Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Guest Post -- Charlie Courtland

Morning All,

Today I have Charlie Courtland the author of Dandelions in the Garden doing a guest post for us. Here we go.

Help! My Inner Genius Took A Sabbatical!
by Charlie Courtland

What do you do when your inner creative genius is lacking inspiration?  Most writers panic!  Writer’s block can be absolutely paralyzing and all consuming.  At first, it seems like a temporary annoyance that we will get over if we just take a deep breath and focus.  However, when it lingers writers start avoiding all questions relating to work.  The number one most dreaded question, “What are you currently working on or what is your next project?”  For the writers who are flying along on the keyboard, this is an exciting topic.  However, for those starring aimlessly at the screen or out the window, this is horrifying.

So what is writer’s block and what causes it?  Writer’s block is a condition in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.  Writer’s block varies in intensity and can range from trivial or temporary, to extremely difficult and career ending.  The Purdue Online Writing Lab says, "Because writers have various ways of writing, a variety of things can cause a writer to experience anxiety, and sometimes this anxiety leads to writer's block.”

Some common causes
Overwhelmed – If this is your first book, the prospect of producing anything that anyone might want to read can be overwhelming.  Try not to think about writing the next bestseller or popular novel.  Instead, start with small goals, break the novel up into pieces and work on parts at a time.  If this is not your first novel, you could suffer from the one-hit-wonder doubter living in your head, or if your first project took some hits, you may think perhaps your genius isn’t what you thought it was.  Again, don’t try to re-create the wheel.  Start small and work from there.  Take into consideration comments about previous works and try to improve, but don’t let them completely change your style, voice or vision.  Remember, you have fans and they like what you do for a reason.  Critics have their place, but make it a small one.  Put them in a mental cubby in the corner of your brain.

Nothing seems interesting. Oh no! You realized the topic or plot bores you.  You thought you had a great idea, but now it just seems lame or uninteresting.  The best advice I can give, and it’s very hard to do, especially if you’re excited about the subject is DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT, to anyone!  I mean this with all my heart!  Much like a dream, if you talk about it, it fizzles or someone starts giving input that just kills the entire idea or influences it into the wastebasket of great ideas gone bad.

I just don’t have the time – Too much real life is getting in the way!  This seems to be a very common reason. Most of us don’t have a writing cabin in the woods and six months of complete isolation.  The most difficult part of writing is finding the time.  It’s a process and it demands chunks of time many of us don’t have.  My recommendation, make time.  Try to schedule writing time on a daily or weekly basis.  Turn off the phone, hang a sign on the door, duct tape the doorbell – do anything you must to decrease interruptions.  When inspiration strikes and it’s not scheduled – lets face it, this is 99% of the time, drop what you are doing and at the very least jot down ideas, dialogue, and scenes on paper.  I’ve got piles of napkins, envelopes and even fast food wrappers with notes on them.  I take them to my office and work off of them when time permits.  Half my novels were written when I was not at my desk.  Remember, it’s okay to be eccentric when writing.  Stop worrying about what others might think and jot that idea down, NOW!

Anxiety – self-conscious – failure, rejection.  For first time writers fear of not being taken seriously or rejection can be crippling.  For writers working on the second, third or fourth novel, previous critics, poor reviews or poor sales can be just as paralyzing.  Believe it or not, I’ve let some comments get so far into my writer’s brain that I can hardly remember if I should or should not use a comma.  I have to remind myself not to worry about it during the first phase of creative writing.  Sometimes I purposely write a badly constructed and grammatically incorrect sentence just for the fun of it.  This tends to loosen me up enough to move forward.

What to do – try not to panic!
Place the inner panic monster on the shelf.

Free write – Don’t worry about writing the novel, just write something.
If you use research materials, put them beside your keyboard.  Read through them with your fingers on the keyboard. As you read, allow yourself to simply react to the material.  Type notes of any kind for example: explain, speculate, relate, add too, clarify, argue with, rant or agree with the research.  I’ve come up with some great thematic threads by doing this during the writing process.

Simply write dialogue – start with a conversation between characters. Who says you have to start at the beginning?  Honestly, it’s best and much more productive if you don’t.  I don’t recall ever starting at the beginning, even when I thought I was.  Somehow, I always end up switching and revising chapters.  Don’t fret, this can really produce some great ideas and give direction.

Don’t sit in front of a computer when you begin to write.  Write invisibly.  I keep a small note pad with me at all times.  Much like daydreaming, try writing when you are driving, showering, lying on the couch with your eyes closed, sitting in the sun, going for a walk and throwing toys to your dog.  Walking around my property with my dogs is what I do to clear my mind.  I also go for long drives.  The key is to cut your self off from visual reinforcement of blocking or distraction—typically, the blank white screen. 

Wishing Dandelions in Garden a huge success,
Abhishek Boinapalli


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