On Coping with Writer’s Block

Black coffee and cigarettes

writing 2

I haven’t written for a very long time.

I joined a creative writing class a while ago to help me through my ‘writer’s block’ – can you call yourself a writer if you don’t write? – and I managed to produce a total of 500 words over the entire four-week course. A paltry amount by any standards, though the course itself was brilliant.

One of the suggestions from my fellow writers was to write about why I don’t write. I’ve been thinking a lot about the reasons I don’t write lately so this seemed as good a place to kick off my writing again as any. And also address why I call myself a writer in the first place – a hard sell in the writing void of the last few months.

In my professional life, I have been a public relations consultant, a journalist and now, an editor. Words…

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How Weird News Teaches Us Great Storytelling

The Red Pen of Doom

Every day, there are real stories in the morning newspaper that make you snort coffee out your nose or choke on a blueberry muffin. Note: This is why journalists call such pieces “muffin chokers.”

Yet the daily weirdness is more than funny. If you dissect these stories, you can learn deep storytelling lessons from the shallow end of the journalism pool.

Here’s a real story that just happened in my state: Man steals RV from Wal-Mart parking lot, leads police on wild chase. Swerves into sleepy little town where he knocks cars into front yards and such, then blasts through a house and crashes. Runs out, strips down to his underwear and invades a home to steal girl clothes. Cops catch him and haul him off.

This is pretty typical of a weird news story, and not simply because it started in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart — and yeah…

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YA Fiction, Elitism, and the Culture of “Should”

Count My Stars

By now I’m sure nearly everyone in the writing world has read or heard about the Slate piece on how adults should be embarrassed/ashamed to read Young Adult literature. (I’m not going to link to it, because I refuse to give them the clicks.)  I couldn’t possibly have missed it – when I checked Twitter on Thursday morning, my timeline was a seething mass of fury. And I… well, went off implies a brief explosion. This took place over the course of nearly three hours, prompting what I consider one of my top five greatest honors of my entire internet history:

Image

And, you know what? It was. When I get up a good head of steam on some righteous anger, it looks a little like this:

ImageMore often than not, I’m reduced to outraged sputtering, but every now and then I am able to find and use my words, and…

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The Cursed Blessing of Being Good at Writing

Nerdy Book Club

Stories thrive on reversals. You get your heart’s desire, only it turns out to be the worst thing that could happen to you. Or, it looks like all is lost, but then somehow you save the day.

One of my favorite examples of the narrative power of reversal is found in a very simple story from China called “The Lost Horse.” I encountered it through storyteller Joel ben Izzy, who wrote a fantastic book called The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness. In “The Lost Horse,” a wise man goes through a series of reversals of fortune. Whether the change is favorable or not, his response is always the same: What seems like a blessing could be a curse. What seems like a curse could be a blessing.

I remember this story so well because—after a great deal of misery and self-flagellation—I recognize it as the story of my…

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10 Ways to Know You’re a Writer

Stories are the Wildest Things

You’ve wondered, right?

You’ve asked yourself this question many times and you’re reading this post to find out, “Am I a writer?”

Like a hypochondriac checking out WebMD for signs and symptoms, you scour articles and blog posts for the telltale signs and symptoms that you’ve got what it takes to declare yourself a writer.

I do, too. That’s why I came up with this list of 10 Ways to Know You’re a Writer.

After reading the list, click on the links to the other great blog posts and articles that relate to each of these ideas.

Please leave me a comment about which symptoms you come down with most often, or add some new ones of your own.

You Know You’re a Writer if…

10. You take really long showers because you’re working on a writing problem or your fictional characters are having conversations in your head and…

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Reading in Bed

Chris Hilton ~ Writer

“Those of you who have seen my book, whatever you may think of its contents, will probably agree that it is a beautiful object.  And if the physical book, as we’ve come to call it, is to resist the challenge of the eBook, it has to look like something worth buying and worth keeping.”

From Julian Barnes’s acceptance speech at the 2011 Booker Ceremony, on winning with his novel, The Sense of an Ending.

A Guardian article states at length how the book buying public are now being seduced by a book’s appearance as well as its content, how more care is being taken in the production and appearance of books. Generally, I don’t believe this is true.

The Sense of an Ending is a physically beautiful object; a compact hardback with dust wrapper containing a nice but simple design, all put together with good quality material.  I think…

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What’s Your Writing Routine?

songoftheseagod

Do you have a routine for writing? A way of doing it which has become habit and which you know will get the best out of you? I was thinking about this having read a recent article on the subject.

Many famous writers seem to have these habits. I think the reason is that, to write a novel you need to get your backside on the chair and your fingers on the keyboard – regularly and for long periods of time, just to get the work done. I know only too well that novels don’t write themselves.

Murakami_Haruki_(2009)Here’s what the brilliant Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami had to say on the subject in an interview:

“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do…

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