Tag Archives: challenge

Turning Writer’s Block into Ruby Slippers

Ever sit in front of your computer, arched like a cat, ready to strike at the keyboard, ideas at the ready and then…they sprout wings and fly out of your head as if they have been summoned by the Wicked Witch of the West to go fight Dorothy and friends as they cross Oz on their journey to see the Wizard?

I am so there. *screams at the fleeing monkeys*

In the past couple of months, I had a brief conversation with @schmutzie on Twitter about poetry and writer’s block. She casually mentioned she did not believe in writer’s block which struck me as interesting as it is something I have struggled with from time to time – heck, all of us writers have, have we not?

Then I seriously considered her idea. Why would we willingly believe in something which only serves as a roadblock to something we so desperately want to do? By doing so, are we giving ourselves permission to daydream instead of dive into the task at hand? The only thing blocking the writer is well, the writer.

What if we refused to believe in writer’s block? Mind over matter and all that. For example, right now? I’m channeling my inner Charles Bukowski and putting his words “writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all” into practice.

Let’s say you go into the kitchen to cook a batch of muffins. You want these muffins more than anything in the world. You preheat the oven, gather your equipment, and put all the ingredients on the counter. But you realize you are out of eggs, a very necessary ingredient. Do you give up on making the muffins? No. If you’re like me, you Google for egg substitutions or you run to the store for eggs. You mix up the recipe, accepting that while it may not be exactly right, it’s better than no muffins at all.

The same is true for writing.

Even if you sit there and write about not being able to write, it is better than not writing at all. For that matter, you could simply copy another text. The method is to get you thinking and following the patterns of language and imaginative thinking. Granted, what you are currently writing may not be the most allegorically amazing thing to ever hit the page but it is writing nonetheless.

I am currently on Day 11 of author Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge. Some days I have put the keyboard to the metal and zoomed by 500 words (like yesterday when I wrote over 1k words) and other days, I have barely managed to crank out the 500 minimum words. Right now, I am eying the word count because frankly, I would rather be doing anything other than writing. Sleep sounds good, actually.

One of the things I have really appreciated about the FB group for Jeff’s challenge is the motivation. Particularly Jeff’s motivation. He has constantly encouraged us every day through example and challenges. Just yesterday he told all of us to stop doubting ourselves – that we were indeed, enough. If I am stuck, I pop into the group and scan through some of the threads for inspiration. Sometimes it works, other times, it doesn’t.

I am noticing, however, that my brain is working differently. Instead of just experiencing things and dismissing them, the most mundane things are turning into potential pieces. In fact, my most liked post from the past week was about the dinner I cooked that evening. Until I cooked that dinner, I had no idea what I would write about that day. Then, boom.

Being a writer is not about contracts. It is not about publication. It is not about writing a perfect piece every time your fingers hit the keyboard or wrap themselves around a pen hovering over paper. Being a writer is about writing when you just don’t want to but you have a deadline to meet or a challenge to fulfill. Being a writer is about seeing everything around you as a potential story. It is about digging deeper and challenging yourself to fill in the gaps.

Tonight, and always, I am a writer. A sleepy writer, but a writer. Are you a writer?

Even though we are 11 days in, you can still join Jeff’s challenge. Go here for more information. If you decide to join, I’m going to toss in an extra challenge (which is implied in Jeff’s challenge but not explicitly stated, I dare you to say to hell with Writer’s Block and write whether you feel like it or not. Use this awesome quote as inspiration:

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.”
Lili St. Crow

Go forth and squeeze every single drop out of your Muse. Drain her dry. What you find inside may just surprise the hell out of you. Remember, according to Hemingway, ““There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

At the end of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy realizes that all she has to do is click her ruby red slippers together and say, “There’s no place like home” in order to get back to Kansas. All you have to do as a writer is click your keyboard and whisper “There’s nothing like writing” to defeat your writer’s block. (Even if it’s angry pecking and frustrated whispers or shouting). You got this, right? Good.

Now write.

 

#PPDChat Topic 01.06.14: Word of the Year

One of my favourite movies this past year was Rush, directed by Ron Howard. The movie tells the tale of two Formula One drivers: Niki Lauda and James Hunt. Both driven men, passionate adversaries. The 1976 season was the height of their fight against each other.

Howard plays up not only their competitive spirit but also reflects the way these men managed to become good friends despite their fierce battles against each other on the racing circuit.

In 1976, Lauda was involved in a serious crash at Nurbergring. He suffered severe burns over a good deal of his body. His lungs were also damaged as a result of being trapped inside his car as the flames consumed it.

Six weeks later, however, Lauda was back on the track. He finished well in his first race back despite starting with blurry vision and unable to fully push himself the way he had prior to his accident.

Seeing Rush was one of the highlights of 2013, as I was able to see a preview in NYC prior to widespread release. As an avid F1 fan, getting to see Rush in an IMAX theatre and have the engine sound reverberating all around me as the cars zoomed by on the screen – sheer heaven.

I still follow the FB page for Rush. Today, they posted a still from the movie with a question:

“What will drive you in 2014?”

Several bloggers I know are choosing words to represent what will drive them in 2014. I’ve been brainstorming the past week about what my word should be for the upcoming year. I picked one a couple of days ago and it is sitting well with me so I think I will keep it.2014 word

My word for 2014 is:

 

After my divorce in 2011, I checked out of life. I stayed somewhat connected but as a reflex, I checked out. I ended up in therapy and did a lot of introspective reflection. Then I met J. I started to come out of my shell because finally, here was someone who accepted me as I stood, mess and all. No front, no bullshit, just me. Then Sandy hit and I retreated into my shell. I started the introspection thing again and stopped writing. I wasn’t ready to share my journey because heck, I wasn’t even sure where it was going.

I recently called our doctor after a particularly tough bout with darkness. I am back on medication for the time being. It is making a difference. So is my Happy Light. To be honest, so is J. It’s healthy for me to fall apart here, but it’s just as healthy for me not to – we allow each other to have emotions and do not judge for whatever they may be because well, emotion is emotion.

My goal for 2014 is to engage. To engage with others, with life, with writing, with myself. Instead of retreating back into my hole, I am going to reach out. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone according to Neale Donald Walsch. 2014 is the year I leap from my comfort zone and dive headfirst into living life.

I am challenging the ladies of the #PPDChat Community to do the same along with me – not necessarily dive out of your comfort zone but choose a word for the upcoming year. In fact, that’s what we’ll be talking about on Monday night. I’ll be discussing it in the closed FB group as well.

Get to brainstorming and I look forward to seeing all your words for 2014!!!

Day 1: My first 500 Words

For the month of January, I signed up as part of author Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge. Every day, we are to write 500 words. Free-writing. No editing. None. These are today’s 500 words. My goal for 2014 include writing a book as well as writing more here. I’m realizing that while my blog has a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders focus, I am human and do not have to stick to just pieces about PMAD’s. I plan to share more of myself here this year, to do as this piece mentions – to strip down – let the vulnerability of my humanity fly for the world to see.

_________________________________

There is a naked tree behind our house. It is in the middle of a row of evergreens. The tree, in the autumn, has leaves which echo the fierceness of a radiant sunset. But in the winter, it stands alone, naked, at the side of the road. This year, however, there is a lone stubborn leaf clinging to one of the topmost branches.

I cannot help but think that this naked tree is like a writer in the midst of non-writers. As a writer, we are to strip our souls bare and stand out among the crowd for all to see. Our words are our thoughts put to paper. They hang there, as if they were ornaments on a tree. Other words may hang in the air as if they were shreds of torn and dirty paper, floating along in the breeze. But the words that stick, the ones that strip us to our very core, those are the ones for which we write every day.

They are the naked branches on the lone winter tree. The lone leaf is our stubbornness in staying away from the exercise of writing. Using our words, in written form, is like going to the gym for a top athlete. If we fail to get in consistent practice, we fail to stay in top form. Our writing falters, we falter, and we begin to perceive the world around us differently.

When you are a writer, every single instance of life is a potential story. From making tea in the morning, to cooking breakfast, to the actions of neighbors, to your children, to things your friends say, or even the beauty in the day outside your window. It is all a story waiting to be told, sometimes aching to be told. But if you haven’t been flexing your writing muscle, the story will fade into the darkness.

But what if you were the one meant to tell the story? Sometimes a story will cling to you if you are the one meant to tell it but first, we have to be willing to listen to the prompts swirling about us as we live life. It might be our story, it might be someone else’s story, or it might be a tale plucked out of thin air to be fancifully created by only you.

If you think for one second that you are not the one to share it because you are not capable, remind yourself that people have used words to communicate for centuries. One does not have to be particularly talented to use words. Practice makes perfect.

Remember learning how to ride a bike? I would be willing to bet you thought you were never going to get it right. But you kept trying as your parents (or another adult) taught you what to do. This is why reading is a critical part of writing. Swallow books whole – devour them – in addition to writing. You will not only be reflecting what is shared but you will be learning from those who have broken through the barrier of where you find yourself now. They are without training wheels – and you will be without training wheels soon as well.

There is magic, strength, beauty, compassion, truth, and hope in words. Do not find yourself afraid to use them this year. Let this be the year you fearlessly share the story you are meant to share. Go. Write.