Posted On June 6, 2014 by Print This Post

Are YOU the Writer’s Block? With Donna Cummings

Welcome back Donna Cummings! Today Donna is going to teach us how we are our own biggest block to writing! True!

Author Donna CummingsWriter’s block is a terrible sort of virus. It’s quite preventable, but since a writer is required to imagine the worst possible scenarios as part of their job description–you can see how it doesn’t take long before a teeny bit of doubt multiplies until it reaches epidemic proportions.

Next thing you know, it’s impossible to perform any of the basic word-related functions other humans take for granted. You start to wonder if you used “the” too many times in a paragraph. You despair of writing anything but the book that will cause the earth to tilt on its axis–from all the e-reader devices being hurled in disgust.

It’s no wonder a writer procrastinates by visiting every single website and pinning all of them to their Pinterest boards. (*cough* Well, just the things that relate to the boards I’ve created for my books. Oh, and the 14 zillion funnies I pinned to “Things That Make Me Laugh”.)

This is the moment when I’m forced to admit that *I* am the writer’s block. I’m the immovable object getting in the way of the words I’m trying to write. I’m surprised my stories don’t flip me off and hightail it out of here. Fortunately, they continue their compassionate, long-suffering ways, because they have seen evidence of my ability to write down words, and chapters, and entire books.

Today I’m here to share a few thoughts to help you blast through the block and regain your writing momentum.

The Idea Miser

I just had to dump out most of a half gallon of milk because it was sour. I thought I was being frugal, trying to make the milk last longer, only I was really being miserly, which meant I ended up wasting the very stuff I was trying to conserve.

This happens all the time with writing. We get an awesome idea for a scene and it makes us all jittery with excitement, but then the awesomeness starts to scare us a little. What if we can’t do it justice? So we tell ourselves, “I better save this for an even better book, when I’ve developed some real mad skills.”

Here’s another miserly rationale: we try to hoard great ideas because we believe we’ll never have any more of them. Assuming that’s true (which it’s not), it’s the best argument for using the great idea NOW instead of letting it go to waste.

Don’t Scrooge yourself out of these great ideas. Use them up instead of pouring them down the drain and causing a big ole writer’s-block-sized clog. And for heaven’s sake, don’t be. . .

The Rejectionator

This is one of the worst of the blocking mechanisms. Our brain continually coughs up ideas, but we tend to toss most of them into the waste bin. “That’s outlandish”, we’ll say, unable to see how it’s outlandish only because it’s new and fresh and we’re trying to make it fit into the current genre parameters. We conveniently forget that today’s guidelines, the ones we’re using as a measuring stick, were once the outlandish ideas–except they weren’t discarded.

For example, sparkly vampires were never part of the mythos. . . at first. Now that glittery guy has sparked a cult following and secured a brightly shimmering financial future for the author. Maybe your outlandish idea will end up being outrageous. But isn’t it better to discover that after you’ve taken it out for a test drive?

It’s also possible that the nutjob notion will send shockwaves through your brain so it will deliver the actual winning idea. So go on. Quit blocking progress and let the crazies out to play. They hate writer’s block even more than you do. And, no matter what, don’t ever be. . .

IDoD_smThe “My Way or the Highway” Boss

Some writers fantasize that they’re the boss, viewing their characters as minions who should instantly leap to do their bidding. When they don’t, well, it’s easy to crowbar them into this spot we created for them. Hmm. Why aren’t they talking now? They sure were keeping up the chatter when it was lights out last night.

If we want our characters to be living, breathing people, we have to treat them that way. They know they wouldn’t say or do some of the things you’re insisting on. Or maybe you’ve put them in a foreign land that doesn’t make sense to them, so they don’t know what to do or say.

The best kind of boss has faith that you know how to do your job and lets you do it. When you make a misstep, they’re there to lend a helping hand. That’s the kind of boss you want to be when it comes to your characters. That whole “my way or the highway” thing? The characters have no qualms about hitting the road, Jack. You can eventually coax them back, because they know their story won’t get told without you. But it’ll take some major trust rebuilding, which slows down the word count, not to mention your forward progress.

So don’t be a writer’s roadblock. Strive to be a boss your characters will brag about, and you’ll be overflowing with all kinds of story ideas. Maybe even more than you can handle.

These are just a few thoughts on discovering if you’re the writer’s block, and how to get out of the way so the story can get written. Feel free to share some more ideas!

***

Ok, ‘fess up. Which kind of writer’s block are YOU?

Join us on Monday for author Terri Austin!

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Bio: I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances.

I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton.

I can usually be found on Twitter, talking about writing and coffee, and on Facebook, talking about coffee and writing.

 

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16 Responses to “Are YOU the Writer’s Block? With Donna Cummings”

  1. The Rejectionator oh and I stress over sentence structure, length, and everything having to do with word choice.

    Posted by winter bayne | June 6, 2014, 12:19 am
    • Winter, I can stress about those same things too! When that happens I have to remind myself it’s the STORY, not the individual words, that are the most important. It helps me step back a bit so I can look at things differently. :)

      Posted by Donna Cummings | June 6, 2014, 7:40 am
  2. Morning Donna!

    Great to have you back! =) I’m an idea miser. I always think THIS idea would be AWESOME so let’s save it for the next BETTER book! and then I generally forget what the idea was anyway, much less put it in any book. Sigh.

    I’ll definitely keep an eye out for that little trick and give myself a sharp kick next time I think it!

    =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | June 6, 2014, 8:33 am
  3. Carrie, thanks for having me back! I’ve been an idea miser for a LONG time, so I know what you’re saying. Although lately what happens is I think I’ve come up with THE BEST IDEA EVER. . . only to find out it’s been here before and I forgot. LOL

    We just need to think of ideas as a renewable resource. :) And they’re social creatures — they like to hang out with other ideas. LOL

    Posted by Donna Cummings | June 6, 2014, 8:56 am
  4. This is SO true for a lot of us, I think!!

    Posted by Traci Krites | June 6, 2014, 6:27 pm
  5. Hi Donna,

    I’m a hybrid of the Idea Miser and The Rejectionator. I maintain a giant file for story ideas, character names, and witty conversations that I draw from when I’m stuck. I might not use any of it in the story, but it in a weird way, reading it inspires me.

    Your post reminds me of the book, Seabiscuit. Who would have thought that a story about a racehorse set more than fifty years ago would appeal to readers?

    Thanks for blogging with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 6, 2014, 6:54 pm
    • Jennifer — yes, hybrids! I hadn’t even thought of that. LOL I know what you mean about keeping all of those things and being inspired by them. Sometimes I handwrite all kinds of things I’m analyzing — and then I don’t actually use them. (Okay, I can’t actually FIND them again. LOL) But I do think it’s a good way to keep the brain chugging along. That’s my theory. :)

      Thanks for having me today!

      Posted by Donna Cummings | June 6, 2014, 7:43 pm
  6. Hi Donna! Love this! I’ve been known to be a “My Way or the Highway Boss.” All my characters say so! Most recently they have accused me of trying to give their lines to different characters. Eventually I figure it out! LOL

    Posted by Melissa Johnson | June 6, 2014, 7:10 pm
    • Melissa, glad you liked it! And I’m laughing about your characters accusing you of giving their lines to somebody else. Just tell them you’re doing “auditions”. It seems like you’re in charge that way. LOL

      Posted by Donna Cummings | June 6, 2014, 7:45 pm
  7. Thanks so much for posting with us Donna! Can’t wait to read your book, it looks like a blast!

    =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | June 6, 2014, 11:28 pm
  8. I’m am the Idea Miser and Rejectionator combined. I often get discouraged and tell myself something is no good and no one will be interested in the idea. I’ll come up with what I think is an awesome idea and then convince myself to hold off because I’m not talented enough to write the story, or at least not developed enough at the moment. I tell myself I have writer’s block all the time, and this has opened my eyes to the fact that *I* truly am the writer’s block by procrastinating on my ideas. Often all, if I keep putting off writing a story until I develop some “mad skills,” I’ll never develop any skills at all. Thank you for this post; I feel inspired to further examine my writer’s block and get back to writing!

    Posted by Sarah | June 8, 2014, 6:54 pm
  9. Sarah, I’m so glad you’re feeling inspired! The down side to writers having so many creative ideas is we often are too darned creative in telling ourselves why it won’t work, or that we can’t do this. Ack! Even when it seems we’re just producing the worst combo of words EVER, the best thing is to keep going. It might help to say, “this is just a draft” or “I’ll throw this out afterwards”. :)

    One thing I know for sure: I feel worse when I see how much time has gone by with nothing written. (I think I just gave MYSELF a pep talk here!)

    Posted by Donna Cummings | June 9, 2014, 8:29 am
  10. This is a must-read for every writer! It breaks down writer’s block to personal challenges I can work to overcome, instead of this mysterious, all-powerful force against which I’m helpless. Thanks, Donna :)

    I’ve linked to this on my blog: http://kathrynmckade.blogspot.com/2014/06/link-soup-trees-plots-and-being-normal.html

    Posted by Kathryn McKade | June 12, 2014, 3:02 pm
    • Kathryn, I’m glad you found this useful! And thanks for including it in your blog. I appreciate that. :)

      It’s way too easy to get stuck in the vortex of writer’s block, which turns it into an even bigger force than it should be–and then all our coping mechanisms seem powerless against it. LOL

      If we’re not careful, writers can be our own worst enemies!

      Posted by Donna Cummings | June 13, 2014, 1:15 pm

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