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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Using Writing to Get Past Writer's Block

Last week I was having the worst time getting a hard chapter written.  It was slated to be a confrontational meeting that had multiple characters coming together.  Lots of sub-currents and subterfuge.  I just couldn't get started.  In hindsight it is clear that I was intimidated by the complexity.  I just wasn't sure of myself so I froze.  I stared at the blank page and my notes and NOTHING HAPPENED.

I tried a bit of blogging and a bit of twitter, but mostly it was an excuse to not face my fears.  I even used work as an excuse not to write.  Eventually I decided to take some advice from some fellow writers I had met in a local Pikes Peak Writers meeting, "Just write!"  It didn't have to be the part I was stuck on.  It didn't even have to be something that would go into this book.  It just had to be fun and fiction.  So I did.

My mind had already been wandering over the arc of the story, which will, if it gets that far, encompass three series of three books each.  I decided to hit a scene that would be in book three of the current series.  The funny part is that I didn't expect it to turn out the way it had.  It was a new character in an unexpected scenario.  In short, it was a refreshing change.

Once that scene was done my mind was cleared out and I realized that I didn't really have writer's block.  That's when I was able to see clearly enough to realize it was just old fashioned fear.  I've always found that the best way to conquer fear is to spit in its face and push ahead.  Once I identified my enemy he was toast.  So I forged ahead.

Once I started and got into the swing of things I couldn't stop.  It turned out to be one of the most fun chapters I've written yet.  Keep in mind that I haven't read it yet so it might be total rubbish, but I had fun.  I got past the fear and got a whole new boost in my writing.

The moral of this story, kids is this: Don't accept writer's block.  It is usually masking something else.  Use the very thing that you think you can't do (writing) to prove it a lie.  Once you've done that you can identify the real enemy and put it down.

Happy Writing,

W. Randell Felts

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writing Part Time

So, I've finally started writing my first book.  It's fun.  It's challenging.  It's sometimes hard to focus.  Besides writing a book, I'm also a computer programmer.  It's a strange dichotomy.  I've found that I use totally different areas of my brain for these two tasks.

Typically, coding (programming) is a "left brain" exercise; lots of analytical thinking.  I define a feature that needs creating.  I lay out a few different options for accomplishing the feature.  I decide which would be best.  I lay out a set of tests to stress out my code.  Then I actually program and test the code.  Once it all works as planned I "commit" the code as finished.

Writing is entirely, so far, "right brained".  I stare out the window.  I argue with my characters.  I imaging scenarios or scenes.  I look into the future (really cloudy view from here).  Then I start typing.  Usually, my characters go in a totally different direction than I expected.  I try and re-plan the story line.  I look into the even cloudier future.  I start arguing with my characters in earnest.  I go take a walk to cool off.  Then I get back to work... Programming!

It's not that I don't like writing.  I LOVE writing.  It's just that it's such a different way of thinking.  I often find myself reading Twitter posts from other writers during my alloted writing time instead of actually writing.  Twitter is way too addictive.  Discipline to write is hard to come by.  It's just hard to think of anything creative as being subject to disciplined thinking.  It's got to happen, though.

During the whole month of November I participated in the NaNoWriMo event (National Novel Writing Month).  The goal is to write 50,000 words in one month.  It can be bad writing. It's more about learning to get words out than to do it well, since that's the hardest part of writing,  It takes a lot of discipline.  I failed, not miserably, but by 12,000 words.  I'm proud of what I did accomplish, though.  I worked through a full time job.  I was even still unpacking from a cross country move (Florida to Colorado!)

The journey has been worth it.  My programming has actually improved since I started writing.  I didn't realize it but I was seriously lacking in the area of creative expression.  Writing reactivated that part of my brain and provided a much needed release.

So, what's my goal?  Write books, good books.  Lots of good books.  The series that I have started, yes series, will include at least three novels in this timeline, plus two other timelines with at least three books each. It's just fun science fiction.  After that I have a couple of nonfiction social anthropology topics I want to cover.

I keep coming up with ideas that I would love to write.  I already have enough book ideas to cover over a hundred years of writing.  Now, if I can just finish the first one!

I'm going to use this blog as an opportunity to log my journey.  If I have insights into the struggle of writing, editing, and eventually publishing, I'll share it here with whomever will listen.  I hope that my learning experience will be a help and an encouragement to others.  If not, I will still enjoy logging it down for myself.  Besides, I can also use blogging as another excuse to avoid writing that chapter that's been giving me trouble!

Have fun writing!

W. Randell Felts