Friday, December 11, 2009

Big Ole Blog O' Nothing...

Talk about crunch – Angela James wrote her guest blog post about writer’s block and here I sit, Thursday night, blocked. My blog is supposed to go up at midnight. People are counting on me to write something – perhaps witty, perhaps educational. I can’t go to bed with nothing on the blog – that would be grounds for permanent removal from The Prairies (even though I’ve removed myself from the prairies physically). ACK!

My first thought was to write something educational. I went back through some of my SRW stuff I’ve written for leads in our newsletter. Nothing jumped out at me. Nothing excited me. I can’t write if I’m not excited – it comes off lame and two-dimensional. Then I went hunting on the Internet for educational ideas. Nothing.

Next – I’ll write a 12 Days of Christmas Parody, only make it all about writing and 15 days since that’s what’s left until Christmas. 15 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS? Ok, that just freaked me out. How did it get to be only 15 days until Christmas? I need to get stuff done – haven’t even started baking. And my Christmas Letter and cards haven’t been printed out. Yikes. Now I’m stressed by not only the blog post, but the looming Christmas holidays that snuck up on me. Oh, yeah – the parody – I started it, but it was lame, really lame.

When I stare at the blank screen, I sometimes begin typing "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." Did you know that that sentence contains every letter in the alphabet? Go ahead, I’ll wait until you check…our typing teacher used to make us practice that sentence over and over again to become better, faster typists. Must work, I can type 60 words per minute. I love that sentence and when stuck with a blank screen I’ll often start typing it over and over again. Pretty soon I get bored and I’ll start typing something original (or my hands get sore). So I tried this approach – nothing. Nada. Zip. Oh, yeah, my hands got sore.

So, when in doubt, turn to your friends. Jana was on MSN and I shot her a quick "Help! Give me a blog topic." We were talking about my WIP and I was saying how well it’s coming along. But I told her I couldn’t talk about it. I’ve learned that as soon as I stop and start talking about it, it fizzles. I’ve had so many starts with various manuscripts – and my adrenaline pumps, Muse gets all excited, and then I chat with it to someone and the story dies. Right there. Dead. I’m not sure if it’s because when I start to think of the character’s motivation, goals, conflicts, I start to question the plausibility. Or I realize, while talking, that the plot is full of so many holes Swiss Cheese looks like a solid mass in comparison. I question the subplots in relation to the main plot. I question the black moment (which is always fully formed in my head when I start a manuscript) and can’t figure out a way to get there. The whole thing just – fizzles! And then I start to edit thinking I can fix this before it gets worse. No – I’ve learned, keep it close to my heart, get it written, and then discuss it.

That leaves – oh, look at that, still nothing. Well, with the Internet a bevy of information just waiting for a simple search, I consulted with my favorite computer friend – Google. I Googled ‘writing topics’. I found the most amazing website. We’ve talked before here about generators – those handy things that let the technology do the work for us. We’ve generated plots, super heroines, and titles. I believe our good friend Silver used a generator when she first started her webpage to create a tagline – since then revising it to something perfect for her. Now, I give you "The Imagination Prompt Generator". This would be a perfect morning writing exercise gadget (I believe The Artist’s Way suggests short writing exercises in the morning to stimulate the creativity – I’ll let you know, plan on re-reading that one in 2010). As it says on the website, you can set a clock and free write for 10 minutes and see what you come up with.

My first prompt was: "Right now, what is on your mind?" Ha – ok, that’s too funny. Nothing’s on my mind that’s the problem. Next prompt: "Name any life changing books you’ve read" – has to be The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, the first of many books about enlightenment and living in the moment. Naturally, if I were doing these prompts as writing stimuli, I would take time to write a paragraph or two, but I can see that having nothing to write about has, in fact, used up almost my entire blog space. I’m going to bookmark this sight for future reference.

Oh, yeah, my other idea for a blog post was to inform everyone what’s coming up over Christmas and our fantastic new changes taking place in the New Year. The Prairie Chicks Blog is going to be a year old on January 1st and we’ve got some fabulous news. But, I’m going to keep that a secret until next week – then I’ll fill you in (unless someone beats me to it).

So, People of Blogland, what do you do when you stare at a blank screen? Any great motivational tips? How about first draft superstitions? Do you keep it close to your chest or chat away because it helps you flesh out the story? Any great generators you’d like to share with us? Looking forward to more excitement in the comment section than happened on the actual blog.



Yunaleska said...

Blank page - if it's for writing, I just whack on my writing song (on repeat) and order my Muse in no uncertain tones to get herself in gear.

If it's for book reviewing (which does happen - it can be hard to start one) I make sure I put the usual details about the book down, then make a funny face and write.

I like chatting about my wips at any stage - I find brainstorming with friends can help me clarify parts of the story.

(This blog post was funny - you were successful!)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet, love that bit about the idea generator asking what's on your mind when you're sitting there with writer's block. That is precious. It's also one of those things where truth is stranger than fiction things. :)

Reminds me of the time I went for an MRI for severe headaches. I was in the CAF at the time and when I went back to work, I had to report to my superior exactly what the doctor said. I really didn't want to do it but I had to. It went like this, 'They said there was nothing up there, sir.'

When I have writer's block I just sit there and try to work through it, going over and over things in my mind. In the instances it doesn't work, I go into my idea file to see if I have something I want to write about. As a last resort, I'll ask the family. Usually their answers are so off the wall they make the ideas in my idea file look good. :)

Janet said...

Love the fact that you boss around your Muse, Yuna! What's the 'funny face'? And what's the 'writing song' - does it change after a bit or is it always the same one? I once read a book about a writer who had a special ring she wore when she wrote - it put her in the mental place she needed to be in for writing. Often think about that ritual and wonder if that would work - can't remember the name of the book. My proble would be trying to decide on the ritual - I would need it to be perfect.

Always interested in knowing others routines (and solutions) for writing.

Janet said...

Yes, Anita - I think the Universe was laughing at me with that prompt :)

Funny story about your head - what did your superior say? Did he find it funny or were you the only one who got the humor?

Love the idea file - going to start one with blog ideas. That way, when I get stuck, I can pull out that file. I know there are times as I'm reading various blogs I think "Oh, that would make a great blogpost." If I start writing them down instead of committing them to memory (which fails me more and more every day), I'd have a backup plan for days like yesterday. Thanks, Anita :)

Yunaleska said...

My Muse often bosses me around too!

Writing song is currnetly the same one. It's taken from the anime Noir's Soundtrack, and is Canta per me. It is on youtube :) I have read the translation of the lyrics (which match up with the originals - I don't speak Italian but can figure it out thanks to other languages). It gets me in the mood because it fits most of the characters I write about at some point in their life, and in the anime it is used for the fight scenes. I guess that for me writing is like fighting for a goal -I have that goal in sight, and the song makes me want to keep striving for the goal. In the anime one protagonist is searching for her identity, which in my wips the main protag is usually having to deal with something extraordinary.

I doubt it'll change for a while :) Haven't quite found a long enough track that I adore from other animes yet.

Janet said...

Went and had a listen - and look - Yuna. Very powerful - and beautiful. I can see why you would want to listen to it as you write (I'm more in the Silent Camp when I write).

Along those same lines - anime - Hayley sent me off to Youtube to listen to Ghost LoveScore/Nightwish (hope the link works). Again, very powerful and inspiring.

And I love the 'fighting for a goal'. We do have to fight to reach goals, don't we? There are sacrifices and struggles - and they're so worth it when we reach those goals.

Thanks for coming back and sharing your song, Yuna.

connie said...

Hi Janet - first cup of coffee at the ready...
Some housekeeping - Angela said in one of her blogs that she was disappointed she didn't get any comments to her blog with us. I don't tweet but I wrote to her throuhgh Carina inquiries address and told her how to find them. Anyone who tweets should maybe do the same as my email may not get to her.
I have several ways to get the Muse outa bed. If I don't already have a brilliant idea (and I haven't ever so far) I look in one of the books on writing I have, pick a chapter, read it and put my own views on it down. Sometimes, I have had a problem (what? who me?)and I have somehow fixed it , I write about that. Do you realize that it is the one thing duct tape won't fix?
I have a file of topics too, most of which I promptly reject. The odd, odd time, something from my weekly column can be adjusted to fit. I will do that with my Xmas story.
My Muse sleeps alot, A LOT, in fact, I don't think I have one darn it.
Where are Vince and Captain Hook? They usually started a good fire.

Silver James said...

Janet, even when you have nothing at all to say you crack me up!

Here's my entry for the random generators. First, no one take offense. I read Harlequins. I enjoy Harlequins. I just cringe at their titles. A lot. Even so, the Random Romance Generator at is a hoot! My title this morning? The Nordic Shah's Bodacious Girl Friday. I would read this book!

I need to bake. Address Christmas cards. Find the Christmas tree and get it up. Shop. Shop. Have I mentioned I have no Christmas presents to wrap? Zero. Nada. None. Iffy has gone to the Grand Caymans for the holidays. She took TR with her. Writing? Pffft. Not happening! LOL Who knows...maybe I'll procrastinate Christmas by writing! Now there's a novel idead...

Janet said...

Thanks, Connie - I, too, will get in touch with her about the blog comments, because we had a lot. Did you find that info on Carina's blog? I'd be interested in knowing what she said. I have her e-mail - I'll shoot one off this afternoon.

My writer's block is not new - but I really couldn't generate any ideas yesterday. This morning, over on Janet's Journal, I was yakking away no problem. Guess I had a pretty good sleep.

Thanks for sharing your ideas :)

Janet said...

Thanks, Silver - good to know I can still make you laugh when I have nothing to say (is that a back handed compliment, or what?).

I love that generator. I go there often to just play - no wonder I don't get stuff done. And the procrastinate about Christmas - I'm trying that theory out with my day job, procrastinating by writing (the job that doesn't pay). Today, I procrastinated on both by vaccumming. Sigh.

Christmas is a-coming - get busy, girlfriend :)

Yunaleska said...

oooh wow nice song! Thanks for the link :D another to add to my playlist.

I know life is being ultra busy for Captain Hook right now, she is okay though.

Karyn Good said...

Having. Trouble. Concentrating.

Family suppers, christmas concerts, skating parties - but I'm not complaining, it's all good stuff.

So right now it's not so much about writer's block, it's blocking out the distractions which isn't possible or fun so I've given up until I've finishing preparing and enjoying Christmas.

Writer's block - I crank up the music and put in my earbuds and it usually works.

Janet said...

You're welcome, Yuna. Yes, I follow Captain Hook on Facebook and know that everything is good, although she is very busy. Sad to see her blog postings end, though.

If you're reading this Sarah - hi from us Prairie Chicks, hope all is well.

Janet said...

Karyn - I hear you on the concentration front. Thank goodness we do Book in a Week in January - gets us back into writing after a hectic holiday season.

You and Yuna - I can't listen to anything when I'm writing. I end up singin along! Good luck with the Christmas prep stuff :)

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Janet, I'm with you in the absence-of-Christmas-baking boat. Still no tree either, despite plans to put it up a while ago. Ah well, I don't really mind. Thankfully I don't need to worry about Christmas cards at least.

I tend to go through two phases with my first drafts.. or more accurately with specific ideas for them. First I get the aha moment and get excited, conclude I am brilliant, and desire to flaunt my brilliance to others. Thankfully, Hubby always volunteers for that.

After that I tend to pull in, let it sit and percolate quietly, rather than continue sharing it until all the sparkle is gone. I need the excitement of that moment to keep my momentum up. If I talk about it until it's dull, like resting on the laurels of a good scene rather than writing on, I find it hard to get back in later on. Plus I'd rather find the errors in my logic myself, rather than gushing to someone else and them going "But why doesn't he just apologize and resolve the issue there?" "Because... then I'd.. have no plot!"

Janet said...

Good summation of your style, Hayley. I think I suffer from the "Look at me, I am brilliant" syndrome, too. And I hear ya - much better to discover your own 'oops, didn't think that through' yourself rather than in the midst of flaunting your brilliance :)

Worst thing ever - "That can be resolved on the second page by a simple conversation"! Always on the look out for that.

Good luck with getting Christmas organized.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Janet, when my boss heard that, he just stared at me then smiled and shook his head. I kept waiting for him to say something like, 'It figures' but he didn't. He was one of my nicer superiors.

Oh, to finish the story, 2 yrs after that I was diagnosed with TMJ dysfunction. Which is actually why you see one of my eyes tear up. It's due to the muscle strain.

And, you're welcome.

Helena said...

My latest version of procrastinationitis is that I don't go near my computer until late afternoon. Go figure.

It does mean that I have been doing more reading lately, which is like re-filling the well, so I hope I get my balance back soon. (Some of the reading is research for the novel I began for NaNo -- and yes, I think I'll be keeping that one pretty close to my chest for a while yet. And it's no music to write by for me, either.)

Have to say you can come up with a pretty spectacular blog when you have nothing to say, Janet!

Janet said...

Thanks for coming back to share the rest of the story, Anita :)

Janet said...

Helena - glad to hear you're getting to the research part of your NaNo novel. So true what you say about balance - really is important for a writer!

Thanks for the kind words - I can obviously say a lot about nothing and entertain, go figure :)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
I'm glad you were able to write something about nothing. Way to go.

I haven't written anything on either of my WIPs for a few weeks now. I don't think it's so much of a writer's block as it's distraction. Other things keep interferring. But when you get out of the habit of writing everyday it's tough to start again. Hopefully after the New Year things will settle down and I can get back into the swing of things again.

On the bright side, my daughter and I put up the Christmas tree tonight. Still no baking done (maybe I can convince the daughter to handle it), but I've got most of my presents bought. Now if you'll excuse me I need to do some wrapping.


Janet said...

There you go - I'm going to call it 'distraction'. Sounds so much better than writer's block.

Just remember Bob Mayer discussing writer's block in passing during his very full workshop. He equated it to 'lazy'! I said in another blog post I would come back to explore that further and I think it came back to remind me.

Nope - going with 'distraction', much better than lazy (although, I am rather lazy these days - chalk it up to shortest days/lack of daylight/etc).

Good luck getting the daughter to bake. We'll be putting up our tree this weekend and, fingers crossed, I'll get some baking done, too. Have a great weekend.