Like Sand Through The Hourglass…

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
― C.S. Lewis

I remember when I started college, everyone complained about how many years they would be in school if they decided to become a veterinarian.

Four years of undergraduate study! Four years of veterinary school! Eight years of classes and exams!

Perhaps eight years is a long time. For an 18 year old, that’s 44% of their life. For a 24 or 25 year old, that’s about 33%, or 1/3 of their life. That’s a lot of time to devote to something.

But then I remember someone saying…the time will pass anyway.

I googled this to see if there was a quote this statement originally might have come from and I found this wonderful gem:

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
― Earl Nightingale

Often a situation just needs a new perspective. In this case, everyone was complaining about how long it would take to achieve the goal of becoming a veterinarian. But, it’s not really about the time is it?

4 years, 8 years….time passes anyway. But will you be a veterinarian at the end of 8 years? Will you be an author? A pilot? A teacher? An electrician? Or will you be in exactly the same circumstances as you were at the start of those 8 years?

Will you use your time to achieve a dream? Or will time just pass?

Sometimes with writing, the word counts for novels can be overwhelming. How could I ever write a 65,000 word story? Or even 20,000 words. That would take so much time!

But then I try to remind myself that the time will pass anyway.

“You may delay, but time will not.”
― Benjamin Franklin

If I wrote 1,000 words a day, at the end of 20 days I would have a rough draft of a middle grade book, or in 65 days I would have a rough draft of a young adult book.

One month, two months….where will I be?

Will I have a draft to work with at the end of two months or will I still be sitting and dreaming?

As I’ve been reminded in many books I’ve read lately, time is not guaranteed to anyone. No one knows how much time they have and yet it’s often perceived as both a cheap, infinite resource, and as an expensive, limited one.

“I have all the time in the world to get that done!”

or

“That would take too much time!”

It’s not always easy to remember. Dreams can seem overwhelming. Other aspects of life get in the way and use up precious hours, but things worth having are always worth the time.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Block That Bug!

Yesterday I told you my personal pep talk which I use to fend off writer’s block. Today I want to share a couple exercises I use to get my writing back on track. Or to just get back to writing anything 🙂

Free Writing

I’m sure most are familiar with free writing but for those of you who are not, free writing is simply sitting down and writing (or typing) whatever pops into your head. The rules are that you must keep writing for a set amount of time and you must write the first thing that pops into your head. With free writing there is no editing as you go or changing anything once it’s written. Ideally you would write as fast as you could to prevent any errant thoughts from creeping in and disrupting the flow. And flow is what you’re aiming for.

The idea behind free writing is that it gets you out of a self-conscious state and into your writing groove where the thoughts can flow naturally and without filter.

I like free writing, but I’ve found that a bit more direction helps my free writing sessions become more productive. Free writing in its purest form often produces an abundance of incoherent ramblings with a hidden gem or two. Here are two methods I use to make my free writing session more productive and fun.

  1. Get into character.

    This exercise is free writing in its purest form except you get into your character’s head instead of your own. First visualize your character, how they talk, walk, smile, frown, etc. Think about all their physical and emotional characteristic. Now let your character talk. Maybe you imagine your character walking down the street, what do they see? How do they interact with the world around them? I like this exercise because it accomplishes two things, it gets me writing and I get to know my character.

  2. Pick a scene.

    Sometimes I have a great idea for a story but I just can’t get the beginning right. I hate every first sentence I create so I end up not typing anything. But I will have a great idea for some other scene in the story. If you find yourself stuck in the beginning of the story (or the middle or even the end) start writing any scene that pops into your head. Don’t worry about where it will fit in the story just focus on getting those words on paper. Maybe the scene you write will never make it into your final story or maybe it will. Maybe it will reveal something about your character you didn’t know or reveal an underlying theme you hadn’t considered.

Writing Contests

Sometimes when I’m feeling especially uninspired, I search for writing contests. For the purpose of beating writer’s block I search for flash fiction contests. I find writing contests help me beat writer’s block in a few ways.

  1. Changes up the writing routine.

    Contests often have specific word counts, themes, etc. By adhering to these specific guidelines and having to meet a deadline it changes the way I approach the project.

  2. Sets an attainable and specific goal.

    Completing a piece specifically for a contest achieves a goal. Even if you don’t submit the piece or don’t win, you finished a project! There’s nothing more satisfying than finishing a piece.

  3. Less pressure.

    For me, contests are fun. All writing is supposed to be fun…right? But sometimes I put too much pressure on the projects that mean the most to me and are closest to my heart. A contest piece however, can be viewed as an exercise in writing. I tend to put less pressure on myself and so the words come easily. Maybe the contest piece turns out great, maybe it doesn’t, but it gives your brain a writing workout.

Writing contests, like writing prompts, add a little fun and motivation when your existing projects might feel overwhelming.

I have started compiling a List of Free Writing Contests and I would invite you to check it out. There might just be something that spurs an idea or sounds like a lot of fun.

Happy (free) writing!

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Block Bug

If you’ve written for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve encountered writer’s block at some point. Writer’s block might manifest as an inability to write anything at all, or an inability to write anything on a work already in progress.

I am more often afflicted with the latter, though writer’s block in any form is frustrating.

I’ll have hundreds of ideas swirling around in my head, but after a few pages or few thousand words, all those ideas disappear. I’m left with a character and story I want to bring to life so badly, but my brain can’t find the right words.

Why does this happen?

Ultimately, for me, writer’s block boils down to fear.

Fear that what I write will be terrible.

Fear that I can’t bring the story to life on paper.

Fear that no one will like what I write.

This fear strikes in the form of self-editing. While good editing is essential to crafting a superb story, editing too soon can cripple the process. Such editing takes place before a thought is fully formed. Or one or two sentences in, the whole section gets a rewrite. I’ve been there. It’s frustrating and leaves me staring at a blank screen wondering what could I possibly write that my brain will think worthy?

Awareness of this process is key to overcoming it. So here are some things I say to myself when I feel that editing bug whisper in my ear before my draft is even started.

  1. The first draft will be awful.

    So this is a bit of an exaggeration. There will be wonderful parts in the first draft, but there will also be really awful sections. And you know what? That’s ok! Those parts can be taken out later and no one will ever see them. NO ONE. Isn’t that great?

  2. It’s OK if the first draft is awful.

    This might sound like #1 but recognizing something and then accepting it is a two part process. Even though I know the first draft will likely definitely be awful, I have to remind myself that it’s OK. “Remember,” I say to myself, “NO ONE WILL SEE IT.”

  3. Do not read what has been written.

    I’m guilty of breaking this rule quite a bit. I’ll get a page or two written and then, feeling accomplished and with no hint of writer’s block, I’ll read what I’ve written. Guess what happens next? I start editing. “Oh hi there writer’s block, nice to have you back!” It might be impossible to write an entire draft, especially a novel, without reading over it at all, but I try to not go back until I’ve written a significant percentage of the work. If it’s flash fiction, I write the whole thing in one go. Short story, maybe four or five pages before breaking from the flow. You get the idea. The key is to keep that self-editor at bay by not giving it a chance to see the work until you are in the homestretch.

  4. No one tells the story like you. 

    Sometimes that bug in my ear says, “This story has already been written.” This might be true, but look at how many stories have been retold a hundred times and each retelling brings a new revelation, a new perspective on an old theme. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and the list goes on…and on and on! No one will tell a story exactly like you would. There is a rhythm to every writer’s work and each sentence, each chapter, is put together in such a way that can’t be repeated by anyone. So when you feel that fear creep in that you’re telling a story everyone already knows, remind yourself that they’ve never heard it from you!

  5. It doesn’t have to be a bestseller.

    So this is a bit over the top haha 😉 but the point is that I need to remind myself that I’m writing because I enjoy it. I’m writing because I have a story in my head that I would want to read. Sure, it would be great if other people want to read it too, but such worries put a lot of pressure on the writing and the writer. Instead of worrying about where your story will fit on the shelves or who will find it interesting, just write the story in your heart.

I hope my personal pep talk gives you a bit of encouragement and helps fight off the writer’s block bug. 🙂

Part two will be up tomorrow with an exercise I’ve found to help that first draft take shape when writer’s block is knocking at the door.

How do you overcome writer’s block? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!

Happy writing!