By Thonie Hevron
Everyone has time when they come across a barrier to their progress. It happened often when I first learned how to ride horses. All the videos, books, advice and trainers’ lessons barraged my consciousness while I was trying to effectively steer a 1300-pound animal with a brain the size of a walnut. [To be painfully accurate: The problem is the cerebrum, the thinking part, is only slightly larger than a walnut. The rest–all 1.5 to 2 lbs. of it–is cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls gross muscle coordination, balance and body functions.]
The one thing that got me on track was a trainer saying, “If it’s not working, go back to basics.” Start from the beginning and work up until you work though the barrier. Usually by the time I did all that, the barrier had dropped. To borrow from Horse Listening, a wonderful training site, I’ve para-phrased the popular equine rider training blog (dated originally 2/24/2013) and applied them to the writing craft: 10 Tips for the Average Rider.
1. Find a good teacher-whether it’s a night class, an MFA, a mentor or a critique group, find someone who will urge you on, teach you new things, and maybe find another way to look at the same old issue.
2. Be patient-no way around this.
3. Practice-write every day, even if it’s journaling, blogging, marketing text. Just practice.
4. Accept your limitations-okay, I know I’ll never write the great American Literary Novel. But I can put out a pretty darn good mystery/thriller!
5. Find your comfort/un-comfort-whether it’s writing a love or action scene/making a speech or putting your work out there (in all probability to be dismissed by agents, publishers, etc.), learn to do it. Baby steps, practice all come into play here.
6. Enjoy the moment-this refers to when a horse does all the things your fingers, hands, back, butt and legs are telling him to do—at the same time. There’s no better feeling than the gliding on air of sinewy suspension, unless it’s getting an ovation after a talk or class you’ve given. Maybe your first fan mail. Enjoy it, savor the feeling. This is what can keep you going.
7. Set goal-short term (500 words today), long term (a completed manuscript by May 2018) and/or marketing plan. My publisher required me to do one for each book and they are invaluable.
8. Persevere-if you quit, it’s a sure thing you will fail. So, don’t.
9. Read, watch, imitate-Read craft books, watch your favorite author’s marketing technique/website and imitate!
10. Keep practicing-develop a routine so there’s no wiggle room to say, “Ooh, I don’t feel like writing today.”
See how this applies to writing? There are some days when I sit and stare at my blank page. The characters are revolting, the story arc fell flat, dialog is stilted. Okay, start at the beginning. Write one sentence. Don’t like it? Tough. Delete it tomorrow. Write another sentence, put some dialog in it. Throw in a twist that you didn’t plan. Write another sentence.
Pretty soon a whole scene will lay before you. If you don’t like it, wait until tomorrow to delete it. Give it some time to percolate in your imagination. Maybe losing it is what needs to happen; maybe this little side-trip is what you needed to jump-start your creativity.
I cannot buy into writer’s block—for me. I can only speak for myself. When I decided to make writing a professional enterprise, my husband and I decided it needed to treat it like a job. And it is. During my law enforcement career, I went to work every day. The boss wouldn’t have kept paying me if I’d said, “I’m not coming in today. My muse is on vacation.”
When I write, I apply the same principle. My writing routine varies with the seasons, family needs and activities. And, I may not work on my current novel. I have an active blog with two posts a week, a website, marketing and appearances to prepare. There is always something to do to further my writing.
Other ideas to move me through a rough patch:
• Go back to my initial inspiration for the story and review. See if I can capture the spirit of it.
• I go for a walk or hike; a trip to the beach. Sometimes, getting away from that blank page can refresh my creativity.
• I’m an inveterate note-taker. Often reviewing these scribbles can nudge me back to where I need to go.
The upcoming Fridays in November, you will find three other authors’ perspective on how they re-start their muse. If you’re like me, you’ll find something to help you over that hurdle. Marni Graff will appear on November 10th, Nancy Raven Smith on November 17th, and Pamela Beason is the final post on November 24th.
Don’t forget to check out the Sunday posts from the law enforcement veterans, Hal Collier, Mikey, and Ed Meckle (all retired LAPD), and retired California Corrections Officer John Schick. Their stories will make you laugh, cry, cringe or all the above!