The Opposite of Writer’s Block

I don’t actually believe in “Writer’s Block” but that’s an entirely different post that I plan on writing about. (I originally went very off topic with this post and decided to cut it and make it a separate post.)

Today, I’m going to talk about the opposite of “Writer’s Block” and that’s the glorious, wonderful (if not a little ironically frustrating) time when I have too many ideas. When my brain is bountiful with words and characters and worlds that I just can’t keep from bubbling out of me—and how I shut that shit down, because I have to focus on one thing at a time, dammit.

I’m not good at multitasking. Well, I’m average at it. But when it comes to writing, there’s now way I can keep multiple projects in my head. I mean, I can keep multiple ideas up in there—snippets and pieces. But, eventually, I have to get them down. Especially when I’m going through that wonderful time of having too many ideas because it’s just so much clutter. I’ll forget things. I’ll merge stories. Characters from one story will pop up in another. The detective will suddenly discover that the murder victim was killed by the fire-bending vampire who’s been secretly in love with the detective ever since they met at spy school. Wait…*writes this down*

Anyway, with too many ideas, I need to get them all down and accounted for. And this is how I do it:

Because I use the program Scrivener (for reals, it’s the best) I can have one file for all ideas and projects I want to work on soon. For example, since January, I’ve been developing ideas for…

  • A new fantasy series, but specifically the first book to write during NaNoWriMo 2019.
  • A full-length film script about MY LIFE. It’s a comedy…ish. Only semi-autobiographical.
  • Another full-length film script about ALIENS. It’s a thriller.
  • ANOTHER full-length film script about a FAMILY. It’s DRAMATIC.
  • And, yet, ANOTHER full-length film script about MURDER. It’s another thriller.
  • A short film that I can’t produce with such a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (just me).
  • Another short film that isn’t really an idea yet, I just want to make one this year with a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (still just me lol). I used to make these a lot right out of high school and miss doing it.

Plus, I’m working on 1) the book I started during NaNoWriMo 2018, trying to finish it and 2) the book I’m supposed to be working on as “the book” that I haven’t touched in, like, a year. I Marie Kondo’d that shit. IT DOESN’T SPARK JOY RIGHT NOW, SO I PUT IT AWAY UNTIL IT DOES.

So HOW DO I KEEP ALL THESE STRAIGHT AND TIDY IN MY BRAIN?

I cry a lot.

Just kidding, I don’t. I mean, yes, I cry a lot. But I don’t keep them all in my brain!

I have a Scrivener (#NotSpon) (lol like anyone would sponsor this blog) file with all of these ideas. I set it up like this: I have one text document (and you can do this with Word or Docs with just different files in a folder on your computer, whatevs, nbd) with a MASTER LIST of all of these projects. It’s just a list of the projects (by title or short description) and projects that are completed are highlighted in yellow. The project that I’m actively working on, I highlight in blue. Projects that I have yet to start on are not highlighted with any color and projects that are outlined-but-not-yet-completed are highlighted in green.

Then, I have other text documents within that file (or if you don’t have Scrivener, just within a folder) for each of these projects. This is a dumping ground. Any time I have an idea or a thought or anything that I can’t have in my head about the project, I plop it in that text document. Sometimes there’s just a few lines, maybe a paragraph. One of them, I have an entire outline started. It’s just everything I need to get down to get it out of my head.

And it’s all in one, nice and tidy place!

So what is this magical time of having too many ideas called? The opposite of “Writer’s Block”? Let’s call it…Writer’s Flow? Creative Fulfillment? Magic Time? Heaven? Maybe it doesn’t need a name. It’s a great time, though.

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Writer’s Block Is Fixable

Occasionally, like most writers, I periodically suffer from something known as “Writer’s Block.” But listen, it’s not real. Okay it is real, but it’s not what you think.

Hear me out — I just think that it’s an over-used term that’s often romanticized as this “You don’t understand! It’s too difficult! My muse has left me! I shan’t go on!” [proceeds to dramatically faint, landing on a chaise with one arm draped over forehead] kind of thing. As if it’s something that just falls upon you like an illness.

But listen! That’s not what it is! And it’s easily fixable!!!

If you’re struggling from writer’s block, it’s not because an evil Cupid-like demonbaby shot you with an anti-idea arrow. You shot yourself with that arrow. Because a lack of idea comes from a lack of something else in your life. You need sustenance. You need sleep. You need a break. You need inspiration, that “muse” you claim left you. So go get it back.

I mean, the problem is simple: you are creatively, mentally, or physically drained (or a combination of the three) so you’re unable to write. The answer: you need to fill your creative well by stepping away and reading or absorbing some other art; take a break and breathe and/or meditate; or go for a walk, stretch, exercise, sleep, eat something, and/or drink some water (or a combination of all of it). It’s usually a combination of all of it. Sometimes, as someone who deals with mental health problems, it was my depression and/or anxiety getting in the way. That’s a whole other issue, but working through those hurdles is just as important.

The point is, your writer’s block is a symptom of a different problem.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been writing for almost eleven years and I have not once felt like I had “writer’s block” as it’s often described. I, of course, go through spurts where I don’t have any ideas or I can’t seem to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) or I just don’t want to write because it’s become something that no longer makes me happy. So, instead of staring at the empty computer screen or notebook page, I do as I mentioned above. I’m usually creatively drained and need to fill my creative well. I read, watch a film, go to an art gallery. Or I’ve been at the computer too long and I need to go for a walk. Sometimes that fills the well, too! I just go outside, walk through the woods a bit. Something will come. Something always comes.

BONUS: Sometimes none of the above works. Sometimes. And I can tell you exactly what that is — or, at least, what it’s been for me. Because none of those things worked, I knew that it was the story. It wasn’t ready to be written. It needed to simmer in my brain more. I needed to put it away and work on something else.

But even still — the block wasn’t the problem. It was the symptom and I needed to work it out.

TO RECAP, “Writer’s Block” is a symptom of something else. It’s not the cause itself. And, most of the time, you can work through it. You can fix the problem by troubleshooting. Water? Rest? Creative dry spell? Take care of it. Move on.

Now, go forth and write and write and write. But don’t forget those breaks. And don’t forget to refill your creative well by reading and watching and listening. Then write some more.

Writing: Current Works in Progress and Goals

So, I’ve talked a lot about my writing here. I’ve stated over and over that I’ve decided to change directions and write something different. Well, for once, that’s not what I’m going to talk about! I’m sticking with the current book, Thoughtless, which I’ve posted about before. For this post, I just want to talk about all of my writing projects for a bit and my goals for the new year. I already posted about my goals for the year, but I wanted to dive deeper into each project, what they’re about, and what I want to accomplish with each in 2019.

Let’s just start chronologically, which projects I’m going to working on and when. There’s some overlap with most, but for the most part, a large chunk of the year will be dedicated to each project. I tend to write like this anyway. The seasons changing always get me in the mood to write one particular project or another.

First and foremost, I need to finish the first draft of the book I participated in NaNoWriMo 2018 with. That’s the first goal. It’s the story of a fake family of thieves who move from town to town, stealing from their rich neighbors in an elaborate series of heists. I had such a blast starting and writing the first 50,000 words, but I believe that it’s just over halfway, and I want to finish it between now and the end of March.

Second, I’m working on the book I’ve been working on for a few years off and on, tentatively titled Thoughtless. It’s a science fiction story set in the future about a young woman becoming the youngest police officer, joining the Force, in a world in which humans have evolved to be able to read minds. I’m planning to work on Thoughtless throughout this year. I originally wrote the first draft of this book many years ago, I think in 2013? And I reworked a lot of the plot last year, slowly rewriting it ever since. I’m hoping to finish this second draft by the end of the summer.

Third, I’ve been itching since October to start a new fantasy series. I came up with the idea, which is less of an idea and more of a set of parameters (a long series, same length for each book [I like the idea of a fantasy series that doesn’t grow exponentially in length with each addition], an interesting complex magic system, and a magic school that isn’t like other’s I’ve read). That’s literally what I was thinking about when I came up with the series. I usually have a character, an idea of a plot, something. But no, I just wanted to write the perfect fantasy series for me to read. The plot and characters came much later–I still don’t know entirely what the series is about. I have a few vague ideas. So, I want to outline the series/first book this winter because…

Fourth, I plan on writing the first book for NaNoWriMo 2019! I’m incredibly excited. I’m obsessed with this fantasy series in my head. It’s not a particularly original idea, yet. It’s sort of a basic fantasy concept, but the more I research and start delving in, the richer it’s becoming.

Fifth, I want to write another script for a full-length film. I wrote one last year and enjoyed the process a lot. Writing a film is so different from writing a novel, but I’ve been an aspiring filmmaker for as long as I’ve been an aspiring author — I just love telling stories, in either form. Not only do I want to write another full-length film, I want to write and hopefully shoot a short film this year, too. I don’t have any idea what the short will be about, but I have the story worked out for the full-length one already. It’s another sci-fi, like last year’s, but an entirely different tone and way of telling the story. To begin with, the idea is that it would be a real-time, two hours of a single mother dealing with an invasion of some humanoid creatures of undetermined (by me; I can’t make up my mind) origin and fighting to save her kids. I see it so vividly in my head. I just want to watch it.

That’s the key to writing, for me. I always write what I want to read or see.

So those are all my current writing projects and what I plan to work on this year. I hope I can accomplish it all. A year seems so long and promising until it’s December in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it?

NaNoWriMo 2018

I did it! I won NaNoWriMo for my third year in a row. 

My plan had been to document each week, as I’d done in 2016 and 2017, but this month was far more difficult to juggle everything than I’d thought it would be. But at least I can do this wrap-up post about the month.

I started out strong, for the most part hitting or being just under the target 1,667 daily words. I dropped off for a bit with low numbers and had my first 0 Words Day. I picked it back up again with just one other 0 Words Day until I hit a Thanksgiving Slump, which is usually an okay writing weekend, despite the family dinners and decorating the entire house for Christmas, but this year is was almost nothing written. After Thanksgiving, I made a goal to write at least 2,500/3,000 words a day. And, except for on the 28th when I was just too busy to sit down and write, I did that well. Because of that last 0 Words Day, I only had to write 5,500 words on the last day.

This year’s book was a slightly different book for me, as it wasn’t fantasy, which is what I usually write. Although I tend to write more contemporary stories for NaNoWriMo, I don’t know why. Maybe because they tend to be shorter? Less world building? I probably do that subconsciously. Anyway, this book’s about a trio of thieves pretending to be a family who move from town to town, stealing from their rich neighbors in an elaborate series of heists. It’s a bit comedic, a bit dark. I love the characters and I had blast writing it. Well, writing most of it. 50,000 is obviously not that a long of a book, despite it technically being a novel’s minimum length (I think it’s 45,000 actually). I believe I’m over halfway at 50k, which would bring it to around 90-95,000 at it’s end. I’m not sure when I will continue on with it, as I have other projects in the works already.

Anyway, NaNoWriMo was fun and I can’t wait for next year! 

The Daily Count:
November 1st: 1,769 (1,769)
November 2nd: 1,685 (3,454)
November 3rd: 1,820 (5,274)
November 4th: 1,520 (6,794)
November 5th: 1,905 (8,699)
November 6th: 688 (9,387)
November 7th: 720 (10,107)
November 8th: 0 (10,107)
November 9th: 2,523 (12,630)
November 10th: 969 (13,599)
November 11th: 2,553 (16,152)
November 12th: 1,783 (17,935)
November 13th: 0 (17,935)
November 14th: 1,667 (19,602)
November 15th: 1,817 (21,419)
November 16th: 1,880 (23,299)
November 17th: 1,667 (24,966)
November 18th: 1,667 (26,633)
November 19th: 1,866 (28,499)
November 20th: 0 (28,499)
November 21st: 0 (28,499)
November 22nd: 978 (29,477)
November 23rd: 0 (29,477)
November 24th: 3,000 (32,477)
November 25th: 3,103 (35,580)
November 26th: 2,673 (38,253)
November 27th: 2,585 (40,838)
November 28th: 0 (40,838)
November 29th: 3,662 (44,500)
November 30th: 5,509 (50,009)!!!

Shifting Gears…Again – Writing Update

About a year ago, I posted about needing to shift gears and abandon the novel I’d been working on for a long time and deciding to work on the book I like to call Book E. All of that is explained in the other post. However, one thing that I’ve been thinking about for the past year since making that decision: I’m worried about the genre.

Book E, like the original book I’d been writing, Book A, are both set in the same universe. They are connected. And I’d been working on them thinking it was the best option for me to focus on. The problem is, both Book A and E, while different in tone and style, have the same thing in common: superpowers. Book A is more fantasy, while Book E is a little more urban fantasy, but both have characters with the same superhero-like powers.

And what type of films/books/everything has there been a lot of lately? SUPERHEROES.

Media is over-saturated with superhero content right now. And I’ve learned that a lot of agents aren’t really looking for those right now because of it. I had a feeling that this was happening, but I was still in denial that I could make something original enough to stand out. But I couldn’t. I can’t. And honestly, I don’t want to. Because like many of us, I’m sick of superheroes, too.

I still love those books and I know that someday I might go back to them. I think sometimes that if I’d finished them years ago like planned, maybe they could’ve been published at the peak of this superhero obsession, which would’ve been great. But I know that Book A is not as strong or original as I thought when I first started writing it at the age of fifteen (it checked all four of the over-done tropes that one of my top picks for agents listed on their blog) and Book E is great, but also resembles some superpower-centered stories that are out there right now. So I know that now I’m going in the right direction.

So what will I be focusing on then, if not Books A or E?

Book C! The science fiction novel I wrote back in 2012 that I think is a much more original concept and has a much better chance of catching the eye of an agent to eventually be published. It had been my plan a long time ago to finish both Book A and Book C then decide which one was stronger to query with, but then Book E came along. Now that I want to change directions a bit, Book C is the perfect project to work on.

I’m extremely excited to get back to working on Book C (or Thoughtless, as that is its tentative title) though I know it’s going to be a ton and a half of work. The first draft was written when I was a much younger, less-skilled writer—boy, can six years make a difference (and with any luck, that constant growth will continue.) But because of that, I know it’s going to be difficult to turn this book into something good. I’ve already decided that an entire rewrite is necessary and a huge re-structuring of the plot is the first thing that needs to happen.

However, before that, one of my goals for January was to finish the draft of the book I’d written during NaNoWriMo’17. So that’s what I’m working on right now. After that, in February (which is the month I’m focusing on writing) I’ll be tackling Book C and starting again from scratch.

It’s a scary and exciting phase.

In Love With Writing Again – Writing Update

Writing and I have always had a love for each other. Even in the bad times. But this year, I’ve truly been questioning whether I love the idea of writing more than actually writing.

 

I know that last time I posted about writing, it was about how I write through a creative slump. That was in June, I said I was just in a slump. Well, that slump turned into something much worse for me.

It’s been a ridiculously fast-paced, busy summer and being able to carve out time to write became even more difficult than usual. To be honest, I started to fall out of love with writing a little—I started to get frustrated with not having time to write, and when I did have brief moments to do it, I’d get frustrated because nothing I wrote came easy, it wasn’t good, it didn’t feel right. I longed for that time to write, but when it came, I regretted opening my computer or notebook. And so, I think I actually started pushing it away, purposely letting some extra free time go unused. I started to wonder if I just loved the idea of writing more than actually writing. If I loved the story, loved the ideas, but hated the actual act of getting it from mind to paper. Because I’d become so disinterested in sitting down to do it, so resentful for having this be my passion, that I started to regret my decision to even pursue it.

And then, this September, while the summer’s busyness died down, I started to finish the novel I’d started during NaNoWriMo last year like I’d planned to do since the beginning of the year. I wasn’t expecting anything special about it, I just thought I’d trudge through the last few thousand words so the damn thing would be finished and I could check it off my goal list, not liking it, just doing it because I thought I had to. But once I got back into it, once I had more time to do it, once I fell back into the world with those characters, I unexpectedly started to enjoy it again. I started to love it again. I fell back in love with the words, with the routine of sitting down every day for an hour or more, and even fell in back in love with the mental exhaustion that comes with it. And I’m so happy that I’ve found that love again.

I found my passion again, I’m excited to write every day, and I’m constantly trying to sneak in an hour or two to write. It’s something I haven’t felt in months and months and I’m so overjoyed that that feeling is back.

So now that I’ve fallen back in love with writing, I have so many plans—most of which is a renewed excitement for the goals I’d already set for the year.

I posted a while ago about writing a new story (about Book E) and my plans for the rest of the year with my writing goals. So far, I’ve been doing fairly well. The summer was very busy, so the first draft of Book E has been on the back burner as of late, though I’ve finished a few chapters and like where it’s going (well, where it will go because I started, as I usually do, during the climax of the book).

But, for the month of September, I took even more time away from Book E because I wanted to finish my NaNoWriMo novel from 2016. I finished last November with 50,000 words, however the book was far from finished. So, I’ve been working on finishing the first draft all of September and hopefully will be done by mid-October.

So this month, I want to focus on two things: 1) coming up with a story and outlining for NaNoWriMo 2017 and 2) write a few short stories. I’ve written short stories in the past, but really haven’t in a long time, and want to do more. So then in November, I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo 2017 with a new first draft of a book and then in December I’ll get back to Book E. That seems like a long time to be away from it, but, honestly, that’s how I work on most projects. I do write them in chunks, when I can, jumping between projects.

Well, those are my goals for the rest of the year, but I also wanted to post about something I’ve been doing a little on the side. After watching Ariel Bissett’s video about her buying a typewriter, I decided to dig out my grandfather’s typewriter that he gave me—also, the very same typewriter I started my very first written story on—and started writing. I set it up at a special desk and used it a few times a week, for about a month. I wrote mostly a history of the world in which several of my books are set, writing it in a short story format. It’s been a lot of fun. I love the typewriter, I love the no distractions, I love the permanence of the words, and I honestly feel like I write better, more purposely while using it. Though, because I’m just learning to peck at the keys, I’m much much slower!