Monday, January 24, 2011

Writer’s Block!

I do realize the irony of writing about writer’s block. But, if you’ll just bear me out…

For a long time, about 6 weeks, the impressions and ideas have been coming fast and furious. Not just for the blog but for stories that have existed in my head for years, fully fleshed out with subplots and character lines, that have been begging me to write them. Now I have a wealth of time to spend at the keyboard and I carry a notepad to boot, so that when inspiration strikes I can just jot down a few notes and BAM! There’s another story or blog entry.

I have been caught in a tidal wave of ideas and have started writing no less than four stories in the past few weeks, while still keeping up with the blog and writing emails. I’m also writing an orientation manual for foreign teachers that is tailor made for this school but is to be adaptable to all schools who employ foreign teachers in Wuhan.

Here lately, it has been like pulling teeth to write anything. I know what I want to write and heaven knows I have enough material, but I just can’t seem to get my ideas out of my head and into print. And then I get frustrated and start surfing the ‘Net…

The problem is that, during my writing time – late afternoon till about 11PM, I have no idea which narrative to tackle! It seems they all clamor for attention at the same time. Mind you, I’m not complaining. Every writer should be so lucky as to have such a flood, and maybe quite a few are and just don’t talk about it. For me, it is overwhelming. Maybe I lack training.

I feel my first priority is to answer emails. These are from friends who are especially close and from family members. #2 on that list is my blog; I’ve stated before that I feel that I have a responsibility to you. How blessed and lucky am I to have so many correspondents and readers! And I really want to do a good job keeping up with everything and everybody.

After answering emails and updating the blog come the stories. Which one to write first? Which one is particularly begging for attention? Which one was it that I had a stupendous idea for and didn’t make a note of? Which one did I get hung up on and, by sheer happenstance, came upon a solution to a plot complication?

Writing is slow work, at least for me. Unless I am on a continuous flow – meaning 10 hours straight, I have to go back and read the last few paragraphs or the last chapter to get fully caught up with what I was writing and where I was going with that particular story. While doing that I find myself editing or revising passages, which, in itself is time consuming.

Two other deterrents to writing: I usually hit a low point at about 2:00PM, and I do not have a work environment that is conducive to writing.

I need solutions.

With regard to my work environment: I have to sit at my desk while online because my DSL cable will not reach very far. The problem with sitting at the desk is that my chair is actually an implement of torture rather than an inviting conspirator. Since my office chair died a few weeks back I have been using a wooden kitchen chair. While I thought that the office chair with a list to the right was bad, this chair will go down in infamy! By the time I’ve done everything online that I need and want to do, my bones are in agony and my muscles beg to be stretched. And we’ve only made it till noon, Folks!

It took me a little bit to remember that my laptop is actually portable. I do not have to be anchored to my desk. So, using my little lap desk, I can sit cross-legged on my bed, propped up by pillows and write in full comfort. By copying all of my incoming emails into Word, I can answer them while offline and then paste my response back into the email format when I’m back online the next morning. Immediately after the email session I am onto the blog topics. There’s one solution.

And then there is the novel idea of living life (pardon the pun: ‘novel idea’ in a text about writing?) Gee, I ought to get outdoors and talk to some people, right? Maybe get some exercise? Move my body a little bit? I can’t spend all of my time in front of the computer! Of course, with everybody gone from campus I am compelled to go into town, which takes about 4 to six hours, if done in just mediocre fashion. That is a substantial chunk of time away from my writing duties. And I do have friends here in China that want to chat or send text messages at random times.

And then, of course, there is keeping up with the news, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, cleaning house and washing clothes, showering, reading for pleasure, relaxing, maybe catching the occasional movie… and those darn puzzle games that my sweet grandson got me hooked on.

I think I need a schedule.

That is actually probably the root of my problem. I don’t see writing as my job. I see it as something I want to do, but am not necessarily compelled to do each day. As a matter of fact, I write when the writing is good, just like I eat when I’m hungry, I go out when I feel restless, I clean when I need to.

How does this sound? I should wake up at 8:00AM and read and respond to email. Afterward I fix something to eat and talk with Gabriel at noon – that is a must. After talking with Gabe I can exercise, hit the town, grocery shop, even take a nap if so inclined. Whatever I need to do. By 6:00PM I should be back at the keyboard to update the blog. Then I will eat, and then devote some time to one of the stories.

Now, if I could just find the discipline to stick to it.

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