In the Beginning

Posted by Stephanie Rose on March 8, 2010 at 3:05 PM

After spending an hour last night staring at a word document, I decided I'd address something every person struggles with at some time or another. I am no expert, but it's easy to play Monday morning quarterback. So I thought I'd work through my own struggles by talking about things that get writers through their own, hopefully helping other people along the way. Be it a novelist or a student with a term paper, it tends to hit us at the most unexpected times, and it hits hard.


I'm talking about writer's block.


And why is a raven like a writing desk? Even Lewis Carroll didn't know the answer, but the best explanation I ever heard to answer that question was in an annotated version of the story, where the researcher gave the many answers to that riddle given over the years. A raven is a symbol of doom and time running out, and for a writer sitting at their desk with deadlines and time against them, the feeling of doom is ever present.


Was this what Lewis Carroll had in mind when he wrote the answerless riddle? Seemingly not, as he explained himself after receiving numerous queries over the riddle that it truly did not have an answer, yet he provided one anyways as an afterthought that had nothing to do with the writing world. But as any writer knows, things you write subconsciously tend to weave themselves back around full circle. Perhaps his subconscious created this riddle without him knowing the true answer.


I've read many books on writing, and one of the greatest things I heard was in "A Writer's Idea Book" from a writer who said that everyday he sits at his desk for a scheduled period of time, without fail. If he can think of nothing to write, he still sits there with a timer. Is this a waste of time? He thinks no. He believes that thinking about writing, even if he has nothing to write about, prepares him for when he does. Creating a routine to write is essential, so when you are ready, the routine is already in place. Yet another reason a raven is like a writing desk.


So I say to hell with the writing desk. Sherry, another member of Scribblicious, likes to write the old fashioned way; a paper and pen. I use my handy netbook for maximum portability. But leave the writing desk. With the weather warming, I choose to spend my writing time outside on my patio, surrounded by nature. The element you choose to write in is key. Writing is a form of art, and to let your creative juices flow, your mind needs to be in the right place.


You wouldn't want to be near me with the story I'm currently working on. It's dark and disturbing, and my head enters a nasty place while working on it. Like a method actor who spends time getting in character before they walk onto the stage, I try to surround myself with chaos before I open my netbook. I dredge up things in my head that make me uncomfortable; things that really put me on edge. If I could surround myself physically with dead things and dirt, I'm sure I would.


My point is, the atmosphere you write in is just as important as your head. Finding a place to be creative in is one of the best weapons against writer's block. As I stared at my computer last night, I couldn't reach what I was trying to achieve in my head or in my environment, even though I know exactly where I'm going in the story.


Perhaps it was because I am at a bridge. This is the other thing that tends to hold writers up. Bridges are by far the most difficult sections to write, ask anyone. The sections in a book that have no other purpose than to take you from major scene to scene. You can know completely where you are going, what is about to happen to your characters to take them deeper down the rabbit hole, but getting there can prove incredibly difficult.


For me, I find it best to force it. Once I force a few paragraphs of the bridge, I'm usually back in the swing of it. Laying the first few boards across the river is the most dangerous, but once you have a foundation, the rest are easy. Then you can go back and secure the foundation. I find that my forced paragraphs don't fit the narrative and seem out of place, but it's easy to return to them and make them more cohesive.


Blocked from the beginning? I'm a fan of story starters. Sherry posts some on our website, but there are fabulous books out there that are full of inspiring story starters to get your creative juices flowing. I'm including titles at the bottom of this post.


While working in radio, I learned that every person on the planet has a fascinating story in them ready to be told. You just need to tell it. Your voice is unique, so sit down and let it rip.


Genre? At the PNWA conference last year an editor said it best: "Everything is popular until it's not." This statement means everything. Vampires have been huge but are on their way out. But you have a great vampire story! If it's unique, it will be published. If it's not unique, vampires will come back. Maybe you'll be the one that brings it back. The point is WRITE IT!


Finally I'd like to say that without a support group, I would be lost. Find encouragement in the people around you. Exile the nay-sayers. The people I have choosen to trust with my writing are the only way I've worked through a story from start to finish. You need a cheering section when writing. You need positive and helpful feedback. Find someone who can give you that. There are a few people in my life that I know I can call up in my darkest of places for support. People I can call if I'm searching my head for a word. My first book I spent afraid to talk about. I will never make that mistake again.


Time for me to force a bridge. The raven is singing in many forms.


Until next time,




Books on Writing:

"On Writing" by Stephen King

"How to Write what You Want to Sell" by Skip Press

"Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" by Natalie Goldberg

"The Writer's Idea Book" by Jack Heffron


Story Starters:

"The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" by Chris Van Allsberg

"The Write Brain" by Bonnie Neubauer

"A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words" by Phillip Sexton


(if you know me and would like to borrow any of the above, let me know!) <3

Categories: Writers Block, Stephanie

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