© Jean Henry Mead 2011 all rights reserved
I rarely suffer from writer’s block, thanks to my journalism training, but I’m aware that many writers do. While packing to move, I found an article concerning the malady, written, ironically, by Lawrence Block, a former Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing for my blog site, Mysterious Writers.
Block asked the question: “What’s the biggest factor in determining writing success? Not just talent, “but a feel for language, an intuitive understanding of how to arrange words in their best order, a sense of what is and is not dramatically effective.”
He recommends sitting at the computer for fifteen minutes before beginning to write. Spend that time telling yourself what a good writer you are and that you do excellent work. Erasing negative thoughts before you begin is a huge step in getting those words down on paper. Negative beliefs, whether or not you’re aware of them, can sabotage your work. Thoughts such as: I’m not a good writer, what I’ve written is crap, I never finish what I start, no one will publish my work, etc.
As so often happens, the first third of your book goes well but when you get to the middle you’re stuck, particularly if you don’t outline the plot (which I don’t). During my current work in progress, I wrote myself into a corner and had to put my story in reverse and back up some 20,000 words. It was not only discouraging, it briefly made me lose confidence in my ability to write. But once I took off in another direction, the writing went quite well.
I’ve also found that reading the previous chapter before starting to write helps to carry me forward into the next chapter. Bestselling novelists I’ve interviewed have said to stop writing when you’re over the “hump”—when a plot problem is solved—so that you’re ready to finish the scene the following day. That isn’t always as easy as it sounds because you want your muse to run its course before you quit for the day.
I aim for five pages and sometimes find that it’s like pulling teeth to meet my goal, so I stop, hoping to take up the slack the following day. Writing fast and making changes in the second draft seems to work for most successful writers.
Negative beliefs can be damaging as well as paralyzing, resulting in long term writer’s block. But how do you pull yourself out of writer’s depression? Lawrence Block recommends putting your negative thoughts on paper. When you read them, tell yourself they’re all LIES. Rejection won’t destroy you, he said. “Nobody ever died of a rejection slip, and nobody every succeeded without accumulating plenty of them along the way."
About the author:
Jean Henry Mead is a mystery/suspense and western historical novelist. She's also an award-winning photojournalist. One of her fortes is interviewing writers, actors, politicians, artists and ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things. She began her writing career as a California news reporter/editor/photographer, first in Central California and San Diego. Mead later transferred to Casper, Wyoming, to serve as a staff writer for the statewide newspaper. She also served as editor of In Wyoming Magazine and two small presses. She has freelanced for other publications, both domestically and abroad, among them the Denver Post's Empire Magazine. Her first book was published in 1982. She's since published fourteen novels and nonfiction books.
Learn more about Mead at www.jeanhenrymead.com/
Mysterious Writers: http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/
Writers of the West: http://writersofthewest.blogspot.com/
Murderous Musings: http://murderousmusings.blogspot.com/
Make Mine Mystery: http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com/