Category: a writing practice

More magic cures for writers block Day Two-Ideas

a writing practice March 11, 2012

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper
until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
Gene Fowler

So I have been writing about writers block.

I find it to be a fascinating phenomenon.

I know a few writer friends who complain about it.

That’s probably the reason I am writing about it here.

Wikipedia tells me that Writer’s block is a condition, “primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.”

I am reminded by the article of how some great authors have apparently been plagued with

the condition, to the point that their careers were destroyed.

Now it would be my guess that the underlying cause for the writer’s block–things like

anxiety disorders, major depression or alcoholism, were the reasons that the writers

were blocked to that degree. Of course it could be argued that the Writer’s Block

caused the depression etc so perhaps its a kind of vicious cycle. I don’t know for sure.

But I am continuing to address, the subject even if I don’t know if it exists or not.

And today I am addressing the strange bugaboo–

The Idea and how having one or not,

stops writers from writing.

I wrote a post a few weeks back about ideas

In that post I quote Neil Gaiman who says–

”The Ideas aren’t the hard bit. They’re a small component of the whole.
Creating believable people who do more or less what you tell them to is much harder. And hardest by far is the process of simply sitting down and putting one word after another to construct whatever it is you’re trying to build:
making it interesting, making it new.”

But even if ideas aren’t the hard bit I still hear people complaining about them

in two ways.

“I have so many ideas but I can’t seem to get to writing them so I don’t write”

Or

“I haven’t got an idea about what to write about so I don’t write.”

Ok so then two separate cures are in order.

But first, What is an idea?

The dictionary defines an idea in a lot of different ways.

The three that I think are most useful are:

1. a mental concept
2. an impression
3. an opinion, view, or belief:

Usually when writers say that they have an idea for a play, or a story, or a screen play etc–

they are using definition #1 a mental concept. They are thinking of either the narrative,

or the characters or the event, that causes a chain reaction and so on.

Sometimes they are thinking of all of these things–but in a general and conceptual way.

I know writers who can tell you in a couple of sentences what the idea is.

They have a powerful burst of inspiration and they see it all in their mind.

“It’s about a pair of star crossed lovers who would

rather die than be apart–and so they do die.”

But the story or play is not a mental concept and so the idea is not enough.

So if you are this kind of writer and you get the mental concept kind of ideas–

but you are stuck on how to write the actual play or story or what have you–

I think that the cure for you is to immediately begin to outline the idea as quickly as possible.

At least as much of it as you can. You can start from the end and decide what ultimately happens.

They both die.And then go back to the beginning to figure out how.

Some writers start at the beginning and outline the “beats or scenes of the story.

They give the scenes titles.

THE PHONE CALL

MARY RECEIVES THE PHONE CALL THAT CHANGED HER LIFE
Phone rings. We see Mary listen. She gasps and faints.

The outline helps the writer contain that powerful burst of inspiration–

so that it doesn’t escape or fizzle out.

It helps lay out the story and show you what parts of the story you know

and don’t know.

The outline of course can be changed and tweaked and restructured but

it allows you to keep the chaos of possibilities at bay.

And you can work on a scene– in any order, without confusing yourself.

SCENE ONE THE BED CHAMBER OF THE DUCHESS

The phantom pirate climbs in the window with his dagger and approaches the sleeping Duchess–

And then if you are a little shy on the details–you are missing some technical info–

like how to kill a duchess with a dagger perhaps–

or even how to scale a castle wall,

you can jump to another scene.

Some writers tell me they can not work–without an outline.

So hurry up. Take that mental concept of yours and create the outline immediately.

Ok. But then what if you are suffering from the other

kind of not writing.

You might be like me.

My kind of idea is more like Defenition #2 An impression.

I will have a fuzzy emotional or visual sense of something.

Some injustice. Some struggle or paradox.

It’s an idea suggesting itself but it’s not very clear.

I have to write to clarify my thinking.

I am like an archaeologist digging and sifting through the layers, of my own imagination.

I don’t know exactly what I am looking for, but I know it’s there–and I will

recognize it when I write it.

So the cure for me is to write my way to the idea.

So you see if you get these kinds of ideas– or even no ideas at all

the cure is to write your way through to the part of your imagination where the ideas are.

But you know–ultimately I think the only cure for any kind of writer’s block is to write

and keep writing–anything at all and to do it every day–which is what I am about to go

and do right now. How about you?

Alchemy

a writing practice, My writer's manifesto January 31, 2012

It’s not the artist that makes the art.

It’s the art that makes the artist.

The art tests us.

The art shapes us.

The art leads us.

We think we create the art–

but it’s the art that creates us.

This is what is important.

This is what we must learn.

This is what we must remember.

It’s the daily practice that matters.

It’s the devotion to the process and the willingness to

come humbly to the work knowing we may fail that day.

It’s the willingness to know that terrible failure and keep going anyway.

It’s just another day at the desk–or at the easel or in the studio.

We must be patient. Humble.

It’s all about the concentrated daily effort that leads to the finished

work of art. And total surrender to the mysterious alchemy that allows us

to spring forth newly made. Transformed.

Base Metal into Gold.

Ideas

a writing practice January 22, 2012

People ask artists and writers “Where do you get your ideas?”

I heard a story somewhere that when the brilliant science fiction and fantasy writer Roger Zelazny, was asked this question, he said something like: “Every night I leave out milk and cookies, and in the morning the cookies are gone, but there are loads
of crazy ideas in their place!”

I wish that were true.

I don’t know where ideas come from. They just show up.

I have tried to coax an idea out of myself and I have learned that
coaxing an idea is much like getting a shy cat to come out of hiding.
You have to be very persistent and patient and willing to wait.
Eventually the cat comes out from under the bed and so does the idea, but you might be doing other things at the time and not really notice.

Sometimes the best thing is to proceed whether you have an idea or not.

Sometimes we need to just pour a cup of tea, sit at the desk, and stare at the blank page until something comes to mind.

Sometimes nothing comes to mind. But that doesn’t stop me.

Neil Gaiman says that–“The Ideas aren’t the hard bit. They’re a small component of the whole. Creating believable people who do more or less what you tell them to is much harder. And hardest by far is the process of simply sitting down and putting one word after another to construct whatever it is you’re trying to build: making it interesting, making it new.”

I think that very ordinary things can become wonderful things when a little attention is paid to them so– whether or not I have an idea, I will often just begin to write about something ordinary but as if it were absolute magic.

If you think about it, you will agree, many beautiful films and novels and paintings have been created by artists who have spent a lot of time looking closely at the ordinary everyday world and finding the hidden magic.

When you really look closely nothing is ordinary or every day.

Sometimes I just have to start with a character and the character usually
tells me something about how to create a world for that character to live in and then quite often I learn that the character wants something really badly.

Well Of course she does. Everybody wants something very badly.

Desire is always at the heart of a good story.

I often don’t know where I am going when I write–

and this is turning out to be true in this particular post.

I think I just want to remind myself that not really knowing what I want to write about–not having an idea– should not stop me from writing.

THe point is to physically begin the process of putting words on the page.

Our task is to wake up Imagination and invite it to come and play.

The everyday world is alive and breathing and filled with the life force.

If you play close attention to the world around you, including everyday objects and ordinary people–pay more attention than you normally would I mean–
it’s quite possible, Imagination will show up, and maybe bring an idea or two along with it.