This blog has focused a lot on Literature and not as much on Creative Writing thus far so I thought I would blog about an issue I’ve recently dealt with in my writing. During my undergraduate years I took every Creative Writing course offered, save for Screenwriting and Novel Writing. I really should have declared an emphasis in it-oh well. Writing has always been my passion but due to extenuating circumstances I had to stop shortly after I graduated. At that time I had started what my professor called “a marketable” novel in a fiction seminar during the Spring of my senior year. Then after some time passed I entered graduate school and my focus was solely academic papers. Had I not been accepted to a Master’s Program in English I would have promptly turned my focus to MFA programs. Toward the end of my graduate tenure I longed for my own fiction again. And thus the “can I still do it?’, “where would I begin” nagging inundated my mind. I was filled with a lot of anxiety thinking that maybe my brain wouldn’t think the same way or that my skills had rusted to a pile of mediocrity never to be honed again. That is silly but it truly is what I thought.
I then turned to my prior creative writing professors. One gave me a book title of exercises that I could to do retrain my creative brain into writing fiction again. I already own a copy of Rebel Yell, sitting at the bottom of my nightstand drawer still in shrink wrap-oops.
One professor answered my query of “how to restart a novel where you left off(two chapters and several chapter synopses only) with this wonderful advice:
“Sit with the characters a while, let them talk to you, see where they go…etc”
I really like this idea because even if you can’t get a page out perhaps you can get a character profile out or a scene plotted that you previously were stuck on.
I recently contacted her again about a different matter(ripe for another blog topic) and I actually have yet to put her advice in practice. This is due to the fact that I didn’t have to sit with the characters-they started screaming at me!
It never fails, in the most inopportune places, the most inappropriate times, I’ll get a name, or a vision of a house, or a synopsis of a chapter. Many times I don’t have anything to write or record with. This is especially problematic when I am at the gym-where my head is blissfully cleared and ready for creative inundation haha.
One of the things that has been invaluable to me in my return to writing is the fact that I have had a few very successful writing dates with a friend of mine. This was my first test of the creative waters. I came with ideas for children’s books and I had only wanted to write one story that day to start out slow. I ended up writing three and then plotting out four more.
My advice to those with writer’s block or who have taken a years-long hiatus as I did and had to do is this:
1. Start small!!! If you only get a line out you can build upon that later. One line leads to another and then there is lineage of ideas to build on.
2. Let things come to you. If you try to force the issue you will become increasingly frustrated and fruitless. One day you might be prolific on one cup of coffee at a local coffeehouse, and others you will be on your fourth cup with scarcely a line.
3. Take visual inspiration along with you in order to job your creative memory. My children’s books are based on my cat so I simply would stare at a picture of him to conjure up what I wanted to write about and how I wanted to capture him on the page.
4. Start reading magazines for inspiration and advice. A lot of my anxiety was eased just by reading accounts of how other writer’s struggled to write and what ended up working for them.
5. Read. Arundhati Roy and Michael Cox are two main reasons why I want to write again. They way they play with words, plots, and characters opened my brain up and set it on fire in ways I never thought possible. If you read good writing you will maybe find something you want to play with that was featured in what you read and that can be a great jumping off point,
6. And if all that fails-write pure utter nonsense about your day and then usually when you clear that out of your head…you can write whatever you wanted to in the first place.
I am happy to report I now have seven possible children’s picture books manuscripts all in a first draft form. I am cobbling together ideas for other projects and compiling them for future use this summer when I will return to writing on a more permanent basis.
Do any of you have advice for someone who has not written in a while and would like to?