Greetings from the Dry World of The Teigr Princess…

All writers go through dry patches where the words just won’t form. For one reason or another, nothing comes out right and  you begin to feel as if you will never write again. You stare at the screen willing the words to come and take you away from the agony you are in; the characters in your head are screaming, begging to allowed out into the world and giving you headaches that just don’t go away.

This is Writer’s Block. 

It’s not an absence of ideas, just a frustration that you can’t get them out of your head in the right way to form sentences that actually make sense.

There are many ways to beat it – here are my personal favourites:

1) Change your routine. 

You write best first thing in the morning normally? Well then forget about writing in the morning and write in the afternoon, or the evening or  at midnight. You have to sit and watch the news before you get down to writing? Watch a soap instead… or watch nothing. Change how you would normally work and sometimes the block gets confused by your actions and lets you through.

2) Do something else, equally creative.

Do you know how many writers are also artists? Or knitters, or embroiderers, or photographers? Hundreds. I know so many writers who have an alternative creative side, something physical and immediate that allows them to think about what they are doing with their hands and makes the subconscious work on whatever writing problems they may have.

Personally, I knit, embroider, paint, sculpt, design and make jewellery and accessories. I pick up new creative hobbies whenever the older ones have lost their savour and return to the older ones when I get bored with the new ones.  They  are usually, incredibly helpful when I’m stuck…

3) Do something else that isn’t creative. 

Mow the Lawn. Do the Laundry or the dishes. Take the dog for a walk, go for a bike ride. Bake a cake or two.  Get away from the pen/keyboard completely and often when you finally return with the house spotless and the dog exhausted, the words will flow again.

4) Write Anyway.

You might think that this isn’t helpful. How can forcing something that doesn’t want to be, work to breaking the block? But it does work. Funnily enough, a lot of the time, that is why I write a blog post. I pick a random subject from the news or something I saw or heard while I was outside the house, and I ramble on about it. That’s why one of my categories is Random Thoughts and Ramblings – sometimes, just writing about something unrelated to what I am working on is enough to jump the block and make things work again.

5) Change Method.

We writers often get stuck in a rut. We rumble along in our own little worlds and when a blockage shows up in our rut we haven’t the foggiest of an idea of how to eject it again.

So step out of the rut.

If you write Romance, then try writing Horror. Write Fantasy? Have a go at Crime Thrillers. Are you a Contemporary Literary writer? In that case, head for Fantasy. Never written any poetry at all? Have a go! Do you always use a keyboard? Pick up a pencil and some paper and relearn the joy of scribbling words onto the page until it’s covered.

6) Forget Punctuation.

No, I haven’t gone mad. It’s an exercise for your mind. Some people call it Stream of Consciousness writing. For this you need a pen and paper. Not a keyboard or tablet computer; not even a pencil and rubber. This is a messy thing to do and can make the inner editor scream in anguish, but you have to follow the rules:

Forget Punctuation.

Do Not cross anything out.

Do Not go back over what you have done until afterwards.

Always set yourself a time limit (or you’ll end up writing like James Joyce) to stick to.

Ignore the rest of the world around you. 

Set your timer going and start with the words “This happened a long time ago, in a land far away…”. From there you write whatever comes into your head, even if it’s full of swearwords and anguish. Write as if your life depends on it. Let the thoughts flow through your fingers into the pen. Doodle a little or add illustrations if you can’t think of the words you want.
Keep going until the timer sounds, then stop.  Put the paper on the table and walk away from it as if you’d just had your last exam and you want to get to the nearest pub to get sloshed. Go back later and read through. Sometimes it’s gobbledeegook and sometimes it’s wonderful. Either way it will clear your mind and you can always burn it if you want to!

7) Read.
Pick a book at random from your collection and don’t stop reading until you have to. Read bad books (they help you see what you’ve done wrong); Read good books; they’ll inspire your mind and help you with your own work, especially if you can work out why they are good.

You might be wondering why on earth I’m wittering on like this…

Well, I’ve lost my focus.

Stop searching the house please, I know exactly why and where it’s gone, and there’s nothing anyone can do to help me find it again.

I have a number of books that need finishing the first drafts on, a novella poised to be published and a couple of new ideas jotted down in my current notebook that are begging to be worked on. I haven’t got Writers Block – this post tells me that; it’s far too coherent and sensible for me to be blocked.

I just don’t seem to have the energy to even think at the moment. I fall asleep at odd moments (yesterday was a good one – we had AC/DC blasting out of the stereo and the children attempting to sort their toys and bedrooms out, but I still fell asleep!) and I am constantly feeling queasy; often I find myself eating the oddest things in order to stop myself feeling sick.
So I’m re-reading “The Wheel of Time” Series by Robert Jordan; I’m on book four at the moment, and I’m just generally trying to get through the day without blowing up at the kids for no reason at all.

I’m sure if you think about it, you’ll be able to come up with a reason as to why I’m feeling like this. You’ll probably also be able to give me tips and suggestions on ways to cure the problem.  Feel free to post them in the comments if you like; doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

All I know is that I don’t feel like writing at the moment and I’m not going to fool around with what my body is telling me… no matter how much my characters scream at me!

Beating the Well and Climbing the Stairs

I’m having a grey day. And before you look out the window and decide it’s the weather’s fault (it’s raining here) I want to explain a few things. My grey days come from lots of different places and unless I pull myself up somehow, they rapidly descend through the shades into black, which can be dangerous.

So I have worked out several different ways of pulling myself up; depending on the place that the day has come from.

Today the mood has come from TOH’s absence.

He’s been away for a few days, spending time with his ninety year old grandmother and making up for the weekends he hasn’t been able to spend with her. I understand his reasons and agree with them, but that doesn’t stop me from missing him.

So I’m feeling grey.

To pull myself back up, I start with music – this is one of my favourites to shake me up.

Pink has an amazing voice and I can completely lose myself in this song as well as the others on the album – and I always listen to the whole album.

My next choice tends to be something to pick my mood up out of the grey area.

Katy is one of my favourite female artists – she has this way of laughing at herself that reminds me that life isn’t supposed to be so serious ! Firework also reminds me that I have something to add to the world, there are people in this world that would miss me and (possibly) my writing…

Then there’s Shakira. Anything that gets me up out of my seat and moving is bound to make me feel better, so I tend to play this song a lot – it makes me dance…

So having reminded myself that I’m female, I start looking into the sexier end of my playlist… and this next song is the one that does it every time!

So I usually finish up my ladies list by visiting my past. When I was a kid, Eurythmics / Annie Lennox was the one voice that stood out to me and hearing her sing really does take me back to happier memories…

Once I’ve picked myself up off the floor and I’m listening to the music, I throw myself into working on something – it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it takes me away from how I am feeling.

Yes, that’s what I’m doing right now.

Why am I doing this? Explaining how I get out of the grey and back to feeling colourful again?

Well, I started on this path a good two and a half years ago.

Losing my baby was the trigger that dumped me down the deep well of depression. Not being able to work because of it  – I had panic attacks when I went for job interviews, stepped into a classroom or tried to exercise my teaching skills – dug the well deeper and when I managed to deal with the initial cause and come to terms with it, I was still depressed because of the inability to get back to work.

You see, when you’ve had a lot of sick time, you’re considered unreliable. And I couldn’t get anymore job interviews, so I went for Supply Agencies. I’m still not sure that was a good idea – I can’t drive (legally that it – I’m still learning) so I have to rely on public transport and the good will of others, so while the agencies all said “It won’t stop you getting work”, I suspect that the lack of personal transport combined with my “unreliability” record, have meant that I haven’t been able to get supply work either.

Yes, I know, I don’t know any of this for certain, I’m assuming a lot of things and while I know that I’m a good teacher, but it doesn’t stop me analysing things that have or have not happened.

Anyway,  I reached the dubious milestone of being “officially” out of work (ie: claiming JSA) for a whole year…*sighs*… and this combined with having had no supply work to get myself back into the swing of teaching and being in a classroom dropped me back down the well a little. I dragged myself back up a bit, but despite finding jobs to go for, I still couldn’t get interviews!

So I started volunteering at Brownies (over a year ago now) to make myself feel as if I am worth something (it’s worked a little) and I’m now almost to the point where I have completed my training.  Going to Brownies each week makes me feel wanted and that my skills are being used, rather than going to waste.

Starting the Art & Design course makes me happy as well – I love learning and I’m hoping that once the course has finished, I’ll be able to get back to teaching properly again.

But I still have the grey days and I don’t want to drop back down that well, so I learned coping strategies… are you still with me? Good. I haven’t bored you to tears yet.

So, let’s recap, To cope with grey depressing days I:

1) Listen to music that will lift my spirit (not drop it further back) and remind me that there is still a way for me to make a difference, no matter how small.

2) While I am listening, I throw myself into doing something that will absorb me and take me away from how I am feeling.

3) Remind myself how I got here and how I have lifted myself out of the Depression Well – recount my achievements if you will…

Now we come to the hard bit. 

Once I have got back to the Contentedness platform outside the Depression well, I have to start lifting myself up the steps. I’ve already come a long way in a short time, but I want to lift myself up towards being happy, not just content.

While I am listening to the music and working, I start forming goals to aim towards. This time of year, it’s easy enough because I have NaNoWriMo looming on the horizon. I also have the monthly goal of getting the webzine out as well as the coursework on my Art & Design Course to sort out and “The Tower and The Eye” to write…

So here are the goals I am setting myself:

1) Meet all my coursework deadlines for next week – that’s Ceramics, Textiles and Graphics, as well as having done further work on Fine Art and the Art Context Essay.

I’m pleased to say that I have manged to finish Ceramics (as far as I can – just the Evaluation and Final Product photos to do – can’t do those until I get back), I’ve progressed on my Essay and Fine Art and I’m now working on my Graphics (it has the most to do…) – I’ll do the Textiles tomorrow.

2) Get November’s Edition ready to go live on 1st.

I have all my submissions and just need to put them up on private pages to schedule their publication.

3) Get ready for NaNoWriMo

I’ve already got a rough plot, the world and updated my NaNo profile, so I’m in a good position to start on 1st Nov – my word count goal is 2,000 words a day.

4) Finish Book 4 of TTATE

I’m almost to the fun bit in the story (the dungeon raid) so that shouldn’t be too hard to get going on!

Ticking at least three of these off the list will take me up the Happiness Stairs, so having stepped up one step already by being in a good position to start NaNo, is a smile worth having.

Thank you for reading – I hope that you’re having a colourful day and if you aren’t, why not try some of my steps… it can’t hurt to listen to some upbeat music can it?

Writing is supposed to be fun…

… a fact that seems to disappear when you’re under contract.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about being under contract to Pfoxmoor / Pfoxchase.

That’s one fact that I’m ecstatic about, as it means that my writing career is finally moving forward.

I’m complaining about the fact that writing has become less fun of late. Whether it’s because:

  1. I’m now having to treat it like a job…
  2. I actually have to finish the series fairly soon…
  3. I’m getting a little stressed about finishing it…
  4. All of the Above…
… I don’t know, but I’m having an unusual amount of trouble settling down to the  task, especially as I am now writing the first draft of book 4 and still have book 5 to plan!
I could blame it on being ill (Summer Flu), being busy (Scout Fete last weekend, District Trip and First Aid Training this weekend) or being Lazy… but I know it’s not any of those.
I’ve found myself procrastinating on Facebook, Knitting (I’ve almost finished my summer cardigan), making bread, watching movies and writing blog posts when I’m supposed to be writing my book…
…no prizes for guessing what I should be doing at the moment…
Anyway, I’ve written snatches of background for TTATE and bounced around sorting out minor details in the world for it, but Puff hasn’t paid attention when I am trying to do when I sit down to write…
…and keeps on diverting my attention elsewhere!
For example.
When I started out trying to be a serious Fantasy Writer, I created a world and wrote an epic novel “The Kingdom of The Seven Towers”.  After several months of getting comments about it on Webook and Authonomy, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to get it anywhere, so I retired it and put it away.
On Sunday, after sitting staring at my screen for a few minutes, Puff started whispering in my ear about it.  I went looking for it,  but could only find the folders about the world background and the maps.
“Re-write the story…” whispered Puff.
And before I knew what was happening, I’d written 1.2k on the re-write!
I enjoy writing. I really do… but why can’t I settle to what I am supposed to be writing rather than new things?
* * *
On a different note – I thought I would bring to your attention a little competition that “Welcome to Wherever” is running…
All you have to do is write a piece based on four photographs. Easy huh?
Well, the Editor has given everyone two months to come up with something and submit it, so why not let your muse whisper to you about the photographs and have a go?
is the link you need – take a look and have a go!