From Writer’s Block to Writing Productivity with ROW80 by Beth Camp

We’ve all been in meetings or conversations – even with ourselves – when we need to solve a problem.
One classic problem-solving process is this:
  1. What’s wrong?
  2. Why does this happen?
  3. Who or what’s to blame?
  4. What can we do about it?

But sometimes, when we get to Stage 3, the effort to find a solution (even an internal one) stalls. Name-calling or guilt-faulting takes us to a giant egg-beater.

Some folks love Stage 3 because it’s deliciously analytical. Compare this stage to picking a sore scab. We just can’t leave it alone. You may think, hear, or make comments that sound like: But we’ve always done it this way. Bob can’t change. Mary said the real problem began when . . . Notice how we’ve stopped moving forward and started pointing fingers. This puts us all on the defensive, and we feel we can’t move forward until we resolve who or what is to blame. The result? Meetings waste time, and possible solutions disappear.

Translated to writing, this could sound like: I can’t change how I write. The real problem is I don’t have enough research. We all know what can happen when that inner editor sits on your shoulder for far too long. First one word is off, then another. Maybe the character needs more back story or maybe the plot has a hole deeper than Mount Everest upside down. Pretty soon, our writing loses its sizzle.  Maybe the entire project winds up in a drawer for a few weeks or a month. And sometimes we stop writing entirely.

One key strategy is simply to ask: What can I do next?

Be inspired by those productivity gurus who say: Take an impossible task and break it down into smaller, achievable steps. Doesn’t this sound like what we do with ROW80?

Many people have written about how to move past writer’s block. I believe that any suggestion that gets me writing again is useful. So, this last week, I went through my bookshelves and let go of about 10 books that talk about ways to improve writing productivity. You may have seen a few titles like these: Five Mistakes Writers Make or Pitfalls to Avoid on Your Journey to be a Good Writer. When I’ve dipped in these books for that motivational read, I’ve encountered helpful ideas, but first I have to sort out the lists of what I ‘should’ do, or what ‘doesn’t’ work. Sigh. I can generate negative thinking all by myself!

We writers generally work alone . . . except when we take our writing to small groups.  After you’ve left your writer’s group, ask this question: Does my writing and my growth as a writer feel supported by what happened in this meeting? If yes, you have a writing group that is golden. Trust the process you have developed with this group of writers.

But if you leave that writing group not feeling nurtured, ask why. Is it a person? Is it the process your group follows? What specifically could be changed to improve the work your small group does? Maybe folks need to clarify what they need from the group before the reading/critique begins. Maybe your group would benefit from talking about how to critique a work in progress or using a guided handout sheet. Maybe one (or more) of the group provides negative feedback. Fall back on pop psychology: You are either part of the problem (by allowing it to continue), or you are part of the solution (by taking action). Sometimes that action may mean finding a new group.

Your time, commitment, writing energy are precious. So, why not ask: What is stopping me from meeting my writing goals? à What specifically can I do to solve the problem? Affirm those resources, people, and situations that help you grow as a writer! And let go of the rest.

ROW80’s twice weekly commitment to setting specific, achievable goals and to report our progress is exactly the kind of resource that can help us strengthen our writing.

Sometimes it’s not so easy to honestly assess where we are as writers. Sometimes we worry about ‘going public’ with problems we’re facing. We all want to feel good about what we are doing. But we can learn from each other – as we continually refine our goal-setting and writing process.

Make it a good round!

 

 ~*~

Beth Camp

Photo of frog by Jeff Stemshorn, nature photographer, Tucson.

Photo of frog by Jeff Stemshorn, nature photographer, Tucson.

4 comments

  1. Beth, I love this so much! I spend a lot of time talking about this with my children – I’d love for them both to grow up without playing ‘the blame game”, which is a huge time and energy-waster. I’m going to be sharing this post in my weekend roundup. =)

    May your round be overflowing with health and productivity!

    1. Thank you so much, Shanjeniah. Even on the days we struggle the most, setting goals can help us work out of what’s stymied us. Hubby took me to see THE MARTIAN today. Wonderful acting, but the underlying premise is: accept the reality and get to work! May you also have a good round as we head to the end of the year . . . Beth

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, finding what’s really wrong is at the heart of identifying those next steps. Even if we identify only a part of the problem, taking some small action can lead to new insight as well. Best, Beth

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