We writers often talk about writer’s block. I even had a blog post on the topic. But sometimes we just have dry spells. They can be caused by different factors, including writer’s block, lack of time, and lack of motivation. For me it has been the motivation mostly. The ideas have been flowing free in my mind. Both for a sequel to Dissolution of Peace and the current novel I am working on have been very active in my mind. But I just don’t sit down and write. So for today’s blog I thought I would talk about how to ride out these dry spells and even do a little rain dance to get things going again.
The first step is recognizing the dry spell. That may seem easy enough, and for some it is. But for me it wasn’t so easy. I only just started thinking about how little I have written. And when I look at my work in progress, I see the file hasn’t been modified since May 10th. That is nearly two months ago, and I wasn’t aware of it. This is by far the longest dry spell I have had in some time. The only saving grace is that I have still been writing in this blog on a weekly basis.
In fact it was this blog that made me recognize I was in a dry spell, and at the same time it was what made me not realize it for so long. Each week I sit down and put together a blog post for you. I’m writing, and perhaps writing these blogs kept my ‘writing sense’ working. Blogs are great ways to keep people aware of your existence, and to break down writing blocks and walls. But, in this case it tricked me into thinking it hadn’t been so long since I wrote. But, when I only wrote a short ‘Happy Independence Day’ blog last week, it clicked to me how little I have written.
You may not blog, so you may see you haven’t written in a matter of weeks. Or, it could take you some time to recognize it for other reasons. The point is you have to realize you’re in a slump before you can move on to the next step.
The next step is identifying the cause of the dry spell. Again this may seem easy, but that is not always true. Writer’s Block is often the first thing to blame. But, if your ideas are still percolating in your head, as mine were, writer’s block is likely not your cause. You have things to write about in your head, you’re just not sitting at the keyboard and doing it. If you think it is writer’s block, dig deeper. If you find no other causes, then revert to the steps to break down writer’s block.
The next most common thing to blame is time. That is what I blamed. I told myself I haven’t had time because I have been running a magazine. I’ve been trying to get the first issue ready for print. But that wasn’t fair. Sure, running the magazine has taken up a lot of my time, but so does work, and my family. All valid things to be working on rather than writing, but I’ve worked around all of them before. But if you work through all this and find that time really is the issue, then you need to revert to the steps to find a time to work on your writing.
You might find it is depression, lack of motivation, or you have something new in your life that you’d rather be doing. You may even find out that writing isn’t what you want to do. But chances are that if you’ve realized you’re not writing, and are looking for ways to start again, you genuinely miss writing. Once you find the cause, you need to dig deeper and find the true cause.
For me, I found it was a lack of motivation. The ideas were there, but I wasn’t writing. I dug deeper to find the cause of my lack of motivation. That was a series of bad news in my writing. I have received five rejection letters in those two months. Three of those were for a story I have really felt confident in. It has been stacking up the rejections and it has started to take a toll on my confidence. In fact I have two short stories that are not selling despite approaching a year in circulation. I’ve reminded myself that my first stories sold remarkably fast. I’ve also reminded myself that I have not turned out a short story in almost eight months. That is not a bad thing though. I’ve been focusing on putting out novels. When the right idea hits me, I’ll write another short.
There have been other delays in my novel as well. I still don’t have cover art. The edits may be delayed. That coupled with the lack of sales of my son’s children’s book, has me worrying about my ability. I get frustrated when people are not as excited about something as I am. I feel as though they don’t approve of it, or even thing it not as worthy of their time. I am a pessimist by nature, so I see all these things for the worst rather than the possible truth. I see cover art delays as an artist who is disinterested in my story. I see edit delays as an editor who thinks my work is so bad it needs more time. And I see lack of sales on my son’s book as validation of my worst fears (that I can’t do this).
Long story short the reason for my dry spell is a lack of motivation because I am suffering from the “I can’t do this” and “I’m not good enough to do this” mentality. We all hit this. Everyone, in anything they pursue, hits a point where they think they can’t continue. But if you stop, you are only proving yourself (and your critics) right. It is the people that continue and refuse failure, that make it to their goals.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford
Next, you need to break past your road block. You have figured out what the cause of your dry spell is, but now you need to break on through and keep working. For writer’s block, it may be as simple as sitting down and typing until you get something going. For a lack of time, you can schedule in writing time. If it is more complicated, break it down into simple ways to motivate yourself.
For me, I inflated my ego a bit. I went to the reviews of my short works that are previously published and saw what they had to say. Reminded myself that people do enjoy what I write, and that eventually an editor will. I also recognized that not everyone is able, or willing, to fall into finite deadlines. I either need to live with it, or only work with people who will follow deadlines (likely a mixture of both). Last, I think I am good with marketing. But I had to recognize that when it comes to books, I am new at it. And when it comes to Children’s Books, I am unsure where to start. So I’ve started asking around for help on that.
The point is whatever is holding you back needs to be addressed. You need to either make peace with it, or solve it. Either way you have to get those things out of the way before you can start writing again.
Last, perform a rain dance. You will never get past a dry spell if you don’t start getting things going. If you have a work in progress, open it up and get working. You’ve worked past all your issues, but your desire to write won’t magically spark up. You need to start writing. You might find that you will jump right back in. Or, especially in the case of writer’s block, you will struggle to start up again. But after a little time at the keyboard you will find the rains will fall again. And hopefully once you get going again your next dry spell will be a long way off.
Some people hit dry spells and give up. For some people they simply don’t feel the need to write anymore. But, chances are they would not be interested in finding a way to start writing again. If you have the desire to keep writing, but you just can’t seem to do it, you are a writer in a dry spell. Don’t give up on it. Clearly writing is something you enjoy doing, or you wouldn’t seek out advice on how to end your dry spell. Now get to work on fixing it, and get those words on paper.
July 9, 2012 | Categories: Authors, Ideas, Muse, Novels, Publishing, Resolutions, Self Publishing, Writer's Block, Writing | Tags: Authors, dry spells, get writing, goals, publishing, Write Tips, Writer's Block, Writing, Writing Ideas, Writing tips | Leave A Comment »
I’ll give you a moment to recover from that fact that I just quoted Shakespeare.
Better, now? Okay, let’s continue with the topic at hand – Names. As a writer I struggle with names all the time. Character names, city names, world names, alien race names, ship names…. even what to name my story. But, why is it so important?
Well despite what Shakespeare says, we identify with names. Names give a real definition of just about everything. If I handed you a rose, and said “Smell this Grazulla.” You would stare at me like I was a mad man. The reason is simple. You see a rose, you identify it as a rose, and when I say “rose” you see the flower (or you see Betty White on the set of Golden Girls). Grazulla means nothing to you, it is just the rambling of a Speculative Fiction blogger.
Why do you think so many readers struggle with nameless characters? Don’t get me wrong, it can work, but it certainly is a hard sell. We associate people with names in our society. Everyone has a name (well almost everyone). Even people we see that don’t know their names, we ofter think up a name for them. People often say, “She looks like a Jan.” Heck, a lot of people have called me Robert over the years. To some, I must look like a Robert.
I had a heck of a time naming my three boys, well my oldest was easy being that he named after me, but the younger two were a struggle. My wife hated the fact that I rejected almost every name she gave me. They were either too generic, or I knew someone named that, or they were just hard for me to say. For the rest of my life I’ll be calling these kids by whatever name I chose. What a scary idea. What if I chose wrong?
Well, lets face it. When we dream up a character we are giving them life. And with any luck your character will long outlive anyone you know. As an early writer I worried that I might choose wrong.
So now you need to think of a name. If they are human characters you might pick names that fit the ethnicity of a character. Because, lets face it, people often associate names with ethnicity. I still get a lot of Spanish language advertising in my mail box. It is an assumption that since my name is Flores, I must surely be Hispanic. But that also brings up a very good point, no matter how you describe a character in text, people will get a vision of them solely on their name.
When it comes to first and middle names, I use Behind the Name. It is a website I found when I was trying to name my children. It is great for naming characters. Say you want to find a name that means brave, you can search it. Or, say you just need a random name. They have a random name generator. You can filter out by country, ethnicity, and more. When it comes to last name, I really haven’t found something as in depth and versatile as Behind the Name. But I did find a random last name generator that I use sometimes.
But names extend past characters. We name a lot of things. In my upcoming novel there are two alien races. I had to completely make up their names. Not just the characters, but the names of their worlds and the name of the species themselves. When it comes to alien names, lets remember to not go over the top. People will be trying to read you story, in English. So the name “asdhfaeuiohfsdjkfnh” will not do much to help readers enjoy your story. Especially if asdhfaeuiohfsdjkfnh is a critical character in your story.
What else do we name is stories? In my novel, I had a lot of Naval ships to name. That took time. But, for that I found a theme to use. For example, the naval fleet had seven warships so I named them after the continents. The carriers I picked a different landmark theme, and so on. It worked, and gave me a large selection of names to choose from.
Names are important, that is for sure. You might start off with nameless items in your story, just to get the writing done. I can’t. When I start a story my characters need a name, it helps me to bring them to life. Choose a name you can live with, after all the whole world may be calling your character that for a long time.
I know I have been quiet on here. I haven’t posted in 10 days. I think in blog time that is something like 3 years. I have been stricken with a terrible case of writer’s block. The only natural enemy of the writer. Well, there may be others, but writer’s block is certainly the worse .
Writer’s block is that horrible condition where a writer has no idea what to write. In can be minor; like not know what to write on Twitter. Or it can be severe; like not knowing what to write anywhere. Writer’s block affects all writers of all ages, there is no vaccine against it, and it often requires lengthy treatments that are not guaranteed to work. Worst of all it’s not covered by most insurance carriers.
My case was moderate. I managed to put together a few tweets, I think I got on Google+ with a post, and Facebook got a few posts. But, I could not think of anything to write, both here or for a new short story. I haven’t got anymore written on my novel.
I tried all the treatments. They don’t work. I brainstormed, I read, I wrote nonsense, I opened the documents to type, and still nothing got down to the page. I tried hard to get something down on paper some where. Nothing. Not even a sticky note on the fridge reminding me to buy my son Ice Cream toppings for his school party.
I had an awesome dream. I woke up and thought, This will make the most awesome story known to man. Sure enough, my writer’s block was so severe that I didn’t write the idea down and fell back a sleep. That is a cardinal sin in the writing community, and I did it. And now, I still can’t remember even the smallest detail of what that dream was about. All I can remember now is, You fool. You could have been the next Heinlein, and you didn’t write it down. Your note pad was arms length from your bed and you were too lazy to write it down.
Then yesterday I got a rejection letter from a publication for my latest short story. Its okay, it was only the first market I have sent it too so I was not really surprised. However, when you have writer’s block it is a bit more discouraging. I sent it off to another publication as I promised myself I would always do.
And then I had a great idea for a blog post. I will write about Editors.
Then I realized that might be career suicide if I wrote down what I was thinking of editors after getting a rejection. So I decided that post should probably wait.
Well then my Van broke down… yes I drive a mini-van. Stop looking at me like that. Men drive mini-vans too. Well, as you have read in other threads, writing provides stress relief for me. Well, I needed it and I still couldn’t think of a damn thing to put on paper.
Then today, I went through my routine. Checked Facebook, Checked the Facebook Author Page, Checked Twitter, Checked Google+, and then I got to this site. And I thought to myself, I need to blog. My adoring fans need to hear from me. It has been three blog years since I posted.
It didn’t work. I couldn’t think of anything. Then after going back to Facebook and then back to this site. It dawned on me. I should write about the tragedy of Writer’s Block. And so, I give you this post. I managed over 700 words here.
I AM CURED!
So what is my point is all this? I am not sure I really have one. Give me a minute, let me see if I can make one up…
Okay I got it.
Writer’s Block is a debilitating disease to a writer. And really only time can cure it. The more you force yourself to writer something the more resistant the disease becomes. Sometimes you have to just take a break and let the disease run its course. And when you are ready you will have something great to write. Or at least something to write.*
If you have suggestions on how to cure Writer’s Block, please feel free to comment.
Now if you will excuse me, I have things to write.
*Note: The statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA, your results may vary.