Whew, this is later than I would have liked. I should shake my fist at the internet. Fickle creature that it can be.
What does the internet have to do with anything? Well, it is part of the reason that I did not post anything earlier.
Another reason is that I still had not finished writing this post. I was planning on talking about something completely different, but I have decided that I will save it for next week. For now I have a small piece of news before I get to the topic of writer’s block: I am now entering the world of attempting to submit to magazines.
The word attempting seems important right now, as I am still trying to figure out exactly what I am doing. So far I have only submitted to one (Cricket), but I am looking at others. One thing that I have noticed while beginning this process is that I actually have much less materiel than I thought.
Many of the magazines that I am looking at are searching for short things: mostly flash-fiction and short stories. I have dabbled in both as a way of
avoiding the things I should be working on trying something different. But I only started to become interested in working on shorter material as in addition to writing novels over the summer.
One thing that I have learned since I began to look at shorter fiction differently, is that any kind of writing is extremely valuable. I would say that it is important to try different forms, even, and perhaps especially, if it is something that you thought you would never try. It may influence your writing is some unexpected ways. It seems that I have an affinity for the unexpected in regards to writing that I was not previously as aware of. But I am being as serious as I can.
Try new things.
I am going to use the horrible example of being in a multicultural restaurant: Imagine that you have a hundred different dishes in front of you from different cultures. If you only eat the things that you have tried before your palate will stay the same. Writing is kind of like a palate; you pull from the material that you have, and that material often either comes from something that you have seen or something that you have read.
Which is why I believe that William Faulkner makes a wonderful point in one of my favorite quotes of his: “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”
Many, many writers have said similar things: for instance, Stephan King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
I did warn you that I love quotes, right? (Which reminds me, I am planning on compiling a list of quotes, it should be up in a few days.)
One thing that I seem to run into when I look at school and literature, is that there seems to be an idea of what is ‘good writing’ and what is ‘bad’. While there certainly is a certain feeling regarding literature, I believe that it is important to read more than just what is ‘good’ when writing. Read children’s stories, and literature. Mysteries or thrillers and fairytales. Try a bit of everything (even if you only touch it once).
How is any of this relevant? It all goes back to writer’s block, or even a temporary stall.
I have been in a temporary stall with one of my novels this past week; which is part of the reason for this post. Writing comes with good days and bad days. Sometimes those bad days last for longer than anyone would like. The important thing is to not become discouraged.
Sometimes it is possible to push through your bad days by simply sitting down and staring at the screen with your hands on your keys (or on your pen if you are writing by hand), but there are other times when it can be important to take a momentary break. I am not staying that you should completely stop writing for a few days: never stop writing. But sometimes it is good to let things rest for a little bit.
For the almost three years that I have been writing relatively consistently, I have run into quite a few bad days. This does not mean that I am great at dealing with them (I am not), but it means that I have begun to compile a list of things to do when one of those days hit.
If you can get through your momentary stall by simply sitting down and trying your best, GO FOR IT.
If not, here are a few things to try:
- Move your attention to a different project for the day (or even for a couple of minutes). Sometimes a few minutes is all that you need.
- Get up and move around. Step out of the house. It is a clique, I know. But sometimes it works extraordinarily well. Movement is wonderful for thinking.
- Read, read, and read. Reading is one of the best things to do if you are at a complete stall and writing seems impossible. It is not only a great way to gather ideas and study different styles, but it is a great way to keep your mind on writing without actually thinking about your own work. I believe that when you are not writing it is always good to read.
- Research. Yes, doing research can sidetrack you. But it is also very important for certain kinds of novels. Just try not to end up spending the day on YouTube. I have spent way too much time on there in the past (
I hope I am not the only one who has spent an entire morning watching different persian dances. To be fair, it was research. Kind of.) What if your story does not require research? Well, research does not have to be about facts. Research could simply be reading a story that has something that you like in it. Or a story that is similar to your own in one way or another.
- Look for inspiration.
Try not to end up looking for funny kitten videos on YouTube though.My favorite things to look for are quotes. There are tons of wonderful ones out there.
- Do something with your hands. Make some sort of art: Draw, paint, knit, bake.
As with all of my lists: add your own ideas. My go to things are the first three. Usually I can quickly become absorbed into one of them.
An important thing to remember about writing is that everything counts. Do not become sucked into discouragement about how much you have written compared to someone else, or even compared to yourself. (I know that this is much easier said than done, but it is something to remember.) Even if you only write a hundred words or a sentence, you will be closer to finishing your story than you were the day before. It is good to see if you can push yourself, but sometimes pushing yourself can work in reverse. If you become discouraged or angry with how things are going: do not throw everything in the trash. Get up, walk around the house or step outside. Distract yourself until you cool down, and then come back and see if your prospective is different.