Friday, August 14, 2015

How to Deal With Writer's Block



I have a sneaky suspicion about Writer’s Block. I don’t think it exists!

Now, in saying that, I do believe there is such a phenomenon as Writer’s Stop. This occurs when our subconscious discovers we are completely off course and writing in a tangent that is not conducive to the full potential expression of our story and thus stops us dead in our tracks until we figure it out.

A subsect of the Writer’s Stop is a condition called Writer’s Drop. This happens when our self-confidence plummets to such abysmal levels that we have a hard time convincing ourselves we should be writing at all. This is where all the existential questions about why on earth we picked this career path to begin with come careening to a head. One might experience this after their first handful of rejections, or after a negative review, for example. But at its heart, Writer’s Drop is just another facet, another face if you will, of Writer’s Stop, but in this instance it’s our perspective that’s off course.

Marissa Campbell all Zen in Bahamas
As a yoga instructor, I often talked about what I saw as the keys to happiness. Two of those mystical mysteries were awareness and perspective. With Writer’s Stop, we have to be aware that we have in fact stopped writing—we can become pretty darn good at creating excuses and making ourselves seem too busy, all in an effort to avoid the discomfort of facing the hard truth. We have to be aware of our avoidance tactics and acknowledge that we are in fact procrastinating.

Once we become aware of what we’re doing, we can try to understand the root cause behind our Writer’s Stop. Perhaps we have reached a point in our stories where we are bored with it, hence the reader will be too. Or maybe we’ve lost the main thread of our plot. We might even be trying to force a character into doing something that is in fact out of character for them. Or worse, we could be writing the wrong story—maybe we really want to write steampunk mysteries, but are forcing ourselves to try and slog through a paranormal romance.

Writer’s Stop is not a bad thing. It’s a natural part of the process, and it presents each of us with a wonderful opportunity to make our stories better. I learned this lesson the hard way.

After taking part in NaNoWriMo this past year, I made my quota and rocked my word count, however, the furious pace was devastating to my story. I’ve since learned that my writing process involves a lot of reflection and rumination (R&R), followed by joyful spurts of writing. Each ‘stop’ in my writer’s journey is an opportunity to reflect and ruminate on the story and determine where I go from there. As one might expect, I’m a pantser. With this crazy process, I need the R&R to help keep my story on track. With NaNoWriMo, I didn’t have time for R&R and had to force the story and push my way through the red-light-alarm-bell-ringing-full-train-whistle-jam-on-the-breaks-for-the-love-of-God-woman stops. Thus, out of the fifty thousand words I had to complete in thirty days, once the month was up, I ended up cutting almost forty thousand of them. I had to start over from scratch. Writer’s Stop is a gift, an opportunity to pause, breathe, look around, and determine what our story needs to make it stronger.


In the case of Writer’s Drop, perspective is the missing link. We can’t always change a situation (the negative review won’t go away, especially now, thanks to the Energizer internet bunny) but we can change how we perceive the situation. Rather than it being the catalyst that drops us into the deepest depths of despair, we can use it as force for good, catapulting us into a mission to prove the review wrong!

After all, a negative review seems to scream, “Just stop writing for heaven’s sake. Can’t you see you suck?”

Now if you’re anything like me, you don’t take kindly to people telling you what you can or cannot do. Avelynn (the heroine in my debut historical fiction, AVELYNN, releasing September 8th) is exactly like me in this regards. Rather than take society’s constraints and abide them, she fights, tooth and nail, against their hold.

If someone tells me I can’t do something, I will go out of my way to prove them wrong. I don’t mean to say that if someone tells me I can’t jump off a cliff, that I’m going to do the opposite, but if it’s something I feel passionate about, something that I believe firmly in, like my writing, or my family, or my friends, I may just have to put my foot down and dig in my heels. I firmly believe we can accomplish anything we set our minds to, and rising above negativity (in all its forms) is just one of them. A life of passion is not without struggle. Many people will try and dampen our spirit and douse our flame, but if we feel strongly about what we do, if we love and believe in our words and our stories, then those rejections and negative reviews are just white noise against the backdrop of our dancing feet beating a thrilling tattoo as we march to the sound of our own vibrant drums.

Awareness and perspective are essential to turning something negative on its head. Once you can do that, there’s only one thing left: make a choice. Choose to rise above the self-doubt. Choose to push through adversity and follow your dreams. Choose to remain true to your passions. Soon you’ll be living Writer’s Rock, whereby you rock this whole writing thing and remain steadfast and firm in your resolve to knock this novel/short story/screenplay/memoir/poem out of the park! Swing for the fences, my friends. Rock on!

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

4 comments:

  1. Your perspective is beautiful, Marissa. Thank you for giving me so much to think about.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My pleasure, Liv. :) xo

    In gratitude,
    Marissa

    ReplyDelete
  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Charlotte. :) xo

      In gratitude,
      Marissa

      Delete