Monday, January 31, 2011

Writer's Block

I once snatched up a book in the local library that was all about writer's block, and its insights have helped me to bulldoze my way through those walls, yelling in victory.

This book referred to the muse, the element in writers that gets them passionate about their work, as the inner child.  Considering that I have been writing creatively in one form or another since I was 12, my muse is roughly 10 years old.  I think she will continue to be 10 years old even when she's 57 and we both have trouble seeing the computer screen.

What?  Shouldn't every 69 year old play with her imaginary friends?

In addition to calling the muse the inner child, the book advised to treat the muse sort of like a child, writing what and when the muse wants to write instead of trying to force the issue.  (I kinda doubt this would work for someone with a deadline, but I currently don't have to worry about that, so I'm just going with the flow.)  It helps that I have two series actively moving along to which I can turn.  Generally, if the muse doesn't want to play with one group of imaginary friends, she wants to go visit the other set.

Also, I've come to discover that my writing will fizzle to a crawl if the muse feels like this scene isn't going in the particular direction that she wants.  When every word becomes a struggle to get onto paper, I realize it's time to take a look back at the chapter I just wrote and decide if this is really how things should be progressing.  If not...DELETE.  I can always start again, but trying to push a brick wall down just isn't going to happen.

For example, just last night I was transferring all my notes for the Blood Demon Chronicles into one binder and I came across the Vague Outline for Rebirth Alone, I put the outline on a brand new sheet of paper, all nice and shiny...only to discover that I hated it.  I'm now 12 chapters into a new outline for this book and liking it a whole lot better.

I've read several posts on the internet that claims Writer's Block is just an excuse not to put words to paper, but I want to add my own caveat to that.  Writer's block is an excuse only if you don't struggle against it until the clog is fixed.  I imagine everyone has days when they have so much trouble getting words to flow that giving up seems like the only way to save themselves from an burst blood vessel, but pushing through that feeling is what makes a successful writer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Inspiration comes and goes.  One day I could have writing twitches every five seconds, and another I could go all day without feeling a single pull toward my two series.

In a very real way, my writing is an outlet for all the negative emotions that swirl around in my head.  All the evil I see in the real world gets translated into some aspect of the one on paper.  There are nuggets of joy and light, but they generally come after I've scratched open a scab and let it bleed for a few pages.

This can be especially true of my past.

Due to a falling out I had with my mother at the first offshoot of puberty, I have a tendency to give characters that are similar to me an exaggerated version of that horrible relationship with their same gender parent.  For example, Zero Naken is essentially a male version of me, and his father was physically and emotionally abusive.  I also have the habit of giving these characters some of my other issues.  Zero, though an amazing person, in my opinion, has difficulty finding a mate, has a fear of being abandoned, keeps many of his negative feelings bottled up, feels like he has to be completely self-sufficient, feels like he just isn't worthy of love, and...I could go on for days with this list, but you get the idea.

Although I spend a lot of time in my writing fending off darkness with a candle flame, I also find inspiration in everyday life.  I'm notorious for laughing about something a friend says and claiming, "Manuscript fodder."  I was once wandering around a department store when I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be cool if the mannequins were holograms?"  I've even looked at an everyday item and thought, "Now why can't this do that?"  Several futuristic gadgets in Sven's world have come about because of this one.  I'm also an infamous name hijacker.  If I'm having trouble naming a character, I'll read everything (street signs, bill boards, notes, book spines, credit card receipts, name tags, bulletin boards, you name it) in search of that elusive identifier.  Heck, I named a shoe store The Hanging Slipper Box because I saw a store in Chicago with a similar name.


As much as I enjoy cracking open a new book and following the characters to the conclusion, I think I enjoy becoming familiar with a new song even more.  It taking a couple days to finish perusing a new member of my growing library and only a few minutes to finish a new song might have something to do with it.

Especially if it takes me a while to find the particular song I want, I generally spend a week listening to the same song on repeat when it's fresh.  For the first couple of days, I'll sit at my desk and move around a little in time with the music, getting a feel for the images that flow through my brain in response to the lyrics or even just the rhythm.  And for that first couple of days, writing while listening to said song is nigh on impossible.  The images conflict, so I have to hand-write what I want to say in silence and then jam while getting the words transferred to the computer.

After that, it's a toss up.

The music that I write to can vary, even in a single writing session.  Sometimes I sit down, plug my head in and go about my merry literary way.  Sometimes I fight with the media player trying to find the exact combination of tunes that will allow the creative juices to flow properly.  (Generally, the latter means I need to pull out the headphones and hit the keyboard to the ringing in my ears.)

I've written to a wide range of genres.  For a week once, I typed to the lyrics of Latin ballads that went too fast for me to even attempt to translate.  Another week, I spent wrapped in the musical arms of the Japanese theme songs from some of my favorite anime.  Usually, though, my preferred musical background is rock of some sort.  I've even played around to the beat of heavy metal a few times (usually Zero took up a lot of those scenes, my poor tortured warrior).