By Kathy McNarie
Copyright © 2008 by Kathy McNarie, All Rights Reserved
stuck. I can't take my story forward. I sit down to write, but
nothing comes to mind."
all been there... But how do we cope?
The high you get from
writing is like nothing else. Our characters move us in so many ways.
They inspire desire, lust, happiness, love, anger, fear. We run the
emotional gamut as we create them. It's exciting and mind-altering, and
when you finally get a piece finished that you've been working on for
months or even years, you're on the top of the world.
But next comes the editing
phase. Most of us dive right into it, using that residual euphoria that
we got from finishing the project. We plow our way through without
giving ourselves the space we need to look at the piece objectively.
Why? Because we're obsessed and we can't leave these people we've
created alone. They're our confidants, our heroes, and they give us so
much that we can't conceive of letting them go. For others, the mere
idea of going through our story line by line again is daunting enough to
keep us from even approaching the computer. No matter which road we
take, the infatuation calms like a second year of marriage, but it by no
means leaves us completely.
Then we get feedback,
critique. Some of it spirits us back to those highs. We greedily read
through each and every positive word again and again. But some of it
pierces that balloon of ecstasy and sends us crashing into depression.
We get defensive and angry, and even protective of our work. But once
we get past that initial reaction, we shake it off and sit down to our
project again. We concentrate on fixing the parts that didn't come
across well, and we work until we're satisfied... again. But some of us
find that something's happened in this revision. The tone of the piece
has changed from what we intended, and all of a sudden it doesn't mean
the same to us any more. By now we've spent even more months or years.
And with this new development, we can't see when it will end.
But we sit here day after
day, waiting for inspiration to come. Why? Because we still feel it's
a good story; we still love the characters. Most of all, we want to
justify all this time we've spent. We pick at rewrites, line editing
here and grammar-correcting there, but deep down we know we're stuck.
We can't contemplate dumping the revisions we've made because we've come
to believe that the original idea is flawed. But we can't push forward
either because we don't have the high that carried us through the rough
patches before. So here we sit with a project that once consumed us but
now it's quite obvious that it has one of the pitfalls we know to
avoid--a sagging middle, a weak ending, or a dull beginning. And we
truly don't know what to do. We don't really feel like writing, but we
we've spent too much time to quit.
I could tell you my course
of action, but I really wouldn't advise it because my situation was
complicated by the deaths of family members and a business that was in
serious trouble. I really couldn't muster creativeness. So, I took
some time off--about 8 months. When I came back to it, I truly had no
desire and definitely no passion. And the worst thing was that I
remembered very vividly how I spent so much time and still to this day
don't really have anything to show for it.
So... where does one go from
there? First and foremost, you must rekindle that desire for writing.
The best way to do that is to surround yourself with people who share
your passion for the written word. Whether it's a bunch of friends who
meet once a week or a message board community such as Forward Motion, it
won't matter. You just need to get back into the fringe of the craft.
Writing friends are the most remarkable bunch of people. No matter what
your problem is, they all know what it's like because they've either
experienced it or are in the middle of experiencing it right now, or
know someone who's been through it in the past. All you have to do is
be yourself and tell them your troubles, and they will respond. Not
only will you find your system of support, but you'll also get your
fingers used to tapping out the ideas in your head again.
But even after doing that
you find that you still sit in front of your keyboard picking and poking
without any real success. That means you're not quite ready yet. You
need motivation. You need to feel the joy of writing again. And most
importantly, you need to feel the passion about what you're doing. The
best thing I've found to generate this kind of motivation is do some
Forward Motion is chock full
of tasks and challenges, perfect to help out. Most of them require you
to write 500 words with a given set of criteria. Pick an activity that
speaks to you, sit down and just let the words flow. If nothing comes,
don't worry. You've merely picked the wrong activity. Choose another
and start again. It will be slow at first, but don't let that bother
you. Just keep plugging away. Keep adding sentences until you feel the
flow. Don't think about it. Just do it. Before you know it, you'll
have a page worth. Most importantly, you'll feel the
rhythm of this activity, and you'll know where to end it. Then once
you've finished, don't be shy. Post your results! It doesn't matter if
it's rough or not, only that you've done it. Revel in the moment. Feel
good about what you accomplished.
Even with this little bit of
writing, you'll find something more inside than just dread. And that's
the goal. Never lose sight of the fun of it. I guarantee it will make
you a better writer.
Suggested Activities at Forward Motion:
July Summer Challenge:
The Alternate Challenge:
Justin's Daily Exercises:
3 Little Words:
One Line at a Time:
Suggested Activities within
Writing - Each person in the group adds 1000 words to an on-going story
Story on the
Spot - Each person in the group add one line at a time to an on-going
Scenes of Life
- Given a predetermined theme and genre prompt, each person write a
short story of at least 500 words
Picture It -
Given a visual prompt, each person writes a short story of at least 500
Word Wars -
Given a certain amount of time, each person writes as many words as they
can--winner of the round has the most words (there's also a chat room
devoted to this within FM)
Character - Each member picks one of their characters that they'd like
to understand more, and all role play as a group
Think Tank -
Each person of the group brings a topic to discuss or a story line to
brainstorm for a certain allotted period of time (there's also a chat
room devoted to this within FM)
Say it with
Style - Write a section of dialogue between at least two characters with
no tags or regular text--the challenge is to write each character's
dialogue uniquely enough that the reader isn't confused about who is