Losing the spark.

Posted by Chiaroscuro

I post this in search of advice; or rather, in desperation. As much as it costs at my pride's expense to accept and admit to this issue, I've reached a point of writer's block that I simply can not seem to shake.

Does a writer truly lose their spark in such an abrupt manner? It seems but only a month ago I was eager as ever to write. But since that time, I've lost that edge; I'm unsure of how or why. I've had two open battles, one here, one elsewhere, waiting on me all the while. I've probably sat here staring at each a dozen times respectively, and as can be seen by my ongoing delay, results have failed to come. (The two of you know who you are, and I remain truly apologetic for this.)

Creativity escapes me now, even when my writing skill itself is adequate. I can compose business letters, e-mails and such with excellent flow and efficiency, but when I sit myself down to respond to a battle, my mind falls utterly blank. I can practically see and picture in my mind what I want my character to do. The words, however, to describe this action, always fall short of sufficient. My recent work, to be blunt and frank, does little more than disgust me; more than once have I left my computer in sour and bitter moods.

Ludicrous as this may sound to some, I assume that you guys who have known me awhile can somewhat understand my frustration; I've been writing for roughly eleven years and have never felt quite this defeated.

So what could it be that is plaguing my mind to cause me this kind of unrest? Have any of you found yourselves in a similar spot and managed to revive your ambition? I still hold an interest in writing, of course; otherwise this situation wouldn't bother me the way it does. But is there some sort of technique or method to work oneself out of these jams?

I'd like to think I can regain my passion and drive for this kind of writing, but with each day that passes with my word processor blank, my doubts continue to mount.

If you guys want to reply, or PM me, or AIM me, please, feel free, and know I appreciate whatever time and effort you might have to offer me. Oh, and please excuse and/or disregard the whole air of despair I'm sure I've cast with this message.

Posted by Strike

Hopefully I'll be able to catch you on AIM or something... but just in case, I'm going to post this here, first of all because nothing in this post is all that personal and second of all, I think that it'd be great to have a writer's block discussion page, where people can swap and share things that work for them.

It's not odd at all Nid. We've all been through it, I think. I'll tell you the things that helped me break out of it, in hopes that it helps you.

1. Reading. Sometimes writing requires some creative parts of the brain that are just worn out after work, etc... but the rest of the brain is certainly capable of reading. Reading is better for the brain and body than web surfing and watching tv, proven by many different studies on sleep, metabolism, etc... and for some reason, every time I read... I eventually want to write as well.

A few favorites to get you started if you don't have some books already are the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (First book's title is "His Majesty's Dragon"), Elantris (standalone) or the Mistborne trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, and the Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Leguin. All of them have great styles and efficiency that I think you'll appreciate.

Reading always helps me get some of my flow back, but after you begin reading, when you want to write but are still having trouble;

2. Free-writes. That's what I suggested earlier in our Sim Battle... turn on your Itunes or whatever playlist you prefer, and just write out whatever comes to your mind for at least 10 minutes. When I don't know what to write, I often start with, "I really don't know what to write here, I mean, how pathetic is that?" and go from there... usually into a rant about whatever's on my mind.

The idea behind a free-write is not that it should be pretty, or even correct in spelling and grammar... but that it empties your mind of whatever is blocking you. Often I get to the end of my 10 minutes and want to continue, or maybe stop freewriting but continue writing something else.

3. I can't write at home, very often. I usually end up doing it at the local bookstore/coffe shop because of the buzz and bustle that keeps me awake. I plug in my ipod and go for it. This makes a lot of sense to me because even back in the old days, 7 years or so ago when you and I used to battle hard-core - I replied from school computers at lunch most of the time. Anyway, being in my room gives me the desire to totally do NOTHING - like watch stupid crap in the internet or something. So when I want to write, I do it someplace where there's not tons of noise, but there are people.

If I think of anything else, I'll post it. Honestly Nid, I thought the posts I saw in our battle were some of the best I've seen from you; although it has been so long that I can't remember anything exactly about our sim battles, your style has adapted in a totally interesting way, and yet it is quite sharp and clear, and I can take the meaning of what you wrote much easier than before - which is, after all, the whole point of being a writer. You retained your style while sharpening it up a bit - I personally really liked it.

Posted by Strike

Ah, one last note. The other form of writer's block, which doesn't just come from mental fatigue or lack of what to say, but from fear;

Everyone's fear is different, but I'll just say this. Having this huge form of writer's block does not mean you are not meant to be a writer. It just means that you are a writer that is dealing with some conflicts about it.

That's another thing I found freewriting useful for, I could loosen up and face my own problems... I often began by asking myself, "What am I afraid of?" It usually had something to do with writing something that turned out horrible, or something in my life that had nothing to do with writing... and it'll probably be different for you because you are a different person with different fears.

But the center truth remains the same. Most people suffer the same kinds of thoughts in different ways, and it doesn't make you any less of a writer.

Posted by PaintItBlack

I can say that I too have gone through pretty rough bouts of writers block. I don't know what works for me. For one, I have to want to write. If I've got a million other concerns on my mind (getting up for work the next day, a paper i've got to write, other such things) it just doesn't get done. Maybe I sit down and try, but it doesn't get done. I need to isolate myself for a time where I know there's nothing else that exists or would be more interesting and fulfilling to do. Recently I've taken to toking up beforehand.

Reading is good advice, pick a favorite author, probably someone whose style you admire or that reminds you of why you like to write. Maybe transcribe a favorite author to get a feel for the rhythms and cadences of their style. Good writing has to have emotion behind it, so you have to be feeling it. I try to experiment with my style and content, just so things stay exciting. You certainly have rhetorical skills, try employing them in ways you haven't thought about. If you write in first person, try third or maybe second. Try simple straightforward language to find meaning, or flowery language to evoke emotion or vice versa.

Make what you write personal and meaningful. Try to incorporate yourself into another character. Or try to write with someone elses character. Free writing, like Strike suggests, is great. get a list of intersting things, ideas, even just random objects and use that for inspiration for writing anything. Just set a scene, even if it doesnt make sense. Then try to make it make sense. here is a completely random collection of nouns that just popped into my head, if you need a starting point.

tiki torches
burn cream
mountain lion
athletic shoe
peace corps

maybe write about one. maybe connect all of them in some crazy tale of cosmic regression. I just got done writing my own reply, so i'm just rambling aimlessly at this point. i hope anything i had to say helped in some way.

Posted by Strike

[QUOTE=PaintItBlack;911189]... pick a favorite author, probably someone whose style you admire or that reminds you of why you like to write.

AWESOME advice. I did that recently, these past few months. Having not written in almost a year, I was decidedly rusty; first I picked up some flowery books I love, The Lord of the Rings. That helped a TON. But I still lacked something, so I looked to a book series that had a sarcastic flair that has a lot in common with my own style, the Bartimeaus Trilogy (Young readers books, but still great). That helped too, but then I felt like I lacked... humor. I picked up Douglas Adams' "Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" and it was all over. I was loose, my writing was still kinda rusty but it felt like ME again.

Now mind you, I didn't read any of these books. I simply picked them up and read a few chapters, since I had already read them before. Then I tried writing. A bit on my book (Mine and DK's actually), a bit of sim-battle to break the monotany and have fun...

Picking up authors you already loved, even just to skim random chapters long enough to get back into the flow, or remind yourself why you love this so much... it's one of the best things in the world.

Posted by Crono

As I'm sure you all have noticed, I haven't been able to touch the place in a few years actually. I haven't had anything or any reason to write; the inspiration that held me enthralled for a few years on end suddenly vanished from me, and I haven't written anything since. I can still work normally, able to post on forums, shoot out normal emails and IM's, and converse and come up with my usual sharp and witty replies, but actual writing, whether for fun or a competitive nature, has completely eluded me for the greater part of 4 years now, or to be precise, about the time I got out of school.

I'm sure there's a connection there, whether it be my physical location, the people I was surrounded by, possibly even the weather or some other greater, unforseen factor that I've yet to unveil, but I haven't been myself at all. Every time I come home for my weeks on vacation I become refreshed for that short period of time, only to lose my grasp on it soon after my return.

And it appears my long absences have finally been noticed by the highers of even VGC; no longer even a moderator of the only forum on the site I frequent at all, whether I be logged in or not.

Either way, I'll give Strike's answers a shot and see if maybe a surge of light comes back to me as well, something to get me back into the proper mindset myself.

Posted by S

That's new development. Hm. I've been paying plenty of attention to the board though.

Posted by Strike

Heyya fellas. Thought I'd give a little update.

Happy Holidays, by the way. I know this is a total subject change but as you're all people I've known a bit over the years now I think you're deserving of some Well-wishing this time of year. =) Happy New Year, fellas. And may this next one be filled with sweat and blood and inspiration, when it comes to putting words on that blank page.

Now, for my personal update; I've been writing. For two weeks, I fulfilled my goal of at least 400 words a day, often shooting for my prime desire, which was 1800 word per day. Now Ian (DK) and I are almost completely ready to begin our first rough draft of the first book in our series, one that we will publish eventually, though it may take a few years. These books have been in development for almost 7 years, and for 7 years it was all conceptual. Now it's taking form, and getting written, and I must say I'm excited.

The first thing I feel is that I should apologize; my recent surge in writing toward this book has left my time for writing on the boards slim... especially throughout the holiday season. I'm afraid after writing toward my own life goal, though I very much liked your posts and wanted to respond, I just didn't have enough energy left for responses.

I've taken a break the past week and a half or two, partially because of the holidays, and partially because that was the first time since high school that I did such a long stint of writing straight. It felt good, but I needed to regather my bearings and rest. Now that the year is ending however, I decided on a new goal; 50,000 words in the month of January. This comes out to my prime goal of ~1800 words a day, but this goal needs to be fulfilled.

So I installed World of Warcraft, played for a few hours, and got it out of my system. There will be no games or movies or TV during January for me, not even Youtube, because they're all distractions from my real goal... to get the 50,000 out of my dreams and into reality.

Is this a goal you all should undertake? I daresay... No. I think everyone works in steps, at their own speed. I've been trying to break myself out of writers block since this last March, and right now I'm succeeding. And I have big plans, ones that might have been too big for me to take on in March.

However, that shouldn't stop you. I think the first step to getting rid of Writer's Block, after this long on-off struggle over the past 3/4 of a year, is showing up at the page. [And when I say struggle, I mean struggle. "OH, I should be writing instead of wasting my time on this or that, lemme check the boards... start an Open challenge... wow that felt great, I can't wait until they reply. (Two weeks later) Oh, they replied... I just don't have the time/energy/rest/health right now... (Two weeks later) Oh, I really should be writing instead of wasting my time doing such-and-such.... WASH, RINSE, REPEAT. When I tried to write something of my own, like a short story or somesuch, I stared at a blank page for some minutes before deciding to bust out a game or something, or call somebody. I had it, and I had it bad, but in the back of my head I always knew I wanted to be writing. I think we're all in that boat, somewhat. Welcome to Generation X/Y - more distractions to everyday life than ever before!!!]

Now. After that rant, back to my point. Showing up at the page. First it was just freewriting. It was more like ranting out feelings than real writing; I was getting a lot of gunk out of my brain. However, this began to get things moving in that rusted-up-old-brain of mine, which had been too filled up with things like Video game and Anime references. MURGLRUGURURLGLRUGL!!! (Murloc war cry)

I think that was what really started this. I mean yes, I later got to meet Brandon Sanderson, who gave me a ton of advice, but the most important, which he signed into my papergraph copy of his book, was this; BICHOK. (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard)

I've shown up at the page. If I stare at the blank page for too long without progress, I start another document and rant my heart out about nothing. (Oh you have NO idea how many of my freewrites start out with; "Empty, empty, empty! Nothing to say, brain dead, I suck at this whole writing thing but can't seem to let it go. Empty, empty, empty!"

Yes, later on I went on to find some impeccable advice from many of my most beloved authors, some of them long dead by now. CS Lewis, Charles Dickens, JR Tolkein, Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordon, Ursula K Leguin, Naomi Novik... advice from the ***s, as I often think of it. But really, that was all just little pep-talks that wore out a day later. the real thing that helped was writing... even about nothing. Turn on that itunes, set yourself a goal to stop (like two songs, or three) and do not stop using those keys on the keyboard until you've filled the time of those songs.

In the end, you'll have to write something. Your creative writer's mind won't be able to hold back, once freed of junk. Something will come out, and in rough draft form it wont be beautiful, but just don't be held back by the desire to edit. KEEP writing until it's finished, don't look back. Get er done, and then take a break. You deserved it. You can edit it later, when you can come back with a fresh outlook.

Now... I ranted a long time, but many of you I've known for years. I also know you to be incredible creative minds, each with your own style and flavour when it comes to writing, and I think the world ought to see it. Write. If nothing else but for the love of it, I want to see you write. And you'll have severely dissapointed me if in a few years' time I'm not standing in line to get your autograph on my copy of your book... which didn't come easily. It came through sweat, and blood, and maybe a teensy bit of inspiration - inspiration that came because you were already working.

If anyone wants links or copies of some of the published author pep-talks I found, let me know and I'll either post em or send em to you.

Happy New Year, folks!

Posted by Strike

Let me just finish with one last thought. If this whole writers' block thing has really got you concerned, in the back of your head. If you're concerned about sucking, and you've got this idea of a "perfect book" where the words all flow like rivers of milk and honey, and effect the human soul as if you spat fire from your lips...

You're a writer.

No "non-writer" would ever be so concerned, even subconsciously, about wanting to write that badly. Yes, there's a million-and-one things standing in our way. I mean, this is the twenty-first century - if we're not busy, we're distracted. Face it - Jane Austin had nothing to fill her time, no wonder she turned out such fantastic marvels!

We write and live in a different age, and face different difficulties. One of them is perfectionist complexes. Especially when we want to be like or transcend some of our most favorite works/artists. If you are so concerned about writers' block that you even took a look at this thread, let alone wrote something in it, you've got a writer in you. Pray do not let yourself be convinced otherwise.

It doesn't have to be done perfectly, or all-at-once. It just has to be done.

Posted by KluE

Back to the writers block thing... Try reading the old epics, The Illiad, The Aeneid, the Divine comedy, and, especially, since its the only one that is actually written in English and the flow doesnt depend on translators, Paradise Lost.

The entire book of Paradise lost has an incredible flow, and, although the structure and grammar are not based in English, it has definitely inspired me on many different occasions, because the writing is so different then what most people normally read, yet it still manages to be totally clear. Anyway, just another thought