You have to write by Amy Rose Davis

A confession: I don’t get writer’s block and I’m not convinced it exists.

This isn’t to say that I don’t sympathize with writers who find themselves uninspired, frustrated, or stuck. I do sympathize, and I’ve been in all of those positions.

I also understand that it can be really tough to find time to write. Demands and noise and obligations scream at us from every direction, at best distracting us and at worst completely preventing us from seeking the Muse.

But the truth is that when I sit down to write, it doesn’t matter how uninspired, frustrated, stuck, distracted, or tired I am. I can always write at least a few hundred words. And when those few hundred are written, I’m usually able to keep going.

What’s the secret? A little thing that you all know, deep down in that secret writing place you don’t always talk about…

You have to—wait for it—WRITE.

Those few hundred words that I bang out when I’m brain dead are usually crap. I almost always delete them all. But the few hundred after them? Sometimes, they’re damn good. Occasionally, they have a flash or two of brilliance. I just have to get started, and the words will almost always flow. Even if they don’t, I can at least rest in the knowledge that I’ve done 300 – 500 words of crap. To me, that’s better than nothing.

Here are some things that I think help me avoid writer’s block:

Deadlines:

I worked as a commercial freelance writer, and over the course of several fairly large ghostwriting gigs, I learned to produce a lot of copy very quickly with tight deadlines. I also wrote for a construction trade journal with some tight deadlines. Deadlines are “very clarifying,” as one of my friends says.

With fiction writing, we often don’t have “deadlines.” I suggest setting your own. Once I said that my novel Ravenmarked would be published by February 1, 2011, I found it a lot easier to make time to edit and revise and format.

Blogging:

Granted, I only officially started my blog about four months ago, but I’ve managed to blog almost every day. Even when we took a vacation in November, I set up posts to publish before we left.

I don’t have a big following, but it *is* a following, and I feel some sense of obligation to post at least some small thing every day. That obligation forces me to write at least a few hundred words, which often puts me in the right frame of mind to write other things.

Dividing my attention:

This may not work for everyone, but I do best when I’m multi-tasking. I’m happiest and most productive when I have several projects in various stages—something in first draft stage, something in rewriting stage, something in development, etc.

For one thing, when I’m stuck on one project, I have other options, so I’m always flexing some portion of my writing muscle. For another thing, I don’t have time to ruminate or wallow or ponder my next idea when I finish one thing. There’s something right there to move on to, so I keep moving forward rather than waiting for new inspiration to strike.

Too often, brain-death encroaches when there’s nothing waiting in the wings.

Thinking of my writing as a business:

It’s true this is more of a self-talk kind of thing, but it works for me. I have about six hours of uninterrupted writing time every weekday when my kids are at school. When distractions encroach and I find myself tempted to run errands, have lunch with a friend, go shopping without kids along, watch a movie, or surf the dreaded Interwebz, I have to remind myself that my writing is my business now.

At any other job, I wouldn’t be allowed to just blow off my work for no good reason. I have to remember that if I want to earn a living as a fiction writer, part of that process involves making the decision to keep my writing time sacred.

I realize that not every writer has the freedom to write basically full time as I do. But I know some writers who have insanely busy day jobs (sometimes even more than one) and still manage to produce high-quality pieces on a fairly regular basis. They use their limited time very wisely and don’t seem to let distractions or illusions of writer’s block get in the way. They just sit down and write.

Writing begets writing. Sit down and write.

Find out more about Amy Rose Davis:

11 thoughts on “You have to write by Amy Rose Davis

  1. OK, yes, it’s true – you do have time to write and the act of writing in itself does inspire and ease writer’s block but saying writer’s block doesn’t exist is like saying depression doesn’t exist. OK, it’s not technically a medical condition but I’m sure you get what I mean. Sometimes you simply can’t force yourself to write – you may even sit at your desk and hold your pen over paper but sometimes there’s just nothing there and not everyone wants to write crap. This method works for you. It also happens to work for me – most of the time – but not all writers are the same, contrary to popular belief. Some writers need time off. Some writers find the stress of worrying about it only exacerbates the block.Besides, have you ever come home from an 11 hour shift at 1.30am and written because you have to write every day and an 11 hour shift does not leave you with much time, especially when you only had 10 hours in between that and your previous shift? I have. Last night, in fact. You people with your time have no right to tell us people with our stupidly long shifts to ‘sit down and write’.Yes, this rant is fuelled by jealousy.

  2. I know not all writers are the same. It’s true. And I admit it–I am very fortunate to have time to write. I feel really guilty when I squander my time, because I know there are a lot of writers out there who wish they had time to write, and I feel like I’ve let them down.But–I do think that a lot of writers say “I have writer’s block” when what they mean is “I don’t want to sit down and face the blank page.” Sometimes, facing the blank page is exactly what you *have* to do.I think it’s a little bit like weight training. Not every rep you do is perfect form, but at least you did the rep. You built the muscle a little bit. The next rep is better. The next day, you’re stronger.I knew it was a controversial post when I wrote it, but Ziggy asked for controversial, so…. :)Amy

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  4. Amy Rose, I also think of writing as my business, however, that is only after quitting my day job, and applying the discipline of that role to what I do now—write full-time. After trying for years to do both, I realized it wasn’t possible for me. Creative juices can’t flow out of me when I get home from a 9-5 job, take care of homelife, do more job-related work from home, and expect to have anything left over for writing. I hardly had enough energy to write in a daily journal which I’ve kept since I was a teen. That’s how mentally drained I was. My hats off to those people who can whip out books, earn a living from it, AND hold down other jobs—I would say they are the exception, rather than the norm. I feel very fortunate that I am able to write full-time at this stage in my life. I don’t take it for granted, and I am deadly serious about it. Having said this, though, I also don’t assume it’s easy for anyone to straddle the priority of earning a living, and trying to establish a writing career. Writing is a discipline, but it’s also an art. It’s not just a matter of strong will, or lack thereof that separates the writers from the non-writers. Creativity cannot be called up at will, but it can be nurtured. For those who don’t write full-time, I hope that creativity is available to you when you make the time to write.

  5. Amy, your post has a place in the business world where I live, too. With a few word replacements, your principles of deadlines, blogging, multitasking and using your time wisely, all apply to being productive (aka “avoiding worker’s block”) in corporate America.Providentially, I have a position that allows me to work from home nearly full time, not unlike you. It’s amazing how distracted I can allow myself to become when there’s nobody around! On the other hand, I can (and do) work around the clock because my job allows me to “plug in” from anywhere, anytime; I need only an Internet connection for my laptop and IP telephone.I would add one thing to your list that has helped me: ROUTINE. I find that my most productive days are those that begin at the same time and have roughly the same sequence of activities. My personality lends itself to routine and “sameness” so that’s good for me; perhaps not so good for moms, working moms/dads or extroverted folks who thrive on spontaneity and interaction with others. We are all at the mercy of others from time-to-time…like furnace guy.Looking forward to reading Ravenmarked!

  6. Excellent post. I especially like “Thinking of my writing as a business.” It’s easy to write as a hobby–I’ll get around to it when I’m ready. But like you said, you can’t do that on the job.

  7. When I sit down and turn out 500 words of crap, I figure that’s just using up some of the mandatory million words of crap that every author is obliged to write. Face it, everyone writes crap now and then. When you are full of crap, you have to get it out of your system. A friend decided to write one hundred words of crap every day, and found the seeds for some awesome poems amidst all the bullsh-t

  8. This is why I don’t rely on my computer to write all the time. I carry around a notebook and pen everywhere, 24/7. Left over blank sided paper is recycled into homemade memo pads that are left in a bin at the kitchen table, in the bathroom – and back-up blank sheets in my back-pack and purse. I don’t willingly churn out crap EVER; I think it invites habit forming slop. Waiting for the idea to germinate saves you time on edits and revisions. The only time I ever “sat down” to write was to type everything previously hand-written waiting at a bus-stop or walking down the street or in the loo 😉 When I had long shifts at work I created time by bringing the material with me “just in case” and learned how to sneak it in either on a pretend bathroom break or when the boss’s back was turned 😉

  9. @Amy, I think you have absolutely the right attitude, and I’m a bit surprised by writers who claim they don’t write crap. Really? You’ve never written anything you weren’t proud of? I mean, Amy’s not saying you need to publish it, but sometimes you do need to just start writing in order to get the wheels turning.@Roxie – your poet friend has absolutely the right attitude! You don’t know what will come out when you start writing, but writers who decides they’re not going to write anything until they’re sure it’s not crap are missing out on some potential gems. Speakers in Toastmasters have impromptu speech exercises just to get the juices flowing and test them a little. Maybe writers should take the same approach every now and then.I knew someone once who advised his son about how to act at his first job. “If you don’t have anything to do, grab a broom,” the dad said. It’s good advice. If you can’t write what you want, at least sit down at the keyboard and write something.

  10. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone. It’s obvious to me that we are all very different in our processes.I do find that creativity begets creativity and writing begets writing. Some of my most creative years were the ones where I was working full time and taking 18 credit hours in college. I often found myself driven to write. But on the other hand, when I was a new mom with a 20-month-old and a newborn, writing wasn’t even on my radar. It was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning. That said… I never considered myself as having “writer’s block,” because I wasn’t even trying to write….I really do think of this as my profession. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, etc. don’t get to just say “I have (X) block” — at least, not for long, or they lose their jobs or practices. If I want to make a living at this, I have to accept that sometimes, the first thousand words or so are crap, and move on to the next thousand.Thanks again for all the good comments. Appreciate the feedback!Amy

  11. I agree about writer’s block largely being an excuse for most people. I also know that everyone has her own writing rhythm. If I’m doing a lot of physical activity and I’m worn out, writing is hard because I just can’t think. If I’m in a high-energy phase of multi-tasking, it’s difficult for me to slow down enough to concentrate on writing. If I tried to write at those times I wouldn’t be productive (I’ve proven this by wasting hours staring at a computer screen only to turn out a measly 150 words). So I’ve learned in those circumstances to give myself permission to attend to business that makes better use of my time. But I can do that because I know I’ll come back to the writing at one of those times that is) productive for me (usually early morning or late afternoon.) I have the discipline to force myself to write at any time, but I also have the wisdom to realize it’s not necessarily the smartest use of resources. All that said, I do have a trick that often gets beyond my tired brain or busy monkey brain. I walk. I take a digital recorder with me to catalog my thoughts. It can take up to a mile and a half to get the ideas flowing, but by the end of the second mile they’re coming strong. If I do 3.5 miles I can “write” up to 1500 words and burn calories at the same time, which is something that won’t happen sitting on my butt. Talk about multi-tasking. 🙂

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