Friday, July 20, 2012

Inpiration and Writer's Block

Inspiration Lake by Bala Sivakumar
     Scribblers, I know the pressure to create can be incredible, so let's take a certain weight off our shoulders. What weight is that?
     That of being "inspired."
     At times, inspiration comes in waves, but other times, it seems the dams have drawn up. This is often refered to as "Writer's Block." How do we kick it?
     I've identified two kinds of writer's block. (1) Have you ever found yourself staring at a completely blank page, knowing you need to write a story (or whatever), and having no idea where to begin? We just write. I've found is the eaiser kind to cure.
     What is our job, as writers? Writers find a truth, and make it accessible to the reading population. Sometimes if we're good enough, we can do it in an entertaining fashion. That's the point: getting our points across. Stories and non-fiction alike are all about conveying truth.
     But where do we find these truths? By looking around, and thinking. Just by doing these two things, writing material comes to us. The material is already there; we just have to notice it, and write it down. For the most part, we don't "create": we capture.
     Two weeks ago, I wrote about the writing process. We talked about the 5 stages: Observing, Researching, Recording, Organizing, and Touching Up.
     The first kind of inspiration has mostly two do with the first three stages. For some people, the third stage is made up primarily of this first kind of inspiration. Others have already planned out what will happen during the third stage of writing, and they only access this first kind of inspiration once in awhile, for spontaneity.
     Of course, I'm making it sound so deliberate. Nothing is quite so neat when you are in the midst of the process. Some people just plan more before writing than other. This dichotomy is encapsulated in the debate between "outlines and pantsers," which I'll talk about some other time.
     So, when you are searching for something to begin writing about, think about what has interested you lately. If you're lucky, you'll have been writing down interesting things in your notebook (I find this incredibly helpful) from which you can draw. I recommend tossing around several ideas, because not every idea is big or interesting enough to hold the weight of a novel or story. To make an interesting premise out of a couple ideas, ask yourself "What if?" You like crime shows? You're upset about NASA closing? What if you wrote a crime-mystery...on the moon? And, if you are just looking for what comes next in the first draft of your story, let it wander in tangents that interest you. It'll turn out differently than you expected.
     (2) And now, let's talk about the second, more frustrating kind of writer's block, the one that takes place in the fourth and fifth stages of writing: when we can't make things connect together, can't organize them right, and are out of ideas to try. This is when people give up. They figure they weren't cut out to be novelists, if they get stuck like this; it's too hard to think of something worth writing (or reading).
     I'm working on this part, myself. What I've found that seems to help is to just keep writing. I take a notebook that isn't the actual draft, and I brainstorm. I make lists of my alternatives, even the ones I know I won't use. I get it all out on paper. It looks messy, but it helps. Just keep writing; don't get "bogged down," even if it takes you days.
     If lists are helping, I take a break--not to give up, but to get some distance. I read books. I go through my notebook. I let it sit on the back burner. Sometimes, I'll write character bios or plot  outlines. I keep working on anything, even if it's not the problem.
     The key is not to give up. Maybe you need distance from the problem area, but you don't need to stop writing altogether. Something will come to you if you're patient.
     I hope this helps all the scribblers out there, because we all run into this problem from time to time. Happy writing!

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