Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Messy and My Neat

Right now, I'm invincible. Every day, it seems, I can write. The dread pirate writer's block has not reared it's nasty old head. I credit two things with my success: First, I only have a small window of time to write each day. This means the timer on my phone goes off and I have to hare off to pick up littlest from pre-school or hot foot it to a conference call before my writing can sputter to a stop. Nothing concentrates the mind like a deadline and having one or two hours a day to write makes me more productive than if I had oodles of time (at least I think it does, I haven't as yet, experienced oodles of time.)

The second thing that is helping me avoid writer's block is a two pronged approach I call Messy and Neat. When I feel the molasses creeping into my words, when I feel like the momentum is congealing and I might be in trouble I deploy the Messy button.

My Messy looks like this: I start writing something ridiculous. I let the stupid idea that popped into my head flourish like an ugly print on a button down shirt. Example: I had Mop looking through her dad's old journals and suddenly drug cartels, jaguars and mayan temples exploded into my head. These three ideas, you might be happy/sad to learn, did not make it into the book ultimately, but I didn't tamp them down. I went there. I let the stupid idea out into the light of day because I fear no stupid idea. It's not a waste of time (though it might feel like one while you're doing it - give over to the experience and don't worry about the stupid, is my suggestion.) For me, I was able to maintain momentum and exorcise some dumb ideas in the process. As a bonus, writing these scenes brought me to something else that I did use.

Now to my Neat. For me, Neat is about getting out of the tyrannical shadow of 50,000 other words. Words are shy things and sometimes, they need alone time. They don't always flow freely when they're attached to their many brethren. If I'm feeling the scene isn't flowing or is somehow soft in the middle (you want your scenes to have six pack abs, narratively speaking.) I open up a brand new document and paste my scene, warts and all in there. Maybe it's the clean, clear space of the new doc, or maybe it's just a psychological shift, but it works for me. Without the heavy weight of the rest of the story, the words flow more freely and the middle tightens up nicely.

So what methods do you employ to keep writer's block at bay?


  1. I chant: First draft, first draft, first draft. It can suck.

  2. I agree with this. When I'm drafting it's all about getting it out as fast as possible, then I hit the brakes and revise slowly, spending as much time as I need on each chapter. Fast and slow for me is your neat and messy. :)

  3. Interesting method. I'm so behind in blog reading and am struggling to get back into a writing routine. It's hard to keep my brain clear. Moving 6000 feet up seems to have messed with my mind. ^_^

  4. New follower here... you've got a lovely blog. I'm not a fan of first drafts! I actually love revising... ;-)

    1. Hi Morgan, welcome! and thanks for the compliment. I used to hate revising, but now i get a sick pleasure out of the old slash and burn routine. looking forward to the revising part also allows me not to be so hung up on the first draft - I try to let it flow.

  5. I will sometimes unplug my laptop, knowing that I only have an hour. This helps fight the urge to pop over into twitter or tip toe through Pinterest, both which eat away valuable writing time.

    Great post!

  6. oooh Bethany, i LIKE IT! racing against the clock would definitely incentivize me not to fool around on or other nonsense! GOOD IDEA!

  7. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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