Tuesday, 19 October 2010

K.M.Weiland: Conquering Writer's Block.

We all get writer's block. Yeah, some people say it's a myth, but when you're staring at the blank word document (and mindlessly eating your weight in chocolate) it doesn't feel mythic.

So I have an awesome guest poster today. You may know K.M.Weiland from her amazing blog Wordplay. Katie has an amazing new CD out designed to help with writer's block. Take it away, Katie.

Angst and Creativity

The whole idea of “suffering for our art” seems romantic when it happens in the movies. But the real-life version can sometimes seem as if it includes a whole lot more suffering than art. I’ll venture to say that anyone who’s ever tried to write anything more than a pun has spent some his fair share of time wandering around, hands clenched in his hair, eyes wild and bloodshot, muttering to himself, and generally looking a) agonized, b) insane, or c) undead (take your pick). When asked why we write, we’re usually quick to respond with an answer along the lines of “because I love it.” But sometimes it’s hard to figure out how we can love something that can make us so miserable. Jessamyn West and George Orwell, respectively, agreed:

“Writing is so difficult that I feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.”

“Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

Most of us just accept the angst as a necessary evil of the writing lifestyle. But is it? Is angst a catalyst for creativity? Or is it a hindrance?

In my experience, it’s a little of both. Writing a poem, a story, or a book is a monumental undertaking. Why should we expect it to be easy? In fact, if it were easy, wouldn’t that sap just a little of the marvelous sense of fulfillment and gratification which is our reward when finally we type “the end”? In many ways, the difficulties of writing only make it that much worthier of our time and effort.

However, as too many of us who have wallowed in the black seas of a writer’s depression can attest, angst, when carried too far, can be a killing blow to our inspiration. As I point out in my recently released CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration (http://www.kmweiland.com/books_CWBASI.php), one of the most crucial steps in encouraging inspiration to take root in our lives begins with having a positive attitude.

A little angst is unavoidable, and arguably even important, in our experiences as artists. When we’re stuck on a tough story problem, of course we’re going to feel anxious and frustrated and frightened and perhaps even a little angry. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging and accepting these feelings when they come knocking for good reason. But it’s important we don’t allow ourselves to wallow in them. Approach writing with joy. Always remind yourself of the great blessings found in being a writer. The bad days will come. But don’t let them get you down. If you can wake each morning and approach your manuscript with a joyous sense of expectation and that irreplaceable childlike wonder, inspiration will be knocking at your mental door all day long. Harlan Ellison nicely summed up this impossible balance of the writing life:

“Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you—as if you haven’t been told a million times already—that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.”

K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her writing tips, editing services, workshops, and her recently released instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.

Thank you for being my blog guest today, Katie, and for the amazing advice. :)


Misha Gerrick said...

Great post!

It's so important to stay positive when the difficult times hit. Even If you block for weeks, one needs to be convinced that it is possible to snap out of it, and then keep snapping until it works. :-)

Unknown said...

Wow, Katie's busy. She was guest blogger on a few sites I visited yesterday.

I love her blog. It's filled with all kinds of wonderful advice. But it's nice to finally know her full name.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Right now, I understand the angst!

Renae said...

Great post! I'm off to check out Katie's blog now! Thanks!

Jessica Ann Hill said...

This is a wonderful post. And, I agree, having a positive attitude is so important. I'm off to check out Katie's blog! :)

Summer Frey said...

Great message, isn't it? I've experienced more than my fair share of angst, but I like to think I at least try to enjoy the upsides of writing.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for having me today, Lindsay!

@Misha: Yep, every writer needs to have a good snapper!

@Stina: It's been a busy month. I've had blog tour stops set up almost every day.

@Alex: Me too, actually. :p

@Renae: Thanks for reading!

@Jessica: It's way too easy to beat ourselves up over our lack of productivity. But that kind of negativity is almost always counterproductive.

@Summer: Writing is the best things in life, but also sometimes one of the worst. At least it's always an exciting ride!

Hannah said...

Wow, my WV is "anger."

I probably have more angst now that I've become open with the fact that I want to write. I tell more people and the more people I tell, the more crap I get when I'm not writing. LOL!

I get more angst-ridden when I don't have the time or energy to produce as much as I intend to. Hopefully, this will change in time, as I get a little better at outlining and planning my writing time.

Delightful post. I am off to check out Wordplay!

Janet Johnson said...

I've seen Katie a lot of places . . . great, great suggestions. I appreciate the message of using the angst and moving on. "Approach writing with joy" . . . best words of advice I've heard in a long time (and I've heard some good stuff). :)

Lydia Kang said...

Thank you Katie and Lindsay! And it's nice to meet another fellow Nebraskan. I'm going to hop over to your blog and say hi there too.

Elana Johnson said...

Awesome stuff here! I love Katie's blog, and yes, I just want this huge undertaking to be easy. But it isn't. Dangitall.

Margo Berendsen said...

This is a great little pieces of advice: "approach your manuscript with a joyous sense of expectation and that irreplaceable childlike wonder" - thank you!

Creepy Query Girl said...

wow- lots of great advice in there. I can't believe I've never heard of her! Thanks for this!

Unknown said...

@Hannah: We sometimes need a fair serving of angst to keep ourselves moving forward. It's sort of like a good smack with the whip to our behinds when that dangling carrot out front isn't working.

@Janet: Thanks, Janet. Glad you agree. I wake up every morning feeling so grateful to be a writer. It would be a shame not to enjoy every minute of it.

@Lydia: Yay! Always glad to meet up with another Husker.

@Elana: Ah well, at least we always have a good excuse for chocolate indulgence.

@Margo: I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us started writing because we never outgrew that childhood habit of asking impossible questions and imagining impossible things.

@Creepy: Thanks for reading!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Katie, this is an important topic since lots of writers let angst hinder their creativity rather than channeling. Thank you for putting it so much better than I could, and making me think about my own angst a little differently. I'll definitely be checking out your blog.

Thanks, Lindsay, for hosting such an awesome guest! And WOOT, girl! You just hit 200 followers! I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees how amazing you are.

Unknown said...

Thanks for reading! I really don't think it's possible to eliminate artistic angst, and I question the wisdom of even attempting to do so. The secret is learning to use the burn - instead of fighting it.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

"Use the burn"! I like that.

Unknown said...

In a lot of ways, writing isn't so different from exercising: results are sometimes more fun than the activity!

WritingNut said...

Great post! :)

I think I feel that angst far more than I should :S Thank you so much for reminder!

Shannon said...

Excellent advice. Thank you, Lindsay for giving Katie a platform and thank you Katie, for sharing your insight! =)

Lenny Lee said...

hi miss lindsay and miss katie! that was a neat post. i like stuff thats real positive. yep out of bad could come lots of good if you just focus out on being positive. katie you said really good stuff not just for writing but it could be good for lots of real life stuff. thanks for a cool post.
...hugs from lenny

Unknown said...

@WritingNut: The good news about angst is that none of us is alone. We all understand what you're going through!

@Shannon: My pleasure! Glad you enjoyed the post.

@Lenny: I consider myself an optimistic realist. If we look for the good in life, we'll likely find it.

Linda Yezak said...

Terrific post, Katie. For me angst is paralyzing--and the longer I feel it, the less I'm able to write. What I've learned is: if you've exhausted all the suggestions to escape writer's block and are still suffering, look at what's bugging you in your private life. Once the problem was solved in my life, my muse was ready to fly again! \0/

Unknown said...

I think that's very true. I find writing very cathartic; I use it to work out problems in my "real" life. But there are definitely times when life is more than a little rocky and the road to inspiration gets blocked as a result.