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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Writing Tips for the Practical-Minded #9: Writer's Block, Revisited

I talked about writer's block on Thursday, but it's difficult to exhaust the subject.  Maybe this is telling.  I can write all week about not feeling able to write.  Perhaps the difficulty when a writer is blocked is that he or she simply needs to find the right subject, something that invokes passion or excitement, or in the case of writer's block, outright terror?

I was once on a panel with two other writers who had published many dozens of books between them, and another writer who was about as far along in his career as me and who was just as serious about it.  During the question-and-answer period, the conversation kept veering toward the question of writer's block.  People genuinely wanted to know what we did when inspiration didn't come.

We tried serious answers.

"Trust the process."

"Write whether you feel like it or not.  The act of sitting down and beginning a project will trigger that mysterious part of the brain that sends you your stories.

"Write through the tough parts.  Yeah, maybe you'll get a book that has a slam-bang beginning and a can't-miss ending, with a bunch of saggy parts in between, but you can always edit.  That's what revisions are for."

These answers did not mollify the crowd, so we went for humor, which is usually quite truthful underneath the sarcasm:

"I have a contract.  My contract has a due date on it.  Every day, that due date gets closer; thus, I write whether I feel like it or not."

"When I need inspiration, I just look at my credit card bill."

Or, if your goal is to be a professional writer someday, perhaps your inspiration should be pretending you have a contract with a due date on it, or imagining that your royalties might someday make a dent in that credit card bill.

I don't think I'm done with this subject, so we may be talking about the quest for inspiration again before this month of Writing Tips for the Practical-Minded is finished.  But I think I'll leave you with this thought today--

"Don't let your mind get in the way of your art.  When the nattering voices in your head tell you things you don't want to hear, drown those voices out with the clattering of your computer keys."

For four straight days of inspiration, join me at the Anhinga Writers' Studio Summer Workshops!
Mary Anna

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