Writer’s block, or when an author is unable to produce new work, happens to all writers.
Try writing something of special interest to you. Write down all the primary ideas you’d like to write and then write the smaller ideas that make up the big ideas. Then write an outline of these ideas.
Now you have an outline that is a starting point. Research your topic. Then write down your own thoughts on the research. Identify gaps in the research you find. Now you’re ready to write.
When I wrote my last collection of poems, I had many blocks. Some are emotional, such as my partner’s Alzheimer’s that I wrote about in Touch My Head Softly. Or just time barriers, so that when you finally have a chance to write, there’s a lot of pressure to sit down and produce.
But I got through it and published my latest collection earlier this year:
Since the pandemic, I have been much more inclined to interact with strangers. The isolation taught me the power of human interaction. Some of the most interesting interactions have been chance, at the supermarket check out or the farmer’s market. I write at coffee shops and I’ve used some of the dialog I’ve overheard in my writing.
It’s good to interact, connect and appreciate each other. It makes for better writing, remember Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” about the wall between his property and his neighbors. This will make for a better world generally. If you use dialog in your writing, it makes your writing more authentic. It’s also good to meet periodically with writer friends to compare notes and get advice on what you’re submitting, etc. I’m in several writer’s groups.
I published a collection of poems about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s, and it’s led to many interesting discussions with people I didn’t know who were affected or had loved ones affected by this disease. Check it out:
They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. I often think of the writing process when I hear that old adage. Writing can seem laborious when we proofread, edit, revise. These are the mundane parts of the process. The joy, for me, is in the creation, but that’s only one stage of the writing process.
So try to enjoy the journey, and not just the final, published product. Writing groups can help as you can share your writing with others and self-edit along the way. Writing is an isolating activity and a writing group can help with the isolation. You can also get helpful hints from fellow writers.
Readings can help also. Reading a work in progress can help to get feedback and it also helps to hear your work aloud. Samuel Butler says “I feel weak places at once when I read aloud where I thought, as long as I read to myself only, that the passage was alright…” The act of reading, line for line, can help the writer focus in a way that just rereading again can’t.
I used many of these “journey steps” to complete my collection of poetry that published earlier this year. Check it out:
Now I am in Costa Rica for a good part of the winter.
The landscape is very different from the Northeast where I live for the balance of the year.
I love the pre-Columbian art here. I’ve shown you an example of one piece. These vessels, figures, tools are dated before the Spanish conquest of Central and South America. These art pieces date back to then Mesoamerican period, around 10,000 BCE. They give clues to the lives of the indigenous.
For me the beauty of the landscape and the local art inspire me. I may not be writing about beauty, or even Costa Rica, but the art gives me insight into the lives of the people, just as my stories aspire to give insight.
I recently published a book of poems about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s Disease. I hope this gives insight to others in contact with people with this disease. Also part of the proceeds of the sale of the book will go to the Alzheimer’s Association to help find a cure for this dread disease. Check out my book:
Onething I love about winter in the Northeast is the snow. This is the view from my back porch.
I love the quiet, the writerlyness of the whole thing. But how does this affect my writing? I wrote a collection of poems about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s. We had spent a lot of time in Mexico, so this landscape came into my poems:
“When I think of Oaxaco
I remember the Zocolo
where they sold pipa del agua
and chocolate dripping from paper cups.”
The setting just naturally came into the poem. Does this happen with you?
It’s getting to be New Year’s and the custom is to make resolutions. As writers, it’s important that we have goals. It’s also important to look back and acknowledge what we accomplished. Here are some of my goals for the upcoming year:
.to plant bulbs in my garden.
.to see more of my close friends in small combination
.to read more Japanese poetry
.to teach at least one poetry workshop.
.to write a longer narrative poem.
.to downsize and shed some clothing and books.
I may not get to all of these, and that’s ok, but it helps to have goals.
The feeling of having done everything one wanted is elusive. Accepting one’s limitations and shortcomings is part of the process.
I also look back at the year and acknowledge what I’ve done. I published a book this year about my partner’s death from Alzheimer’s Disease. I donated some of the proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association. I also volunteered and taught a poetry workshop in haiku and tanka. I find a sense of calmness and accomplishment about these things. Check out my 2021 book:
It’s really easy to get distracted when writing, especially now that we’re all often working at home. Phone calls, emails and housework all conspire to take away the writing time.
Losing focus while in the middle of writing can seriously damage the quality of your content, The human brain takes around 17 minutes to refocus on a task after a distraction. If you want your writing to be the best quality content possible, you need to get rid of distractions. Billy Collins, the former Poet Laureate of the U.S., suggests sitting with your idea and writing until the complete thought is down,
You can disable notifications on your computer and delay household chores until after writing.If you put your writing first, you get more accomplished and the quality of the content will be better.
During the pandemic I wrote a collection of poetry and had it published. I did this by focusing. Take a look at the book:
Years ago, an artists success was determined by art critics, collectors and publishers. Today, this has changed. Today these people are no longer in power and the writer is often an entrepreneur if she/he wants to make an income from her/his writing.
Vincent Van Gogh chose not to go commercial and only sold a few paintings in his life. Andy Warhol created The Factory to create and promote his work as an assembly line process. Writers also fall into different categories of commercialness. Some just prefer not to publish and read and write within circles of writing groups and friends. Others put a lot of effort into reading, blogging, working with publishers, etc. in order to sell copies. Some writers publish and promote their own books, while others publish with publishers and work in conjunction to promote the book.
Today’s artist/writer may have to brand their work, build an online presence, and stay aware and use social media trends. Margaret Atwood, with her book Testament, the sequel to A Handmaiden’s Tale, attracted hundred of fans to her book launch in London by having women dressed in red capes and white bonnets. She also simulcast it in three cities. She has been on the best-seller’s list many times.
Writers have to develop other skills besides writing to sell copies of their books. This means taking advantage of social media, blogging, and podcasting in order to reach potential customers. A writer has to decide how much time she/he wants to spend on promotion, which does take away from the creativity.