’t fit, you can fix that later with editing. You know you’ll be editing and revising it anyway.

Photo by Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash

 

You don’t have to write chronologically. So what if you can’t think of what to write in the next scene? Is it better to not write and mope over the next scene or keep writing? If you can write something, anything, then do it. Maybe you are on chapter two and the only inspiration is chapter 32. Go write that chapter 32 scene. The rest will fall into place in its time.

 

 

My favorite rule in writing is ‘break all the rules’. There is an overabundance of so-called ‘writing rules’. From the ‘proper’ writing rules of formal writing handed down by the generations before our time to new rules being invented on the fly, rules are everywhere. The one thing they all have in common is that in writing no rule fits every single situation.

 

Sometimes it’s our own perception of what the rules we are supposed to follow are that holds us back from writing. That ingrained fear of breaking a rule. What would our grade five English Language Arts teacher think of us? What would our mothers think? Oh, the horror.

 

Be a rebel. Get reckless. Break the rules. You are not writing a business letter to the CEO of your company or formal fifth grade essay on a book you don’t understand. You are creating literature art. Feel it and let the rules go. Nobody even has to know or read it. It can be our dark little secret. You decide when you are ready to let someone read it.

 

 

Schedule time to write. Ten minutes here, fifteen there, or multi-task it during waiting time. Everything else you do daily has at least a loosely planned schedule. You get up at a certain time to go to work or school. Meals are eaten around a certain time. Maybe you don’t really have anything to do during a spare or coffee or lunch break. Do it while you are waiting for the bus or during the bus ride. When I’m waiting for an hour during my kid’s boxing class, I’m sitting there writing or editing. Maybe you decide lunch on Tuesdays will be your writing block. Once you schedule it, stick to it. It becomes easier when it is habit.

 

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Use writing prompts. They are useful when you want to write but don’t have a specific project. A prompt is a tool to get the writing juices flowing. There are scores of writing prompt tools online; everything from random title generators to first lines to subjects or pictures to write about.

 

The point of a writing prompt is to make you write something, anything, about something random. If you can’t get going, start by describing it in great detail, down to every last scuff, scratch, and imagined imperfections that may be hidden beneath the surface. How it must feel in the hand, its heft and balance. How it smells. How it makes you feel to look at it. Imagine who might have conspired to create such a thing; what might have motivated them. Who might have labored to build it? Who would buy it? For themselves or someone else? For pure purposes or mischief? How did it come to be right there in that spot, in that condition, perhaps abandoned or lost, or intentional?

 

 

Edit your work. So what if you haven’t finished writing it? Who cares how long it has ‘collected dust’? Just pick it up and start working through editing it. You have to anyway. Research any little thing. This gets your head back in the game and on the story or poem, or whatever you are writing. This trick doesn’t always work for me the first time I sit down to edit. It might be the third or fourth time, but inevitably the new story ideas start to flow.

 

 

Write something else. If you really are stuck, move on. Work on writing something else and keep that writing momentum going. Your nagging sub-conscious will probably be worrying at that other piece in the background. Go back and revisit the work you are stuck on. I have multiple WIPs going all the time.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet writing hat

Create a writing trigger.  You are entering dangerous territory. Really, you are. Call it a writing trigger, focal object, behavior modifier, your process or routine; or your ‘writing hat’. Anything that works goes, within reason. Let’s keep it legal. The point is finding something that flips that writing switch on, naturally or trained. Like a bedtime routine for toddlers, it switches your brain into writing mode.

 

Maybe it’s going through certain steps to settle in to write, using a particular object, or a certain place you write. Learning to flip that switch will turn on the writer’s brain and its creative juices on command.

 

The problem with this is dependency on an object, routine, or place. Whatever you trained yourself on, if you make yourself too reliant on it, you risk being unable to write without it. Like George Stark’s Berol Black Beauty pencil (Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Half’). Thad Beaumont was an anxious writer, so he invented the pen name George Stark and the writing switch (and Stark’s author ‘thing’ to make him famous), the Berol Black Beauty pencil. Without that very specific pencil, he could not be Stark and could not write like Stark. Unfortunately, because it is a Stephen King story, the fictional Stark became real and sought to terrorize and murder his creator, Thad. Hopefully your writing trigger doesn’t do the same. Fortunately, the Berol Black Beauty pencil does not exist today.

 

 

Get an accountability buddy. Also called a ‘nag’. I’m my own best and worst nag. It could be as simple as marking a deadline on a calendar or making a phone alert; it could be posting promises on your social media, or someone who will regularly ask you about your writing progress. The point is having that niggling in your head droning on at you, “Write . . . write . . . write.” How embarrassing to always have to say, “yeah, sorry. I didn’t write again this week.”

 

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Just write. There is one tried and tested way to get out of that blank mind no writing funk. You have to find a way to write. It doesn’t matter how or when. It doesn’t have to be good. Just. Write.

 

Force yourself to sit down and write something. Anything. The more you make yourself write, the easier it will come. By making yourself write you can spur ideas. I started with *(blank)*, literally. I banged my head on the desk a few times (figuratively), tried to force an idea, and finally settled on, “Fine, I’ll right about not being able to write anything.”

 

I started writing that and as I did, ideas for other things came to me. Reasons for the mind block beget ideas. Thinking of how to break the cycle of being stuck beget more ideas. And now I have a list of other possible future topics. And whatever you are writing, when that other inspiration strikes note it down for later.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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