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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Stirring a Tail Wind in the Doldrums: Beating Writer's Block

Hello hello!

It's been a long time. Since I last shared Katie's post in November, I had to deal with health issues for both myself and my partner, and after that, a move to another city. Add in my high and still piling-up editing queue, and you have a recipe for a blog disaster--a long, cold period of abandonment.

I considered abandoning my blog entirely. It's not unheard of, and it happens to a lot of blogs and bloggers--to many writers, as well. On that topic, I'm now months behind on my publishing schedule.

What was I to do? Merely navigating to my blog or my writing folders stirred self-loathing's embers and the sickly smoke of guilt. A close friend of mine, over at SarahDimento, went from two hours a day (!) devoted to writing, down to only fifteen minutes, and then fell off the wagon a bit. It's an epidemic, especially at this time of year, and for anyone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder or depression.

But being a writer means that even when writing is not physically or mentally possible, an itch and a tickle remain. They can only be ignored for so long. And then, too, this is the season of resolutions. The Romans saw it as a grim time of year, to look back to the past and consider one's behaviour, and many of us lose ourselves in guilt over broken self-promises and holiday indulgence.

The only way to break the cycle is to refuse to indulge in guilt, and just try to do better without self-condemnation. Since I can only assume that some of you are struggling with your writing goals as well--or have no idea where to start with goals.

Wat do?

I have a list of prompts I give my editing or coaching clients. Here are a few of them to chew on and to get you started. These are great for short stories, but can also be thrown into the middle of a story if you're stuck. Of course, they can also then be deleted if you don't like the results, but don't worry about quality--start with trying to write. Behold!

  • What could a dying man possibly want as his dying wish?
  • A lightbulb just broke, and it is the worst thing that could have happened. Why?
  • Your character is locked in a bathroom stall. How did they get there, and why are they there?
  • Your character's mother is right behind them, and this is terrible. Why?

But maybe that's not enough. 

What else can you do? Take 'er easy on yourself. Try a 'no zero' thing. Write at least one word a day. That is right--literally just one word. Or, one word a week, if it's a bad week. If you do a whole sentence, guess what? You just broke your daily quota; that's what! Words can be in your blog, journal, or a story file. Basically, Facebook, Twitter, emails, and texts don't count--it's tempting to count those communicative mediums, but try not to cheat.

One word is too easy, but short stories sound too hard. 

You can also try free assocation--just write strings of nonsense, following whichever words come to your head, in whichever order. These sometimes bear fruit, and it's a good idea to keep a prompt scrapbook for times when a short story idea crops up.

The newspaper, if you can still find one, can also be a goldmine. Online blogs and compilers are pretty good, too, especially if you follow weird news streams. Personal ads and Craigslist are particularly interesting places to browse for a short idea. Any conspiracy theory site can be an excellent leaping-off point, and just because you're Netflixing, doesn't mean you can't take some notes.

What if the notes don't do anything? 

Don't worry about it. The discipline required is what you are trying to build, and the point is to overcome guilt and self-loathing, as well as a sense of failure. The one thing that won't keep you creating and working is focusing on everything that hasn't happened.

Hell, last week I could barely Netflix. It was bad. Today? Today is good. So keep on truckin'; writing isn't a sprint. It's a marathon. And you know what's the secret about marathon running? Sometimes y'walk.

And if you can't write, doodle or colour. Just put that pen on paper.

\Thanks for returning to the nest. Leave a comment and say hi! I want to hear from you. Keep up with the new releases by getting on the mailing list.Buy my books on Amazon, and keep up with me on TwitterFacebook, Tumblr, and the original blog. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 


  1. Welcome back. Refusing to give up is not only admirable, it can be seen as downright heroic.

  2. When I first became a serious writer several years ago, I made a vow to myself to work on my writing at least a little bit every day, and (barring the odd day here and there) I've stayed committed to that vow. I still struggle sometimes with getting a lot done though. I guess when it comes to a large projects, I work better by breaking it into small chunks and chipping away at it slowly, but it can be frustrating just how much time and effort goes into getting a novel finished. I totally agree with both Ed and Michelle though. Not giving up truly is the most important step.

    I like the idea of reading newspapers for inspiration. That's something I should try.

    "The one thing that won't keep you creating and working is focusing on everything that hasn't happened." Words of wisdom.


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