A writer’s eye looks at things in a different way than a layperson’s would. Hence her head is full of ideas and it would take lifetimes to actually use them all in the writing. But sometimes, this faucet seems to be tightly closed. And try as they might, the writer is not able to wrench out a single word. This situation is fondly called, Writer’s Block. But this need not be a permanent state of being.
(If you are a writing your first novel, the first draft would mostly flow out. As is popularly said, everyone has atleast one story within them. Make the most of this beginner’s luck).
The most common reason for a block is not knowing enough about the subject you’re writing on. If it is fiction, then perhaps you are not completely clued in to your characters, their likes and dislikes and their propensities. Going deeper into their psyche could give you enough matter to break any blocks in your mind about them.
Yet another reason for the Block is not believing that you have a story to tell, especially when you read the books written by the writers whose writings you idolise.
But the fact is that if you felt within you a spark (to write a novel)that wanted to burn bright then that is a sure sign that your story is worth writing.
Sometimes the writer gets into the rut of misconception that every word that flows out of his pen into the page must be brilliant and final. Every writer knows that words have to be written and then re-written a number of times before they flow and you know you’ve got the best words that will work for you story. This is VERY HARD WORK. So avoid the self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviour which prevent you from writing, and blaming ‘Writer’s Block’ for it.
Stop thinking about what the world will think of your story, whether they will like it or not, whether they will approve of it or not, whether they will still respect you after you write your story or not (hey, do you really need such people in your life?).
Just write the words that excite you, that want to be written by you.
Write like no-one is going to be reading what you have written.
A practical way out of the Block is by free writing. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about a subject of your choice, perhaps the character who’s causing you distress or even your story. Write uninhibitedly and soon you might find gems that could give you a breakthrough.
What are the methods you use to get over Writers Block?
DO YOU HAVE A WRITING BUDDY?
“Anything you do deeply is very lonely. There are many Zen students here, but the ones that are going deep are very lonely.”
“Are you lonely?” I asked him.
“Of course,” he answered. “But I do not let it toss me away. It is just loneliness.”
~ Wild Mind, Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg.
Writing is a solitary pursuit. The visualization and the capturing of the inspirations and the impressions, all need to be done in quietude. But many times, we need a certain push that only another writer can understand and provide.
It is a proven fact that accountability can make the difference between the success and failure of a venture. Going on a diet? Going to take 10,000 steps daily? Going to write daily?
Accountability will make you feel like taking action even when you’d rather just watch television or surf the net.
These are buddies. Gym buddies, diet buddies, walking buddies, writing buddies.
Identify one such friend, or two. Whose writing strengths match yours. Then, fix up the time and amount of writing you will do.
It could be timed writing. Or even timed editing. Buddies remind you of your writing goals when you forget them. And they goad you to follow up on your promises you made to yourself and to others. They read what you’ve written. They tell you what is working and what isn’t. When they give a patient hearing to your ideas, the vision becomes clearer and the story becomes stronger. We can never be objective about our own writing. Our buddies point out to us our weaknesses, whether it a skewed POV or a rambling text or even a sequence of plot events which is implausible.
In the earlier days of publishing, editors at the publishing houses took on the role of writing buddy, in a way. Through encouragement and regular but constant goading, they ensured the writers completed writing their books. In fact, well-known Canadian author, Mark Anthony Jarman, in a writing workshop by Avid Learning held at the Kalaghoda Art Festival, revealed it was thanks to this unceasing badgering by his editor that he was able to complete writing most of his books.
Writing buddies are invaluable. If you don’t have one, you need to get one ASAP.
But remember, worthwhile relationships are never one-sided.
Will you be a great writing buddy, too?
Like I promised last week, here I am with some light to throw on PHYSICAL CREATIVITIES.
Ask hundred people the definition of creativity, almost eighty would say it is about “thinking out of the box”.
All this while one would have thought that this box referred to must be some hypothetical box, which one had to jump out of if one had a wish to be creative.
But what would happen if you were actually put inside a life-sized box? A sealed box. Bet you’d try all the creativity at your disposal to get out of that box. Besides of course, hammering on the sides with your fists, hoping SOMEBODY would hear you.
Jokes aside, according to research done, those outside the physical box scored more points on creativity, than those inside it.
Here are some ways in which physical actions can jog your creativity into higher gear:
Which is your favourite creativity-inducing physical activity?
There are two types of people in this world:
We will talk about the second group because the first group has everything planned out and doesn’t really need any further inputs. Mostly.
So the people who crave excitement try to find it in dangerous sporting activities such as bungee jumping, river rafting or even sky diving. The more adventurous ones even take it up as a profession. Such as bullfighting.
And if you are an Avenger or a Superpower-person, you get your thrills in kicking the a** of those mammoth antagonists that more often than advance towards you from the horizon, stomping over buildings and buses and scattering laypersons like ants whose piece of candy has been snatched away.
Those who cannot physically access these activities try to find excitement in activities like substance abuse and other type of addictions.
These are the Excitement-Junkies (EJ).
These activities can be life-threatening (except if you are an Avenger or Super-power person) and most of us don’t want to lose our lives in pursuit of excitement. What options do most EJs have, then?
Here is where NaNoWriMo comes in.
If you are a creative person and ever felt the call to write a novel (which is also why you are reading this article), the ‘Deadline’ is the device that will bring to you all the excitement of a battle without endangering your life.
30 days of writing, a minimum word count, not doing your daily minimum, the word-backlog piling on, the approaching deadline and the thrill of validating your novel a few minutes before 11:59pm on 30th November. Slaying a dragon couldn’t give you this kind of a high. EJs of the world, rejoice.
Conversely, writing to a deadline is also ‘being in a Zen state’ or ‘being in the moment.’
Okay, let us try an experiment.
Open a New Word doc. Or a blank page in your notebook.
Now write 500 words of a story using these words:
crash, crumpled paper, straw, gravel, ochre.
There is no time limit. Begin now.
Finished? Not yet? Why?
Okay, let that go.
Open another New doc or blank page, as the case may be.
Set the timer on your phone for 15 minutes. Ready?
Now, using these words: social worker, mop, hotel room, beeper, write a story of 500 words within 15 minutes, beginning NOW.
With a deadline looming ahead, your inner editor does not get an opportunity to barge in with its deprecating words. And with limited time at your disposal to finish the story your mind gets totally involved in the task, relegating all extraneous thoughts to the back- burner. Isn’t that what meditation is all about. And really, if after a gap of time, say a few days or months, you read what you have written, you’d be quite pleasantly surprised. “Have I written this?” is one of the most common expressions that describe what you feel.
But if words like meditation confuse or scare you, then consider deadline being the weapon that can wipeout the curse of “one day.” According to Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, the world is full of “one day novelists” – those people who proclaim to the world that ‘one day, they will write a novel.’
That day is the 1st of November. Get ready for it.
P.S. The prompts given above are from http://www.creativewritingprompts.com/ It is a very good idea to write to prompts (within a time deadline). This exercises both both your physical and mental creativities. Try it.
More about physical creativities next week.
Hopefully, you have signed up at NaNoWriMo already. If you are on Facebook, check out the Wrimo India Page too.
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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.
If you google either NaNoWriMo or ‘How to write a novel in 30 days,’ you’ll get thousands of links, most of them helpful and many of them repetitions.
As a five-time ML (aka Volunteer and Motivational Leader) and seven-time winner of NaNoWriMo, I have observed and studied and experienced and come up with a list of things one can do to be able to write a novel this November. In the next few weeks, I shall share them with you so, come November you are fully equipped and excited to write your novel.
These tips would work for both first-time wrimos* as well as veteran wrimos. My sincere advice to first timers is: Just write that novel without getting bogged down with the technicalities. Write like how Rumi asks a lover to dance. Write as if no-one is watching (and really, that is the only way to write).
So, onto the tips for today:
But also read a lot of non-fiction. Especially in subjects you are passionate about. My list includes (in no particular order): creativity, love, cooking (reading about it), spirituality, nutrition and marriage.
What subjects does your list include?
Go out often, to crowded places (no dearth of them in our beloved country, no?). Eavesdrop on conversations, jot down interesting ones. Go to the garden, to the café, to the railway station, the airport, a deserted lane late in the evening and stand under the boughs of the bougainvillea, and write. Allow yourself to feel, allow yourself to write whatever wants to be written, don’t judge.
Heard something interesting lately? An interesting dialect/dialogue/turn of phrase?
And make it a point to write something in it, everyday. Make it a habit. And the more you write, the more interesting will your writing become. Will you ever use what you are writing? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. But the quality of your writing will improve, that is a given.
Until next week, then.