ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners):K is for Kickstart

Posted by on Sep 26, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Kickstart”:Kickstart Your Character, Breathe Life Into Your Work-in-Progress & Bust Through Writers Block!

 

Allie Batts_ProfileWriter’s Block

These are two words that make anyone who has ever sat for hours in front of a blank screen tremble in fear, cringe in horror, or breathe out a knowing sigh on behalf of the writer who is afflicted with “The Curse.”

We could (literally, not hyperbolically) spend hours talking about what writer’s block is, where it comes from, why we get it—but the reasons for it don’t matter to you, when you’re in the midst of it. And for some people, writer’s block doesn’t just mean the hours sitting in front of a blank page, either—maybe YOUR writer’s block looks more like you writing variations on the same poem, over and over again—and while a great poem, the first time you wrote it, you notice a sort of “generation loss” happening in your body of work—each poem is subsequently weaker and weaker, because you’re spinning the wheels on what used to work, instead of figuring out what works today, and looking for ideas about what might work tomorrow. Or maybe your writer’s block is the half-finished story; the poem that is forever in need of revisions that never happen—you started off strong, but finding the follow-through to completion is where the block has happened.

  • Are you scared?

Of course you are. You should be! Writing is some scary business—and writing well is downright terrifying. You lay yourself bare on the page. And then ask mentors, editors and beta readers to evaluate it. For every writer’s block, chances are high that what’s behind it is a scared writer. And for many of us—that fear isn’t just limited to fear of failing—like Erica Jong’s character Isadora Wing, many of us are just as afraid of flying as we are of falling.

Kickstart: Brace yourself, because I’m about to drop some knowledge on you. Someone IS going to hate what you wrote. Maybe your mentor, if you’re in school. Maybe one of your beta readers. Maybe the first literary journal you send it out to. Maybe the second and the third and the fourth, too. But you know what else? That somebody who hates what you wrote doesn’t have to be you. In the words of Ovid, “Love and fortune favor the brave.” The only way to move on a stronger draft of your work is to finish a first draft of it. If it was easy, everyone would do it. No one ever promised that being a writer would always be fun. Like anything else that’s a skill, a craft and an art, it’s partly whatever natural abilities you were born with, partly the tricks and tools you pick up along the way, and partly the sheer determination to do this one thing and to do it well. Take a lesson from Sugar at The Rumpus: “Write like a motherfucker.” Your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be written. Your first publication doesn’t have to be the peak of your career, either. Neither does your first chapbook, your first novel, or your first collection. Or your 7th. 475th. Every day you that you complete something, you have gotten better at what you do. So stop being so afraid, and start being the writer you know that you are in your heart.

  • Are you bored?

If you’ve been “playing it safe,”—with your characters, style, voice, line breaks, or narratives—your writer’s block may simply be a case of simple boredom. Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader”—remember, you’re not supposed to be “playing it safe”—writing is partly about taking risks!

Writers Block WordCloudKickstart: On a small slip of paper, write down 10 unusual objects. Write down 10 things that make you uncomfortable. Write down 10 situations that scare you. Write down 5 actions that would bring you comfort.  Put all these things in a jar. Cover it and shake it up. Pull three out and work them into your story or poem. Repeat as often as necessary.

  • Are you stressed? How about distracted?

Let me answer that for you: Yes. If nothing else, you’re stressed about all the writing you’re not doing (but should be.) And if nothing else, you’re distracted from all that writing that you could be doing by the fact that you’re not doing it. See how this problem becomes circular?

Kickstart: Try to pinpoint the source of your stress or distraction. Is it situational and specific to the writing process, or is it that pesky “real life” that you have? If it’s because of the external demands on you, try to make your immediate goal to clear a few things from your plate. Give yourself permission to delegate some tasks, and see if relieving some of the pressure of responsibility helps you to focus on your writing—essentially, make your writing a priority as much as grocery shopping is. Have kids? Ask a partner, friend, loved one, or trusted babysitter to give you an afternoon on your own. (We know that’s a task in & of itself!) If you find that distraction is your main issue in not accomplishing your writing, try taking a walk to clear your mind, or if walking isn’t your thing, go for a drive. The change in scenery may help you break the cycle of blacked writing, and sometimes the rote physical behaviors (walking, or the series of actions of driving) are enough to divert your attention from hyper-focusing on the work of writing and free up your mind to wander—many writers, myself included, often have our most enthusiastic bursts of inspiration while driving (voice notes on your phone—it’s a beautiful thing!) Is exhaustion what’s distracting you from your story? Take a 20-minute nap—nothing that’s going to really interrupt your day, but enough time for you to feel rested or refreshed. Just need to clear out the junk in your head—too many ideas and thoughts rushing through your brain all at once, causing a cacophony? Meditate, or take a 15-minute yoga break. Write in the same place every day? Shake up your writing routine and take your laptop or tablet somewhere new. Have a snack. Play with your kids or your pet for a while. It’ amazing what will come to you once you take the “I must write!” pressure off yourself.

For more article on writer’s block and solutions to combat it, check out iO9, Chuck Wending’s Terrible Minds blog, or tips from the OWL Lab at the Purdue Writing Center.


Allie Marini Batts holds degrees from Antioch University of Los Angeles & New College of Florida, meaning she can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has been a finalist for Best of the Net & nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is managing editor for the NonBinary Review & Zoetic Press, & has previously served on the masthead for Lunch Ticket, Spry Literary Journal, The Weekenders Magazine, Mojave River Review & Press, & The Bookshelf Bombshells. Allie is the author of “Before Fire,” (forthcoming, ELJ Publications), “This Is How We End” (forthcoming, Bitterzoet.), “Unmade & Other Poems,” (Beautysleep Press, 2013) & “You Might Curse Before You Bless” (ELJ Publications, 2013).  Find her on Facebook or Twitter.   ABC’s of Writing

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