Why can’t I write this blog post? It’s been pressing on my shoulders for three weeks now. Coleridge’s damn albatross. The emails from my fellow Restless Writers were initially gentle reminders, but have now become electrified prods like I’m a cow to be herded back to my quarters. (OK, they’re not that mean, but I am feeling the pressure.)
Every time I sit down in hopes the “grand inspiration” will come, the screen sits in silence. The keys remain idle. My fingers await their commands.
And alas, when a few words do splatter on the screen they are out of focus, blurry like a…like a…what? The simile alludes me. My muse is clearly on vacation enjoying steamy weather and sunlight, while I freeze in this record cold winter, surrounded by greying snow and the greying sky out my window that reflects the current grey in my brain.
Where is the light in my thoughts? Where is just a spark of an idea? I’m sitting beside a fire for God’s sake! Nothing?
Have I left it too long? Have the distractions of my life stolen my ability to create something new? Perhaps I have starved Calliope for too long and she has found refuge in another writer’s home.
What’s a writer to do when a fog has descended on her creativity? Here are some ideas:
- Try a writing prompt to start you off and help focus your brain.
- Write something, anything every day – even if it’s crap – at least you’re writing.
- Read. Read anything – about writing, a novel, a blog, poetry. Read…a lot.
- Schedule your writing time and be disciplined to make it happen with no distractions.
- Take a step back for a moment and set some goals. Maybe it’s time to regroup and figure out what you want to achieve with your writing. Check in to ensure you are heading in the direction you want to be with your writing. Maybe it’s time for a left-hand turn to stir things up.
- Stop and have a good look at your life recently. What needs to shift? Where are you out of balance? (This one’s mine. My life’s been spazzy these last months and my writing has suffered because of it.)
Writing takes persistence, perseverance and patience, and each ‘p’ word comes in waves. Sadly my surf board has been stuck behind my snow shovel lately. I know I have to dig it out…once I dig my car out of the driveway. The worst ‘p’ for me is the third one. Damn that patience thing. It’s the new albatross around my neck now that this blog post is done.
For most of us, making time to write will always be something of a struggle. With family, friends, and financial obligations all vying for our attention, it takes determination to put pen to paper.
This past week, I found myself with the time to write. But I did not write. Instead, I gave myself permission to make time for life. And this is what I did.
Shoveled dirt like a Duchess:
Constructed raised vegetable gardens with my husband:
Planted pine trees and pear trees:
Hung laundry on the clothesline:
Enjoyed fireworks from the front yard:
Watched movies, both equally strange but good:
But the best part? I SLEPT IN!
Here I am. Reporting for my first blog post, fresh from my inaugural Restless Writers meeting. The meeting was everything I hoped it would be – a great opportunity to get to know these awesome ladies better and to take in some of their honest feedback on the pages I submitted. While I survived their critiques (this was managed largely through consumption of wine and baked brie), as the newbie to the Restless Writers, I have to admit I am struggling with a dash of self doubt about whether or not I have the writing chops to be a part of this group.
Beckie has an agent—a real agent. And I didn’t even know what an em dash was until Maria told me. Heck, I thought em dash was spelled “m” dash until I just looked it up online two minutes ago.
The good news in all of this is? I’m fairly sure I am not the first new want-to-be writer to feel this way. In 2010, The Guardian ran a two-part feature where they asked famous writers to share their Ten Rules of Writing Fiction. I was particularly drawn to the cheery wisdom imparted by British novelist and journalist Will Self. Will says:
“You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.”
If this is true, I guess I am well on my way to becoming a writer.
Thank you Restless Writers for the warm welcome. With your mad grammar skills I’ll be mastering the in’s and out’s of em vs. en dashes in no time. And if not, I’ll fake it.
I started my blog last summer; almost a year to the day after the Restless Writers’ blog was launched. Dipping my toe in the blogging pool through this one gave me the confidence to strike out on my own. As an aspiring fiction writer, I knew that branding myself online (alas, it’s much less kinky than it sounds) was essential.
I contemplated daily posts but quickly realized I could never keep up such a schedule (finding time to brush my teeth every day is pushing it). I decided that Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be my days to post, in addition to a weekly post on this site, as well as continuing to revise my WIP, not to mention the corporate writing I do part-time from home.
After a few weeks of my grandma and friends reading my posts, I was Freshly Pressed and had close to six thousand views in one day. Suddenly the pressure was on and blogging took over my life: it wasn’t just a place to put down the stories that were too long for a Facebook post – it was my calling card for agents, potential employers and ex-boyfriends.
Perfectly crafting every blog post became my focus, plus I discovered that I really loved creating short stories about my ridiculous family. I put off sending queries. I had no new ideas for my next WIP. I dogged it at the day job. I simply didn’t have the energy to write.
I recently took the advice of Rachel in the OC (aka my Fairy Blogmother) who recommends posting twice a week and keeping them fewer than five hundred words – enough to give people what they want while avoiding blogger burnout. My blog is my portfolio and I can’t risk an agent (not to mention ex-boyfriend) dropping by only to read a sub-standard post.
The results have been immediate: I’m working on a middle grade idea that has me crazy excited; I’m getting to bed before midnight; and I have more time to exercise. I realize that this last point has little to do with writing, but it’s helping to combat another side effect of too much time online: excessive blogger butt.
How do you balance a blog, other writing and life in general? To the comments!
slogging through immersing myself in the query process and have been going on Twitter binges (Twinges?), where I follow the followers of a blogger/writer I follow (do you follow?). Although the initial motivation was to increase traffic to my blog, the real satisfaction is coming from the discovery of new (to me) writers. This online community of aspiring and established authors is incredibly generous with tips as well as encouragement (similar to our own BJas), and I want to spotlight one of my new favourites.
Indie Book Collective was started by Cristyn West, Kait Nolan and Rachel Thompson. It’s full of great articles such as “SEO For Dummies” (like they’re writing just to me!) and “Why You Need a Blog”, this site offers advice in addition to online workshops and tutorials regarding online publishing. They are the Sundance of ePublishing.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and don my armour for the next round of queries (Kidding! Agents aren’t scary! At all! Beckie says so!).
*Twush = Twitter + Crush
We Restless Writers are still swooning over the great Twitter chat (Twat? Oh dear…) last week with the writing group from Calgary. One question we kept asking – and getting asked – was how we (the Restless Writers) met. It began like many of today’s great relationships do: online.
I had taken some writing workshops with Brian Henry and he suggested that I find a critiquing group for my work in progress. I had no clue how to organize, find or join such a group so Brian offered to put an ad in his popular e-newsletter.
It was like match.com for writers: “Single, writing female seeks same for mutually beneficial relationship. Groups ok.” I received e-mails from an established writer (whose group had broken up a few years prior) and another writer who, along with her friend, was looking to start a formal group that focused more (or at least equally) on the writing as it did on the wine.
Getting ready for our first meeting was like preparing for a blind date: Will they like me? Will I like them? Do I have the goods to keep them interested? We had a meal together and although things didn’t work out with the other writer, Beckie, Maria and I decided to keep going. Now here we are, over a year later, still as enamoured with each other as ever.
Although the wine flows freely and we drown ourselves in a river of melted Brie, the Restless Writers do eventually focus on the job at hand. I’ve basically re-written the first 100 pages of my WIP and it wouldn’t have happened without this group. And we’re not benefitting solely from the critiques at these meetings: the ladies are always bringing magazines and books for general interest or inspiration (i.e. when I had sexy-times-writer’s-block I was given Exit to Eden…consider me officially unblocked, ladies…).
For me, this group is essential. They hold me accountable, bolster my self-esteem, help me through the rough spots and make me a better writer. In fact, they have all the qualities you could ask for in a
spouse writing group.