The Dreaded Writer’s Block

It’s something we’ve all had to deal with: the dreaded writer’s block. The heavy-headed clonk against the wall of plot, story, and inventiveness. The rut. But the big question is: How do you get out of that ditch, once you’ve fallen into it? How do you get your words to start flowing again? Our Shannon & Elm authors weigh in:

Shane Norwood:

Drink copious amounts of Guinness. Actually I don’t get stuck very often. If I do encounter a dilemma I do what I do when I can’t remember a name or a word. I stop thinking about it, and when it’s ready the answer just materializes out of nowhere.

Dante Zúñiga-West:

Load up my Jeep and drive into the woods.

Garry Satherley:

Change the tense of the passage. Maybe shift from first-person to third or vice-versa. Give characters different names. Switch the point of view. You can always change things back later if necessary.

William T. Delamar:

Fortunately, this has rarely happens to me. I sometimes stop writing to research to make sure the setting is correct.

Gerald Beckman:

I seldom have that problem, but when I do, writing something preposterous will clear the pipes.

Jeff Dondero:

Attack at a different angle. But it rarely happens. When I get stuck it’s more like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing rather than constipation.

Time Management Tips for Every Writer

You are sitting there, out of town, with three other people in the room, all of them talking at once, and a TV show playing in the background. At nine at night, after a long day’s drive.

The video card on your laptop is overheating and burning your leg. Someone just cut his finger fixing a late dinner and may need to go to the ER.

You are trying to get some writing done.

This is, overall, a poor plan. But sometimes your day (week…month…year…life…) is so filled with must-do activity that it’s hard to find the time for writing.

There are lots of time management strategies out there on the internet, and a writer could spend many an hour reading them instead of writing. Some of those articles recommend you take quizzes to understand your time-wasting tendencies, and others recommend you print out a time-log and journal what you’re doing at every moment in your day.

While interesting, quizzes and logs are just another form of procrastination, as are reading numerous articles that all say “turn off your Internet and don’t answer the doorbell, the end.” These sorts of tips certainly don’t work for everyone—and, we’d argue, they turn most people off of time management strategies altogether.

Every writer is different. Some struggle to get words on the page, others struggle to edit, and some word magicians can write several chapters a day and still raise infant twins and work full time. But we would guess that those amazing writers are not intrinsically more perfect than the rest of us—it’s only that they have made writing a habit, and they have found a routine that works for them.

So what are some things that we can all do to help increase our writing output?

Do it first.

Barring a painful emergency or a bathroom break, nothing that needs to be done now will be harmed by it getting done in 15 minutes or a half hour instead. We know you have a little plastic egg timer sitting in the junk drawer in your kitchen. Wake up every day, pour your cup of coffee, and set the egg timer for a very brief 15 minutes. (Or get home every evening, pour yourself a tumbler of whiskey, and do the same.) You don’t have to spend hours writing, but you do have to make your writing a small priority. There’s always something to be done around the house, and if you put those somethings ahead of your writing, you’ll never get to your writing. And the hardest part is opening the document up—often when you hit the end of that 15 minutes, you find you’re on a roll and want to keep writing.

Here’s an incredible statistic: If you write an average of just 50 words a day (not difficult to do in 15 minutes), you’ll have written a full-length 75K word novel in a little over four years. If you can manage 100 words in your 15 minutes, you’ll have your full-length novel in just over two years.

Make it a habit.

Regardless of when you write or how long you’re writing for, it must be a habit. It could be specific (at 8:35 every morning), or nebulous (as soon as the kids are in bed), but if you don’t have some sort of habitual time slot, it’s incredibly easy to put your 15 minutes off, and off again, until it’s past bedtime and you’re too exhausted to think. Too, you might be able to carve a habitual time slot out of your life with a single change. An LSM Books author takes the bus to work and writes on her commute every day. It’s a brilliant idea—save money, save the earth, and gain two hours of writing time five days a week.

Get a writing buddy.

In some cases, there’s a lot to be said for guilt and peer pressure. This is one of them. If someone you care about is asking you every afternoon—very nicely—when they’ll be able to read the next chapter of your awesome book, you’re much more likely to feel accountable to your writing and get it done. While it takes a dedicated and goal-oriented person to feel accountable to oneself to the same degree, and it’s easy to rationalize not writing in your own mind, nobody wants to disappoint a friend.

Use procrastination to help you, not hinder you.

For most people it doesn’t matter what you need to do—whatever it is, as soon as you have to do that task, you want to do anything but. So recently, the idea of “directed procrastination” has emerged. Leave your manuscript perpetually open on your computer. When you feel like you need a break from a necessary task (or you start to procrastinate by clicking over to Facebook), simply sit down at your desk (or click over to your manuscript instead) and add a few lines.

 

What other writing management tips do you readers have that could benefit writers of all styles?

Zip, Crack, Bam, Hurray! Happy Independence Day From All of Us at Zharmae

We here at The Zharmae Publishing Press realize that the act of reading is a pretty independent, often escapist, adventure meant to give the reader a brief reprieve from everyday life. Reading alone in your favorite spot while you’re whisked away on the pages of a great book is what the magic is all about, but this Independence Day we’re urging you to go out and have some fun with friends, family, and even complete strangers. That’s what we’ll be doing!

The Zharmae Publishing Press will be closing our office doors from Friday, July 4, through Monday, July 7, to celebrate the Independence Day holiday. While our offices are closed and we may not respond to inquiries, please don’t let that stop you from following us on Twitter and Facebook to receive any news and company updates.

Granted, we’re not usually in the business of telling you to put your books down, but the Fourth of July is a holiday that’s best enjoyed around the grill, soaking up the sun, cooling down in the water, and taking in the spectacle of an exceptional fireworks show. It’s pretty hard to do all that when your nose is buried deep in a book. So, just this once, we’re urging you to close the cover and go celebrate the holiday with some pizazz like so many others around the country!

According to the US Census, over 316 million people light a firework fuse, bite into a brat, or take a quick dip on the Fourth of July, which is a number that has exploded since the first celebration way back in 1776. Could you imagine each of those 316 million people shooting off fireworks at the same time? However implausible, that’s a light show we’d love to see.

How do you like to celebrate Independence Day? Do you, do your friends, or does your family have any whacky traditions for July 4th? We’d love to hear about your holiday happenings or crazy goings on, so reach out on our social media channels and let us know what you’re up to!

If the Fourth of July is your favorite day, here’s a handful of fun facts about the holiday to sink your teeth into while the grill is warming up:

  • July 4th also marks a day of independence for both the Philippines and Rwanda.
  • TIME called Independence Day the “biggest hotdog holiday of the year” with more than 155 million of them eaten in the 24-hour span.
  • Fries and dogs may be the feast of choice these days, but it’s rumored on the first Fourth that Founding Father John Adams munched down turtle soup, New England poached salmon and egg sauce, green peas, and potatoes followed by some Indian pudding.
  • Since it’s in such a fragile state, the Liberty Bell is lightly tapped 13 times instead of rung every year on July 4th.
  • July 4th, 2014 will be the 238th time Independence Day has been celebrated in the United States.

Go out and have a great time this Fourth of July, and if someone catches you turning a few pages when your stomach’s full or you’re waiting for fireworks to start, we promise not to hold it against you. We know how loudly those words can come calling!