Betty's Tips‎ > ‎

Betty's Tips Summer 2017

Dear Readers,

I hit the dreaded Writer's Block while toiling away on my latest expose', "Fake News About Weeds in the Gardening World." Despite all my efforts, I couldn't seem to wrangle more than a few rambling sentences into a less-than-coherent paragraph. What to do?

Fortunately, as we writers so often do, we write about it.

Jeff Goins lists a few general causes of Writer's Block, such as timing, perfectionism and fear. Charlie Jane Anders zeroes in the underlying reasons, especially those responsible for fear.

We've all been there. The jitters that flit about your stomach like butterflies on steroids when you finally hand your precious work to an agent or editor finds it's roots the very first time we put pen to paper, or keystroke to screen. Will they like it? And even after you get an agent's or publisher's nod, will the reader like it? Are the plot and characters believable or ridiculous? Are you paralyzed with dread by the “muddle in the middle” (as C.S.Lakin and others put it). Is your novel good enough, or does it just plain suck? Fear is the probably the biggest hurdle writers face, even to the point where some throw in the towel for good.

Exploring the causes is all well and good. But how do we get around these problems, without expensive psychotherapy?

Many sources agree on several first steps to try. Physical activity is first and foremost among the suggestions – walk, play, jog, or my favorite, gardening. Other steps include changing your environment – go to a new place to write, listen to music (not your usual playlist, but music you've never heard). Lastly, write something else – a blog, a different story, an outline, a real paper-and-pen (gasp!) letter to a friend. Here's one that's really out there – keep a dream log. The underlying trick is get your conscious mind off the gnawing problem of writer's block, and let your subconscious do what it's good at.

My favorite distraction, as suggested by Angela Ford and countless others, is to read a book. Here's my spin on that advice – not just any book, but research. And for goodness sake, perform your research with a real book, not Facebook. Read material that helps you explore the world your protagonist(s) occupy, and the situations and conflicts they will encounter. A book will get into the real nitty-gritty that an online article merely glosses over. You will be amazed at the ideas that roll out, getting your creative juices flowing again.

But by far, the most peculiar and enjoyable list of helpful hints to overcome writer's block that I've found comes from Henneke Duistermaat. Her list includes such gems as “talk to an imaginary friend,” and “curse like a sailor!” Gracious! Actually, her advice leaning toward the verbal side is not all that ludicrous. Even Perdue University agrees that you should “talk to yourself” when you're stuck. Just don't let your friends and family hear you do it too often...

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to dig up some earthworms, and tell them about my muddle in the middle.

Betty Wryte-Goode