Showing posts with label writers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writers. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mental Constipation

Ask any writer what their least favorite, most dreaded phrase is, and it's a fair bet most would say "writer's block." Anyone who has ever put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard knows how awful it is when you know that you need to write but you can't find the right words to use.

We are wordsmiths. Say that word aloud. Wordsmith. Feel it form in your mouth and think about what it means. We are in the business of using words to create worlds. Words are our tools. We wield them like weapons, we wrap ourselves in them like a grandmother's quilt. Probably, most of us prefer writing to speaking nearly 100% of the time. I've known plenty of writers who prefer to handle business via email but few who prefer to actually pick up the phone and have a conversation. Words, reading them and writing them, are as necessary to me as drinking water. Words have given me escape in times of turmoil and stress. They have given me comfort in times of fear. They have given me an outlet when I felt trapped inside my own head, and perspective when I felt like everything was spinning out of control.

Unfortunately, being a wordsmith isn't glamorous or sexy. It's hard work. The words don't always cooperate. Sometimes they run away and hide. Or they stand there, defiantly just out of my reach. Or they run all over each other and I can't seem to put them in any kind of order. Sometimes, instead of a writer or wordsmith, I feel more like a word wrangler. I imagine myself, dusty and hot, standing on the edge of the Rio Grande, trying to wrangle defiant words safely across the river so they can take shelter and grow fat on the other side.

I'm not sure that non-writers understand that writer's block happens at all stages of the writing process. If you ask someone to visualize it, I think the most common image of writer's block is that of the frustrated writer, staring at a completely blank screen or a fresh page in a typewriter, unsure of where to begin, unsure of what's about to happen. But it can happen twenty-five thousand words into a novel. It can happen when you've outlined, it can happen when you think you know the ending. Hell, it's happening to me right now, and I'm just rewriting the thing. I know all the major plot points, I know how it'll end, I'm almost halfway through the re-write and I know what needs to be done, I just don't know how to make it happen.

It's not so much writer's block as it is mental constipation. I know that stuff is in there, working and churning, it's just not ready to come out yet, even though I'm bloated and trying to force it. It's awful and somewhat terrifying. I worry I might explode. I worry that I'll never find relief. I worry that if I push through, what comes out will not be at all satisfying. That it will, in fact, just be a half digested pile of crap.

So I look for something else to write. Something that will maybe loosen up the works. I do writing prompts or I work on a different project. Or I come here and make metaphors about cowboys and shit because being a writer at least gives me the ability to make ridiculous metaphors to entertain myself.

If you're a reader, how do you envision writer's block? If you're a writer, how do you combat it?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Marketing Habits I Learned From Writers

Today's guest blog was written by, Stirling Morris, Owner and Marketing Executive for Market Integrations | Marketing Development & Marketing Management based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The original blog post can be found on his marketing & business development blog, Across the Social Media Universe, at

It seems everyone threatens to write a book at one point or another, and self-publishing a book seems to be the talk of the town lately.  From newcomers with a story they're itching to get off of their chests, to more suggestive non-fiction pieces like Guy Kawasaki's, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur - How to Publish a Book, the writing world is changing. To quote Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords: "We're in the early stages of a full scale publishing renaissance."

My wife, Dannie M Olguin, has been writing her whole life and within the last year, started publishing short story ebooks under a pen name. Dannie is also almost done with one of her life-long ambitions of writing at least one novel and having it published.  She's still trying to decide whether to pursue traditional publishing or follow the route of self-publishing.

This whole experience with Dannie has taught me a lot about self-publishing. Even more importantly, as a marketer, the experience has taught me about the writing process. There are many lessons I picked up from the writing process, but two that stand out in comparing and contrasting Writing & Marketing are:

Building a Plan
The best marketing lesson I gleaned was from the outlining process. Outlining a story and outlining a Marketing Plan hold similar concepts.  Both help get the ideas flowing and the balls rolling. And, eventually, the story's outline & the Marketing Plan outline develop a life of their own.

All About the Numbers
One of the more interesting writing habits revolved around accounting. I'm not referring to the revenue generation, although, let's face it, even writers love to get checks. I'm referring to the daily word counting and total word count that writers use to gauge productivity. It is uncanny how this compares to budget planning versus profits from actual revenue.

In two industries where content is king, it is amazing just how similar a path marketing and writing follow. Both morph through a process of continuous improvement, and the result of the final product must be masterfully creative enough to engage an audience.

What marketing strategies have you improved by comparing your business to other industries?

For more information about Stirling or his Marketing firm, Market Integrations, visit his website at

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You Know You're a Writer When...

I  recently had a conversation with a young man who told me that he is in the process of writing a fantasy series and scoping out ways to get published. He also said that he wishes he could write full time.

Me too.

It's true, I don't have outside employment, but that doesn't make me a full-time writer. My son is homeschooled, so my husband and I co-educate him. There are still all the little things around the house to do and all the meals to cook. We have bills to pay, cat litter to scoop, fevers to soothe, and a marriage to nurture. And just as my husband tries to give me space to write as much as I need, I try to give him space to work on his marketing business all he needs. It's certainly not easy to balance the needs of a child, a group of pets, and two self-employed adults. Most days I only manage to get a couple of hours of writing time in. Some days I get a bit more, but some days I don't write at all. Sometimes I long for a life that allows me to write 40 hours a week, without guilt.

But the fact that I don't write "full time" does not make me less of a writer than someone who writes sixty hours a week; I just have less time. That's it.

I'm a writer, and you or someone you love just might be one, too. If you're not sure, just refer to this handy list of symptoms:
  • You find yourself agonizing over where to place the word "is" in a sentence.
  • You're happily shampooing your hair when the solution to a sticky problem in your book hits you. Instead  of rinsing your hair and finishing your shower like any sane person would, you jump out, wrap a towel around yourself (if you have a preteen son in the house. If you're alone, you skip the towel all together), and run--dripping shampoo and water--to your computer to write before the solution slips away.
  • You're sharing a meal with friends or family and you prattle on and on about your characters as if they were your children or friends: Oh my gosh, you won't believe what Simon said to Ana! Oh and Lorna! She has so much on her plate right now and she's handling it all  so well. I really should get her some chocolate or something...
  • Your friends and family listen indulgently, with just a minimal amount of eye rolling, while you dish the latest gossip. 
  • You wake up in the morning hungry but start writing before breakfast. Before you know it, you've been writing for hours and your hunger has mysteriously disappeared.
  • Something bad happens to your character and you cry for him.
  • You sit in front of your computer for forty-five minutes and can't think of a thing to write so you just type the same word over and over and over until that word changes into something that actually belongs in the story. My favorite thing to type when I'm stuck is "chocolate". Unfortunately, it's also my favorite thing to eat when I'm stuck.
This list is by no means complete. The point is, being a writer isn't defined by how many hours you put in, it's defined by whether or not you write. If you write at all, if you agonize over your words and your characters or subject matter, then you're a writer. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, including yourself.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Writer's Block Is No Excuse

I have writer's block and a cold. My throat hurts, my head hurts, I can't stop sneezing. My brain is foggy and I can't string together two coherent thoughts for anything. I also have several writing projects that I'm working on and I've attempted all of them today, just hoping to find my groove. Unfortunately, my groove must have packed up and gone to Disney World for a vacation, because I can't find it anywhere.

So what is a writer to do when writer's block strikes? My initial reaction was to power through it and write anyway. After all, the editing process is there for a reason.  But sitting and staring at my manuscript for forty minutes only served to make me feel like a failure. My next reaction was to throw up my hands and say, "Fine then! I'm taking the day off!" But hiding under the covers and reading Stephen King isn't going to get me any closer to finishing my book.

I realize that the words aren't going to flow from my fingertips today, but that's okay. Today I give myself permission to lay the story aside, but not to take the day off. Instead, I'll work on other things that will help me achieve my end result:
  • Write a blog post about what to do if you have writer's block
  • Browse through The Writer's Market, online and book forms, and read helpful articles
  • Use The Writer's Market to identify potential agents to query
  • Actively participate in social media to engage in discussions with other writers, offer love and support
  • Curate a list of blogs I'd like to follow and possibly guest blog on
  • Curate a list of bloggers I'd like to invite to guest blog here
What do you do when the words just won't come?

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Write When Your Characters Won't Cooperate

It's been a busy few days and I've hardly gotten any writing done. Sometimes it's hard to find the time, even with a supportive husband to pick up more than his fair share of household responsibilities. Sometimes (okay a lot of the time) I have plenty of time, I just find it hard to make myself get the words out of my head and onto my screen. This whole gonna write a novel adventure has reminded me of something I've always known: writing is damn hard.

When I'm in my zone, the words flow like liquid gold from my brain to my fingertips. My characters are active, vibrant and complex, my dialogue is snappy and intelligent, and all I really have to do to hit my word count goal is close my eyes and type what's going on in my imagination. It's like I don't even have to try all that hard to come up with the actions, my characters just take on a life of their own and do what they need to do.

Unfortunately, sometimes what they need to do is hide in a dark closet and pretend they're not home when I knock on the door. Sometimes what they need to do is eat cookies when I tell them they need to go paint the tree house. And most infuriating of all, sometimes they need to tie me up to the tree house tree and dance around me like little Lord of the Flies heathens while blowing into their conch shells and throwing sticks at me. Even the adults. Needless to say, it's danged near impossible to type what I see when I'm tied up to a tree in the middle of a forest.


So what's an author to do?

If you're this author, you do one of several things:

1. You try to rationalize with your characters and assure them that you have their best interests at heart and that you'd never, ever  kill one of them off, even if you fully intend to.

2. You start to cry like an overstimulated two-year-old and hope they take pity on you.

3. You write their stubborn rears into terrifying situations that only you can save them from. I've found that dangling them over a steep cliff with a stormy sea below brings about an amazing change in attitude. The same can be said of locking them in a dark room with a bunch of hungry rats. Really, the struggling author is only limited by his or her own imagination. And since the characters are fictional, you don't even have to worry about jail time!

4. You try to write them in the way you think they should be written but end up failing miserably and falling back to option #2.

5. You just throw your hands up and shout "FINE! If that's how you want it, you just go ahead and goof off forever in your little world and nobody will ever hear about you and your amazing adventures. I'm going to go read a book that's filled with good characters who behave and do what they're told." Of course, this option does have the inherent danger of the actual living people who are near you thinking your a mad woman (or man), so I would suggest  not taking this track if you are writing at a coffee shop or the public library.

6. Last but not least is one of my favorite options. Write a bunch of smack about what to do if your characters won't listen to you, make yourself a drink and settle in on the couch for an evening of The Muppet Show.

What do you do when your characters won't cooperate?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Story of a Story

Hi, there!

My name is Dannie and I'd like to thank your for visiting my site.

A little bit about myself: I am an author, a lover of Halloween, a chocoholic, a voracious reader, and a mom to one human child, two canine kids, two feline kids and two fish. Okay, I don't really consider the fish to be like family just yet. Maybe if they survive more than fourteen minutes I'll start to feel attached to them.

It was my son (the human one, not the doggie one) who was my inspiration for Average Simon,  my first children's novel. The idea came about one day when he was about nine. We were having a conversation about life and he looked at me in all seriousness and informed me that all he wants is to be an average guy. Not famous, not necessarily rich, just a normal guy.

It's interesting how inspiration can come from a simple conversation. My brain got to whirring and purring and I thought:
What if there was a boy who just wanted to be average, but the more average he tries to be, the more extraordinary he discovers he is? How would he feel about that? What would he do? Would he be able to accept his talents? Would he try to hide them for the sake of not standing out? What would be the result of never allowing your true self to be seen by anyone, including yourself?
A seed was planted. I knew that this was an idea I needed to develop and nurture, but I shoved the idea into the very back of a deep and dark closet under some dusty stairs in my mind. Every now and then, I'd mentally pass the old closet door and I felt like there was something important inside, waiting for me to shine a flashlight on it, dust it off and bring it into the warm sunshine. But I was always too busy to bother with a dusty old seed of an idea, so I just kept on passing that door and ignoring the feeling that I was neglecting something. I couldn't even remember what it was that I had been ignoring anymore.

Until one day not too long ago. My kiddo asked me a simple question:
Hey mom. You always promised you'd write a novel for me. When are  you going to start it?
 Oh yeah. I did promise him I'd write him a book...Well, okay. This seems like as good a time as any.
How about I start it this month?
The grin that spread across his face was bright enough to reach under the dark closet door and shine, just a little, on that long neglected and forgotten idea. He asked me what it would be about, and without even having to think about it, without a sense of panic or fear, I strode confidently into that closet, pulled that seed of an idea out and showed it to my boy.

And now here I am, on a journey that I always  knew I was  going to make. No, it's more than that. I'm on a journey that I was born to make. A piece of me wishes I had started this trip a long time ago, but ultimately, I'm excited to finally be on my way.

Thank you for joining me on this trip of a lifetime.