Thursday, September 25, 2008

Writer's Block: Turning Roadblocks into Speed Bumps

Every writer reaches a block in production. Many of the people in my classes have found that joining a writing group greatly helps them with their lack of writing. One published author joined my class and came out of her writer’s block. She now writes daily and is well into her second book. Others have joined the class to get fresh ideas and to be surrounded by supportive writers. Sharing one’s stories with others gives you the confidence and desire to continue. Writing in solitude is not greatly productive for many novice writers.

Many people have ideas on how to break their writer’s block, and what works for one may not work for another. ALSO, what worked for you in the past make not be helpful at a different time.

Often a writer can push through the lack of ideas or inspiration, but generally, it is important to understand why you have writer’s block. Knowing the reason you can only stare at a blank paper, holding a mute pen, can help you scale that brick wall, turning your roadblock into a speed bump. Writing Roadblocks vary greatly.

Getting to the source of the problem rather than just finding a way out of your writing dilemma is best. To do this you must decide why you have writer’s block. There are many reasons for not being able to write. Some may be lurking in your sub-conscience.

No Great Family Stories.
You may experience different ones at different times. Some people who wish to write their childhood memories and family stories may fee they have had a sad or uneventful life, perhaps one not worth telling or one which may be of little interest to others. So, let me first state the obvious: If we did not have the bad in the world we would not know what is good. All lives are eventful. Events in our own world over decades shape us and you never know when your words, your life’s stories will help shape someone else.

Writing and Spelling Problems.
Perhaps you are not pleased with your writing or spelling. It does not matter that you write only a timeline, a rough draft stories, or a bound booklet. The idea is to leave these precious memories for your family and the future generations. Any one would rather have a poorly written, misspelled diary, journal or pile of stories over nothing.

What you write is more important than how you write. The goal is to get the stories down. Tips to help improve your sentences are available on the Internet, if you wish to improve. However, remember the goal of writing your family stories is to share them with your descendants. Maybe not the descendants you currently know, but those in the future generations. Any of them would rather have your boring sentences and misspellings than no stories of their ancestors. Perhaps they may wonder about your writing skills, but they will surely cherish every word you write.

Cannot Get Started.
You just do not know where to begin the story of your life. I would urge you not to start at the beginning of your life, but to write on what motivates you at the moment. However, in writing individual stories, you do not have to start at the beginning of any one story, either. You can begin at the beginning or at the end. Give the lesson you learned first, then go back to explain what happened. Remember: You are not entering a contest; you are recording your history. Relax and enjoy reliving it through your writing.

No Ideas.
There are hundreds of writing prompts on the Internet, many books on the topic, and you can email me to purchase a copy of my booklet. I am sure that after you read a single page of my booklet that you will be ready to write, if the topic has any relevance to your life. My booklet is not just one-line topics, but includes many related prompts and ideas to get you jump-started.

Besides using published prompts, you can gather your own ideas with some of these techniques:

1. Brainstorming. On a blank paper start writing the first things that come to mind. Perhaps you have a topic; perhaps not. Then add the answers to such questions as who, what, why, when, where, and how. Read your finish product searching for story ideas.

2. Webbing. This is another form of brainstorming. Write a topic in the middle of your paper and then write a few words that relate to the topic in random places on your page. Draw lines to connect related topics. You can also add ideas under each of those sub-topics. Think of this as a cross between the random thoughts of brainstorming and the organized ideas of an outline.

3. Free Write. Write for a set time, and write anything that enters your mind. If that is only the statement “I can’t think of anything to write” then write it until your mind changes its thoughts. Regardless, do not stop writing. The pen must continuously flow as quickly as you can write. Try to write for at least ten minutes and increase that time, if needed. A timer works greatly for this as you should not have any time to look at a clock. Once you have finished, read what you have and try to locate some kernel that sparks a memory. Maybe it will be a story on how you were stuck when writing a high school essay, even!

4. Notebook or Note Pad.
Even famous aruthors are known to carry a note pad with them to jot down ideas as they live their daily lives. Keep a notebook with you and one beside your bed. Write down thoughts that come to you during the day or as you try to fall asleep. Often something in our lives triggers a memory. Perhaps you may wish to write about what happened that particular day. For your descendants to learn about everyday life is very worthwhile. Just think how much you would have enjoyed knowing about the daily lives of your pioneer ancestors.

5. Writing from a Photo. “A picture is worth a thousands words,” they say. Then you should be able to write a thousand words for it. Drag out the photo album and reminisce about each one. When and where was it taken? Who is in the photo? Why was the picture taken? Perhaps the photo reminds you of a story about one of the people pictured? Many stories can surround even one photo. Make notes so you can write about the other stories later.

Concerns about Sharing Your Stories.
You are concerned about sharing your writing. What if my family says the event did not happen the way I remember? What if some story I tell embarrasses or hurts someone?
These are legitimate concerns, but you must put everything in perspective by thinking ahead fifty years or more. What is the bigger picture?

1. Your Truth.
All of us have reminisced about an event only to discover our experiences and memories were totally different from another who was present. Each of us takes away from a situation the information that is relevant to us at the time. What we store in our memory is directly related to what is of interest to us and what our needs happen to be. Also, memory is stored in fragments in different parts of our brain which is why a smell or sound can help us recall what we think may have been a lost memory. Sometimes newer memories are stored in such a way in our brains that they alter the original memory a bit. These reasons are why people remember the same event differently.

What you write is your truth. It does not make it right or wrong, but YOUR truth; your point of view. If you have family members who disagree, encourage them to write their version and include both. Seeing the different perspectives can be very important as we all take away from any given situation something entirely different.

2. Family Skeletons.
Do not share your stories if you do not wish, but recognize that everyone can find something of value in what you have to say. We all have different abilities so no one can throw stones, really. As you write about a relative who has made some very bad choices in life, remember to find some good in that person as well.

All people have value. There is good and bad in everyone and life’s circumstances and our choices shape our lives. Some of us struggle more than others, but each of us tries our best to do what we think is right at the moment. We all make mistakes, and it is important to recognize those errors in ourselves and others. There are always kind and gentle ways of explaining problems. Focus on the good in people, but do not neglect the bad. Show the mistakes so lessons can be learned by the reader.

Writing these stories can bring the family closer together in a better understanding of the situation. Writing these stories can help the youth see that adults make mistakes and most often all ends well. We touch thousands of lives in our lifetime, and we will never know how we affect others. You affect others with your stories. People can find hope in knowing honestly how life really is. Rose-colored glasses hide sad eyes so bring the darkness to light and surround it with honesty and understanding.

Many more ideas are available to help you turn those roadblocks into speed bumps. After a while, your road will become smooth again.

©aulicno, 25 Sept 2008

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