May 11, 2010

Thinking About Writing

Some days it seems impossible to make something out of nothing.

When we get stuck in those foggy moments, there's a few ways we can attack the emptiness.
  1. Write anyway. Most of the time the hardest part is getting yourself to sit down and do it. Anything, free-writing (riff-writing), brainstorm from a single idea or word (clustering) or do some character building.
  2. Research. Pick your narrative's date, location or any significant element and start searching. You may be surprised at what inspirational background story or new plot ideas you can come up with (researching for inspiration).
  3. Read. Read what you write and analyse the way the author has used opening hooks, descriptive passages, twists, etc. You can read books on the craft of writing (I've just finished Hooked by Les Edgerton - LOVED IT), or read from a completely different genre from the one you write, you may find some style that will fit within your narrative (post on reading for writing).
  4. Put the pen down and refill your imagination with beauty, art, history. Anything. But keep a notebook handy incase your muse suddenly wakes up!
In this clip, Kseniya Simonova creates a rich narrative out of nothing more than sand. This is so much more than just creating pretty pictures, this artist had a story filled with emotion and history to relay and she knew how to reach her audience. Take some inspiration here (this clip is over 8 minutes, but well worth it):
You can also get crafty with something else, art, sewing, baking, macrame? My family made Mother's Day a day for me to potter about sewing - and they kept the cups of tea coming :-). I made a bag to protect my beloved Kindle:
Do you have days where it seems like the hardest thing in the world would be to sit down and write?


  1. Some days I have so many things to do beyond writing that I don't think I can possibly find the time to write. It seems those are the days that I have an idea forcing itself into my mind and making me find the time to write!

    I'll have to try some of your ideas when the muse takes a hike without me.

  2. Yes, I've had those days when writing is as tough as pulling teeth. When that happens, I like to read. A good book always gets me back into the swing of things. There's other great ideas here that I'll keep in mind for the future.

  3. I used that sand art link on my blog last summer - such an incredible talent - and you're right - it's well worth every second spent watching it. Absolutely incredible!

    When I'm finding it tough - I tend to stick to 'easy' editing - eliminating those words that sneak their way into the draft (just, that, seems...) or elimianting dialogue tags.

  4. Janel - Yep, I have a little commander in my head that starts listing all the things that need doing, but if I go a few days without writing I try 'schedule' it in, even if it's just an hour, everything else can wait.
    Jaydee - loved your video on trying to find one hour to write - exactly what happens here too!
    Jemi - She's so amazing! I've seen other sand art, but this one is so... deep. I'm humbled by how much story she writes without using a single word. I'm funny, I can't edit a story until I've done a complete draft, but I can go an edit another :-)

  5. The video is amazing. Just when you think she has a finished picture she changes it to something completely different.

    I have days when words come to me so easy and days when they seem to run in the opposite direction.

    Thoughts in Progress

  6. Yes yes and yes-- some days are just too hard. But these are great ideas! Thank you.

  7. I definitely have those days where it seems like an insurmountable task, to write something. But yes, if I maybe skip ahead to a scene I'm looking forward to or something, it's much easier.

  8. The most difficult part of writing is always that moment when I sit down in my chair and open the Word doc. Sheer panic describes that moment pretty well, I think. :p I may have been looking forward to writing all day, but suddenly, now that I'm faced with that blinking cursor, I want to do anything *but* write. Check my email, empty the trash, get a drink of water... The list of possible procrastinations is endless. So I start typing anything that comes to mind, even if its garbage. As soon as the words start, they pour out - and the need to procrastinate is gone for one more day! It's not the writing that's hard, it's the getting started.

  9. I agree completely with the previous commenter. I've found even on the worst days if I can just get myself started I'm off and running. It's the sitting down and typing in those first few sentences that is brutal.

  10. I find if I skip re-filling my imagination, I have a hard time sitting down and writing. I may consider writing the higher priority, but taking the time to soak up a new scene through a walk, an art show, or a museum makes me much more productive for when I do get down to the task of writing again.

  11. Thanks for the comments. The clip gives me goose-pimples. I also think the hardest part is just convincing yourself it will all be fine if you just get off the blogs and back to your WIP and actually write. Then my brain sabotages me by reminding me there's washing to put away, bills to pay, children to pick up from school. No excuses today - I'm writing! :-)

  12. I write in the early AM, like 4:30AM.

    So if I don't feel like writing, I sleep.

    Usually, the muses will wake me up if they feel like digging, and sleep is pointless and impossible.

    - Eric

  13. Eric - I think I'd get violent if my muse woke me at 4.30am. Sleep is never impossible for me, it's almost midday and I can feel myself drifting as I speak..... zzzzzzzz, oh yeah, writing. *slaps face and picks up a pen*

  14. I have good days where I write for hours, then there are the days...that's when I read, read, read! Thanks for stopping by.

  15. What an adorable bag for your kindle!

    I had three weeks of agonizing no writing stages. I still wrote but I wasn't in it like I normally would have been, too many personal things going on and not enough me time. Two days ago I finally got me back and I've felt a 100% better ever since. Sometimes you have to realize that ME time is still necessary!

    Great post!

  16. Great post; cute kindle bag! I agree, we need to distract ourselves, with something else! Exercise
    helps sometimes or an art date!

  17. Days when it's hard to write?


    I find it hard to write when...

    ...I'm trying to write the wrong thing for the wrong reason. I recently started a novel that I thought might have a better chance of being picked up by an agent than what I'd previously written. Eventually I realised I wasn't writing what I wanted to write. Big mistake.

    ...I haven't had enough down time since the last writing session to frame in my mind the scene I'm going to write about. My writing process needs as much time away from the keyboard as in front of it.

    ...There's too many after-school activities to deal with, too many chores to do, and by the time I actually sit down I'm too darned tired to write.

    ...I get distracted by interesting blogs and awesome video clips like this.

  18. Sometimes I don't feel like writing, even if the ideas are there. I read, look through old wips, and outline for new wips. I still want to keep busy, or else I'll feel like I'm wasting time on the writing front.

  19. Good article. I think at times even with all your energy, you just draw this blank that is so hard to do away with. Whatever you think, you would agree that Writer's Block is real and we all encounter it at times. Thanks for sharing.