A pastor once said that when he’s stuck on writing his sermon, he cleans out his garage. Yup, that’s it. That’s the cure for his writer’s block.
I can totally relate! When I’m stuck on what to do next in my own writing, I start organizing piles, files, and boxes. I straighten up a room. I de-clutter. I do the most mundane tasks possible.
After a while, my Muse is so put off that she doesn’t let me finish the job. Ideas pop into my head, compelling me back to the keyboard.
“You can’t wait for inspiration.
You have to go after it with a club.”
We all need some kind of a “club.” Especially when enthusiasm wanes. Especially with long involved projects that need continual attention. Especially with discouraging setbacks. Or when there’s a deadline. Sometimes the deadline is the “club.”
Some people say that writer’s block is a misnomer, that it’s a euphemism for laziness or procrastination. So it’s a debatable topic. But the fact remains . . . sometimes we’re just stuck. Call it what you want.
So what “club” works when that happens?
People have various cures for being stuck. Besides cleaning the garage or wading through files, taking a walk helps. Getting fresh air. Doing something fun. Hanging out with friends. Finding a change of scenery.
It also depends on whether your creativity is the popcorn popper variety or slow cooker. Or whether you need people or privacy.
Other times it’s just plain momentum that gets you going:
“Ideas are like rabbits.
You get a couple and learn how to handle them,
and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
“Great things are done by a
series of small things brought together.”
—Vincent Van Gogh
My FIRST MUSE . . .
I decided to become a writer in 2nd grade. Mrs. Haan gets all the credit. She was not your basic sit-in-your-seat and finish-your-workbook type of teacher, unusual for the mid-1960s. Instead of merely copying spelling words and reading Dick and Jane, she had students write original stories and turn them into illustrated books.
She was nothing like my kindergarten teacher who valued sameness.
I didn’t know what to write for my first book, so I wrote out one of my favorite stories, “The Gingerbread Man.” Instead of chastising me for my lack of originality, Mrs. Haan challenged me to write my own ending to the story. I accepted the challenge. I don’t remember what I wrote, but by the time I was done, I decided that writing my own stories was the way to go. I was unstoppable after that and went on to author at least fifteen books that year.
I dedicated my first novel to her and my Calvin College professor, Dr. Besselsen. More about their inspiration later.
What spurs me on as a writer? The love of creating a good story that others can immerse themselves in and come away refreshed, enriched, and ponderous. And I love the whole process (most of it). I love creating the story world, filling it with people and situations from my imagination–which are remixes of my own experiences in the real world.
“If there’s a book you really want to read
but it hasn’t been written yet,
then you must write it.”
But writing a novel can still be daunting. So accountability and receiving regular feedback are the “clubs” that keep me going on a weekly basis. In fact, my “club” is a club–that is, a writer’s group. Being part of such a group has been vital for making progress from first to final drafts.
The main benefits? With a writers group, I have an audience. I have like-minded people committed to their craft. I have fellow writers who give objective feedback that challenges me to improve each scene. And I do the same for them.
We each have our own projects, but we’re working toward the same goal, on the same path. We have a vested interest in each other’s stories, so there’s no turning back– without repercussions. For example, if I quit, my writers group may never speak to me again because they’ve poured their own time, energy, and soul into the project!
Depending on the project, some people find that working in tandem does the trick. Collaboration and streamlining efforts get things done. My upcoming Master Gardener guests are proof of that.
What spurs you on? What “club” do you use when you’re stuck, when the muses seem to have abandoned you?
I’d love to hear from you!
P.S. Coming soon . . . meet 2 Master Gardeners who work side by side, spurring each other on in beautification projects all over town.
10 thoughts on “Get out that Club”
Aren’t writers’ groups wonderful? A club in every sense of the word. I’m so thankful for mine.
Deadlines are another great incentive. When I have to get a manuscript in by a certain date, my muse goes into overtime.
But she is pretty easy-going and prone to distraction when writing is just an open-ended proposition.
Your Mrs. Haan sounds like quite a teacher!
Anita, I’m glad you have the benefit of a writers group. They sometimes make up for the lack of other deadlines!
Yes, Mrs. Haan is a gem. Still. She was definitely ahead of her time in 1965.
Laura is an excellent writer’s group member, by the way. I have been writing novels for 20 years, but I have noticed an improvement in my craft because of her comments and corrections. I would encourage all to find a writer’s group that challenges them, that sometimes tells them that their ideas don’t fit together, but which also gives them ways in which the ideas might fit. Being the only male member of the group, and also being the youngest, I have been ganged up on a few times, but it always ends up in laughter and a better story.
Mark, thanks for the kind words. I have benefitted from your input, too! It’s great to get the male perspective. Glad you can laugh about being ganged up on! I guess that’s the price you pay for being with a bunch of women writers. 🙂
I love my Writer’s group!!! Letting go and putting my stories out there has greatly helped to improve my writing, as well give me the courage to pitch my ideas and scripts to film industry folk.
Laura! Mark! Brooke! Thank you for the many critiques and edits— I’m a much tougher cookie thanks to you three!
I’m glad you mentioned courage. Critique groups certainly help hone skills, but as a result, over time, they also increase confidence. It takes courage initially to be in a group, while constantly sharing our work-in-progress. But the end result is even more courage as we begin to share our work with editors and agents.
“…if I quit, my writers group may never speak to me again because they’ve poured their own time, energy, and soul into the project!” I guess that’s my warning, huh, Laura? Yes, I’ve been tempted to throw my work in the trash a few times, but it is a good reminder that I’m not the only one who’s invested in its success.
My club? (other than writers groups?) Driving. The ideas just flow while I’m behind the wheel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well for getting those ideas down. Coppers tend to frown on typing on my computer while driving. I’ve tried speak to text on my phone and the results have been hilarious. Sometimes it helps if there are stop lights and I can grab a napkin and a pen.
And teachers–while I always loved to write, there were two that spurred me on. My 7th grade English teacher who gave us 30 minutes to write every other day, and my high school English teacher Betsy Talley who gave me all sorts of projects to keep creating. I totally understand why you dedicated your novel to your teacher.
Yes, driving is a good time for ideas to flow. Maybe that’s why I like road trips so much. Even when I’m driving, I end up jotting down a few in a notebook–with my eyes on the road. Later, I hate to decipher my chicken scratches, but at least the idea doesn’t get lost out on the road somewhere!
Glad you had some inspirational teachers!