Round 3

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

I am not at all sorry to be saying goodbye to August.  With the arrival of September, that means fall AND FOOTBALL are right around the corner (sue me, I’m in the SEC…we take this seriously).   It also means we’re entering the final stretch for Round 3.  Some of you may be thinking about Round 4 and NaNo prep.  That’s cool.  But don’t forget to keep some focus on those current goals!

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Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

The mercury hasn’t dropped much, but fall is COMING.  Smell the scent of freshly sharpened pencils…  Do kids even still have real wooden pencils these days?  I know this time of year, I always have to fight the urge to buy a whole passel of new school supplies and notebooks.  I have a SERIOUS weakness for notebooks.  Do you have favorite “manual” tools for getting your plot or prose down?

 

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The 3 Biggest Stumbling Blocks for Writers by Kristen Brockmeyer

We’re all writers here, right? We adore the printed word, devour books and bleed ink. It is a privilege and an pleasure to sit down at our computers every day and create fantastic stories out of thin air. In fact, it’s downright magical. So why the hell does it sometimes feel like performing a DIY root canal minus painkillers and actual dentistry experience would be easier and more painless than facing down a blank page?

Call it writer’s block. Performance anxiety. Verbal constipation. There are several reasons we writers can freeze up at any given time. Here are a three of the biggest stumbling blocks (hence the ALL CAPS) and some ways to get around them:

1. PERFECTIONISM.

Don’t feel bad. Writers often battle perfectionism. But even the most complex, beautiful and bestselling works of literature all started from a first draft and, chances are, those drafts didn’t pop out on the page fully formed in brilliant perfection. If you grapple endlessly with sentence structure, imagery and spot-on characterization, it might take you a year to past that first paragraph. By scrutinizing every word that formulates on the page for strokes of genius, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. As the bajillion-time bestselling romance author Nora Roberts said to me just last week when we met for decaf mochas at Starbucks, you can’t edit a blank page. Okay, fine, I read that on Google somewhere. But Nora’s right. Just focus on pounding out a first draft. That’s the most important thing.

2. FEAR OF SUCKING.

This is a common first-time writer’s problem. You compare every word you write to every other writer’s work you’ve ever read and often find yours lacking in a big way. But the fear of sucking is also a second- (and third-and fiftyith-) time writer’s problem. You achieved a miracle and created an awesome story once that some people liked and now you’re afraid you can’t do it again. Or you’re writing the third book in a trilogy and are scared it won’t measure up to the first two. When you start a new book, any previous successes become flukes. The solution? Embrace that fear. Your vulnerability will actually make you a better writer. Also, buy an inspirational cat poster to drive the point home if you must, but know that your voice is worthy of being heard and work through that fear to get to that all important first draft.

3. BRAIN EMPTY. WORDS ALL GONE.

Maybe this case of writer’s block is so severe that it feels like you used up your lifetime quota of words already, but, I promise, there are lots more in there. To jiggle them loose, try the oft-touted technique of just typing gibberish until something meaningful comes out. Sometimes the very act of putting stuff on paper or screen will jumpstart the creative process. Or, go do something different. Take a 15 minute walk. Fix yourself a snack. Go to the mall and people-watch, with a notebook to jot down impressions. Watch a movie. Read a couple chapters out of a non-fiction book or fiction outside your genre. Crochet dog sweaters for your local Hairless Chihuahua Rescue, if that’s your thing. But keep your inspirational side trips on a time limit and always come back to the page.

In summary? Every case of writer’s block is treatable. Just don’t strive for perfectly perfect perfectness yet (unless you’re in editing purgatory, but that’s a worry for another day). Always remember that you’re good enough, smart enough and, gosh darn it, people will like your books. Just keep that creative well full, repeatedly apply butt to chair, fingers to keys, pen to paper, and the words will come back.

~*~

Kristen Brockmeyer

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

After what has felt like an endless summer, we are finally headed toward fall.  Maybe not with temps yet, but it’s getting dark when I get up in the morning, and that usually means reasonable temperatures are just around the corner (relatively speaking).  School is back in session, and we’ve got to find our NEW GROOVE.  How’s that going for you?

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Here’s To Writing and Your Your Brain! Cheers! by Amy Kennedy

Why does suckitude set in when we have a goal? It’s almost as if one part of our brain says, Yay! I’m going to be a best-selling author! As another part reacts with: that sounds scary and risky and riddled with failure, and failure is bad and so is sticking out your neck, remember that one time? Let’s look at Facebook instead.

 

I was at a writer’s event recently where I heard Roseanne Bane speak on brain science and writing–wow, it turns out one part of your brain wants to write, whereas another part sees it as a literal threat. And the part that wants to write doesn’t know the other part has Shut. It. Down.  The part that wants to write, the cortex, thinks it’s a loser and lazy and a procrastinator–the two parts do not talk to each other because the part that sees it as a threat, the limbic, has no LANGUAGE.

 

What?!

 

So…the side with no language the limbic or lizard brain (yeah, like anyone should listen to a lizard brain…okay, well, you should listen to the lizard brain if you’re actually in danger–then it’s the boss) puts the kibosh on it. Then, the part with language gets  to make up all kinds of stories as to why you’re a lazy stupid lump. Yay!

 

Here’s. The. Thing. Are you going to let a lizard tell you what to do? I think not!

 

Here are some of Bane’s suggestions, with my comments:

Downtime: “The brain requires rest to retain what it’s learned.” Yup. Whatcha doin? Nothin. Perfect. I have one of my downtimes (nearly) every morning; #onegoodcup project is my peaceful time. It’s awesome for ideas…or just daydreaming.

Sleep: “A sleep deprived brain cannot be creative” We all know we need sleep, we know it and we laugh at it. Okay, I really do try to get 7-8 hours every night, my brain and my face appreciate it, but sometimes one more episode of Game of Thrones, Hell on Wheels, Daredevil, or Gilmore Girls is calling your name soooo sweetly. And honestly, once in a while, we all need a little binge watching…at least, I think we do.

Exercise: “exercise doesn’t just improve your body; it improves brain function” Oy! I know this! I feel amazing when I move my body. And when I move my body I tend to get really good ideas too, gosh-darnit!

Focus: “Writing requires a special kind of focus”  I swear, the word “focus” will be my next tattoo. I’ve written about this, I’ve read about this. I’m working on this.

Meditation: “rewires your brain” I know! Right?! Again, I always feel so in the now when I’ve meditated, but there’s always so much to dooooooooooo. I have been able to squeeze in an occasional mini meditation after my one good cup,

Play: “makes your brain more powerful” One of my favorite things that I think I’m doing, but I’m not actually doing, I’m only thinking about doing. Got that?

 

I know that some folks have a few of these added to their ROW80 goals–that is fantastic. What I didn’t realize was how much they really have to do with our creativity. So, by the time you read this, I will have added these into my ROW80 goals. This was meant as an inspiration piece for all of you — but, it turns out, all of you have inspired me. Thanks!

~*~

Amy Kennedy