Writer’s write. You know that, you do that. You’ve accepted the fact that you are the only person responsible for your failure to write, so you have your bottom in your chair, writing tools at the ready with a general plan of action.
But you still feel stuck. First, let’s get this definition of writer’s block out of the way. The only true writer’s block I can think of is when you have absolutely no creative ideas that spark you at all. You might have trouble expressing those thoughts, but you have the ideas. Those random firing of synapses that make you go, “Oh, wouldn’t that be a cool story.” If your well of ideas runneth over, praise the powers that be. You do not have writer’s block.
There are some that would argue this, but I believe if you sit down and write anything creative you have succeeded. It might be junk. That’s okay. You need to prime the pump.
Priming the pump is something that people did on an everyday basis a hundred years ago. Pushing up and down a large metal handle, they were able to draw water from a well without dropping a bucket and rope into the deep. The first water that came up through the pump frequently had poor color, trickled in, and even had a metallic taste. If you were smart, you didn’t drink it.
Once the pump was primed, though, the water gushed in with its cool, clear, pure taste and look.
Sometimes writing is like that. You write a few paragraphs, or pages of what you consider to be that nasty, brackish water. Then, you get primed. The stuff coming from your creative mind becomes clearer, more focused, fresher. It makes sense with the story you are trying to tell.
So, how does a writer go about priming their creative personal pump?
Remember the following:
1. If I write anything creative, I have succeeded. Tinkering with your web site, answering email, paying bills does not qualify. Neither does the act of turning on your computer. Remind yourself, every day “If I write I succeed.”
Even if you only manage ten minutes at the keyboard and get three paragraphs written, you are further ahead than you were. You are priming your pump; your creative juices are flowing.
2. Set realistic goals. A true goal is precise and measurable. A full page? Two hundred fifty words? An hour actually typing away? Those are exact amounts that can be evaluated. If you’ve been having difficulty setting word to paper, don’t have a goal of writing some huge amount. Be happy with a page or two, or a half-hour if you set your goals based on time.
Did you hit that target easily? Add ten percent. Work at it for a week. Did you hit that? Add another ten percent. Keep going, adding ten percent a week until you hit your maximum. Hopefully, you will find that you’ve not only increased your output, but developed a healthy writing habit too.
3. Reward, don’t punish, yourself. Make writing pleasurable. Creative writing is supposed to be fun! A word of warning: don’t reward yourself with food. Piling on extra pounds is not something any of us need.
Do something you’ve been putting off that you’ve wanted to do for a while. How about a pedicure? A bouquet of flowers? An encouraging card to yourself (actually mail it)? An hour massage (for accomplishing something really big)? A movie? A long distance call to someone you care about? A quarter in a jug to pay for an eventual weekend get-away? A donation to a favorite charity?
Something that will make you feel great is what your reward should be, (with the qualifier that it doesn’t sink you into debt).
Don’t judge your reward as being silly, or a waste of time or money. Think about where you went because you promised yourself that gift. Keep your promises to yourself!
4. Don’t feel guilty for using your talent. Some people take fantastic photographs for their creative outlet, others paint, some write poetry, others have to participate in sports. Writing the story, be it a short story, novella, or novel is your creative talent’s outlet.
5. Remember the writing side of you is like a small child. Really small, say like four or five years old. If you’ve shared your writing with someone who tells you they hate your story, don’t share with them again. They’ve wounded your inner child.
Think back to a time when you were four. That finger painting your family gushed all over? They were feeding your creative child. I bet you remember a time when you didn’t get that support too. You probably told yourself that you would NEVER show them your art again. Depending on how brave, stubborn and/or hurt you were, you might have ventured forth again. BUT even Pavlov’s dog knew how to react when the bell rang. If your bell has been continually negative, you had a predictable reaction, too.
Don’t confuse this with a critique partner. While they shouldn’t use inflammatory language, they should be able to point out flaws and weaknesses. A critique partner’s goal should be to make your work stronger, not tear you, the writer down. If you feel a critique partner is attacking YOU, you need to divorce yourself from that part of your relationship.
While on the general subject of critique partners, watch out for those that continually beg for your advice, or who never accomplish even the smallest of goals. They tend to be the most negative and are wannabe’s, people who zap your creative energy and bring you down. Avoid them like the black plague!
More on critique partners at a later date. Next time we’ll visit the important topic of time.