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Friday, January 10, 2014

How do I deal with writer's block?

If you're an experienced writer, you know how to deal with writer's block. It's only new writers who have this problem because, writing is just like any other job. It's a JOB. And this implies that you have to work at it.
Of course, you'll hear stuff like how if you're doing something that you love doing, then the doing is much easier. Granted, it's not as much of a chore, but what many people don't seem to realize is that easier does not mean easy. Writing is not easy, not for me, not for you, and not for the best writers in the world.
Top authors sometimes spend years researching their topic before they even start writing! So if you think that you can start writing now and complete writing a book in a week's time, you're sadly mistaken.
Writer's block takes many forms and I'm not here to discuss all the different types. What I'm going to do is tell you what I do, and maybe some of you will get something out of it.
For me personally, writing comes out best when my mind is calm. I'm not talking about the Yogic, deep pool stillness kind of calm. Just the everyday calmness that you get after a good night's sleep. Mostly I wake up in a very good mood, and something external has to happen to spoil it. Unfortunately when you're married and have a 5 yr old, there's enough and more opportunities for you to loose it.
And what I try to do is to minimize anything that will trouble me. I make sure that everything is ready and packed for my daughter the previous day and wake her up at the last minute so that she just doesn't have the time to argue about anything. I keep my conversation with my husband short and to the point so that there's no opportunity for any flare ups. The good thing is that he too likes to be left alone in the mornings, so this system actually works quite well.
Once I've sent my daughter off (my husband drops her off at school) I don't hurry. I usually take my time to start up my computer and log in, and what I've found is that at the most, the longest this takes me is 15 min. Of course, for many people 15 min is very valuable, but not so for me. This extra time ensures that I don't feel harried and I get to maintain as much of my morning's good mood as possible.
The next thing I do is to open up an online copy of the bible and read a chapter. I've found that this has a very calming effect on my mind. Once again, I don't hurry through the reading, but read through the chapter slowly, trying to absorb as much as I can. (I mention the bible because I'm a Christian, but any of the holy books should be just as useful. My view is that all religions preach the same thing)
I then spend a couple of minutes in contemplation. Many times, my mind is just a blank. Sometimes I get the thought that I've been a naughty girl. Ultimately, this introspection not only helps me in my personal life, it also ensures that when I start writing, I'm not thinking about anything else other than what I'm writing about.
Generally, I have an outline in my mind before I start writing. I know what ideas I want to express and in what order I have to present them in, so all that's left is for me to actually put finger to keyboard and it just comes flowing out.
Of course you get interruptions, your phone rings or somebody bangs on your front door. I try not to let any of this affect me, and if it means that I ignore a few calls, well then so be it. In fact, I don't even log into my email or facebook ID's because they are just another distraction for me.
The introduction is usually the easiest part for me, although I do have to do a couple of drafts before I end up with something that I'm happy with. And once I've got the introduction right, everything just falls into place.
The next day, I read through what I've done the previous day and try to get into the same frame of mind. This is important because your writing is just an extension of your ideas. It's just a medium for you to express yourself. So if your mind isn't right, then what you write too will not be.
As many people like to say, you need to write from your heart for which the first prerequisite is that your mind is calm enough for you to hear what your heart is saying. If your mind is operating at a thousand miles a second, there's no way you can hear anything in the midst of all that clamor.
Of course, the final product is still not the finished product. The more times you read through it, the better you will make it. And I keep doing this till I'm happy with what I've done. My logic is that if I'm not happy with what I've written, what are the chances that perfect strangers are going to be?
And this is how I try to ensure that I don't get to this writer's block thingy. And on those days when I do loose it, either because my daughter is just too much or I've got a bone to pick with my husband, I don't do any writing. There's no point really because I've tried working when my heart is not in it and I just delete the whole thing the next day.
In my experience, every writer knows whether they are a writer or not. They just know. It's not something that can be taught or even inspired. It's just something that you know.
This means that all the writing is inside of you somewhere, just waiting to come out. All you have to do is give it the opportunity, and it will.

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