Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beating the Block (A Novice Writer's Perspective)

Okay, this one goes out to all you other writer's out there. I'm not going to claim to know a cure, and I know, generally speaking, that every author has their own way to beat up writer's block. I can only tell you what I think, and some things that help me.

And firstly, this applies to all authors, whether your writing for a blog, a fiction writer, or a non-fiction writer. I know, that much might sound weird, but yes, if you are having to put your words on paper, they are still your words. Certainly, its a lot easier because with non-fiction the material is already there, you just have to express it. But expressing it can still be hard.

Alright, firstly Ill tell you about some of my experiences with writer's block. Then Ill go ahead and tell you some common causes, whether I define them, or they are from an outside force. Then finally, some suggestions for you to BEAT THE BLOCK!

Okay, firstly, my own experiences. Luckily for me, writing is a release for me, and helps my emotional state. Its just unfortunate that at this point in my career, my income from my writing is really limited, so others don't understand why I would do something that makes no money. Which led me to something, believe it or not, that annihilates my writer's block. Ill get to that later.

However, what I'm trying to say is that my writing relieves my emotional state. My writing generally increases my stat of mind, and it really takes a massive depression for it to be blocked. And that rarely happens to me.

However, sometimes I just write, and after 10 or so revisions, I develop the block. One such recent happening was recent, when I was writing an adventure for an RPG campaign I run. Yes, not a project for release or profit, and the vast majority of my work doesn't get released. I only release things for two reasons, either I think it will be commercially successful, or I think its something that needs to be released.

Anyhow, this adventure was actually a mystery adventure involving the investigation of a murder. Should be simple, especially for something that I don't plan to release, right? Well, like I said the block isn't associated with just things you want to publish.

I wanted to add a level of depth to the plot, that would make it intriguing, without destroying the atmosphere I had created with the setting. This was becoming increasingly difficult, so I did one of the things I usually do, I listened to music.

At first I turned on the television to MTV, and was listening to a certain pop diva sing about rings and fingers. I think you know who I am referencing. I watched the video for a second, which included about three dozen women in leotard outfits bending over and slapping their butts. While normally, this material would be interesting to me, if in a different cinema context(involving much more nudity)...that day it was just annoying. And while I don't dislike this artist, I wasn't in he mood for sexy pop-diva.

I quickly turned the television off, and searched desperately for my IPOD. I'm horrible about losing my stuff. I finally found it, and found sweet salvation, in Anthrax "I'm the Man '91" Yeah, I'm old school like that. But the only thing I could think of, at this point was the Pop Diva and her dancers bending over slightly and slapping their butts, all to the beat of Anthrax. It was like my own little movie. And it was awesome!

I quickly broke free of my creative rut, and created a ghetto neighborhood of halfling fishermen who resided on their fishing boats in fishing clans. From here I was easily able to craft some NPCs, a good background for the victim, and a twist that made for a good story.

Yeah, so my conflicts with the Block are...weird. To say the least.

Okay, so how does this apply to you? Well just giving you an example, and something to laugh at can sometimes help. And remember, it doesn't happen to only just you. A million writers have done this before you, a million more will go through it after you do. That's a little slogan I got from the Army, modified of course.

So what contributes to the block? As I mentioned above, many things do, and one of the common causes is emotional states. However, others exist, from the purely mundane (lack of sleep) to the truly profound (change of life). I define blocks as complex or mundane, the difference being if it has clear causal relationship or not. I also add in a scale of temporary or not-temporary. This is defined as whether or not a person wants to handle a block. There is no such thing as a permanent block, which is why I don't use the term. There is only the matter of whether or not you want to break the block.

I define a block caused by an emotional state as complex and temporary. Its caused by some element of your life that usually puts your emotions out of balance. And though these causes can be long-lasting, it is only temporary, and there are always ways to deal. For minor emotional blocks, this blog offers practical solutions. For major ones, only time will really heal those.

I define a block caused by something physical as mundane and temporary. It, like an emotional block, has a cause, and is only temporary. The problem is evaluating the block and taking steps o remove it. Medication for depression and sleep are some simple solutions. This blog is not really aimed at this sort of block.

I define a block caused by a lack of creativity as complex and temporary. It has no clear causal factor, but is usually only temporary. Often many elements that will help with an emotional block will break the mental/creative block. This blog is aimed at this block.

Lastly, this blog is not designed to help those situations whereby you no longer want to write. It can only help if that is what you want to do. My advice, if you don't like writing, and only remain because of money, or maybe concepts of identity, is to go ahead and bite the bullet. Hopefully you have enough support to make the transition seamlessly.

Okay, so what are some ways to defeat the block? I have, in my personal experience, two ways to defeat the block. A creative infusion of some sort, or work. Some authors can push past a block, or write through it. I don't promote this method, but sometimes, there are points in a story that you need to just move beyond to motivate yourself. I encounter at least one of these points in every project I encounter. Sometimes I find a way to turn tragedy to triumph, but I will admit, I have put some crappy words onto paper just to move on.

Firstly, a creative infusion. Simple enough. Sometimes you just need to listen to music or get out to a movie to move on. Just remain mindful of your budget. Don't do things you don't need to, because, as far as I know you cannot claim writer's block on your taxes. Though you can claim research for your it for what its worth.

Secondly, work. Something vigorous and laborious. It does so much to cleanse the mind and body. Go for a good two-mile run. I do at least a mile every other day, and a min of 4 miles a week. Its great for your health. However, I also do transcription work moonlighting. There is nothing like hearing someone else's voice for four hours to motivate your own words. Trust me on that one.

Not to mention, while I'm doing transcription I make $10 t0 $20 an hour, which is good for the whole income thing. I found transcription to prove I could make money right off the bat from writing. I can say this though, if you have a low tolerance for typing...don't attempt it. Its stressful and puts a lot of wear on the hands.

Well, I hope that my insight helped you. Hopefully you can get back to work on your next greatest project!

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