Monday, February 17, 2014



I attend a Tuesday morning writers group that is substantially different than any of the other writers' groups in my past. We sort of start at around 9 o'clock and kind of end at 10 o'clock or maybe 10:30. The attendance has an ebb and flow, sometimes ten or twelve people present, sometimes fifteen or more. Most are writers, that is they are ones who write, but some are wannabes, those who want to be writers but don't really write.

One mature person has been “writing” for “about 16 years.” Yet that person comes to “group” asking questions like, “how do I start?” “Should I outline?” “What is the best way to organize?” Sincere in the questions but far beyond the basics that person projects a writer's insecurities. With that I empathize. I took 6 years for my first novel. My last, a memoir, took 5 days. To answer the unasked question; I did learn the secret! 

Another writer not knowing what the traditional “limits” historically are has not only written her first book in this last twelve months, but it is now independently published. “Independently published” in the changing world of manuscript offerings means that she has ignored the stigma of “self-publishing” or “vantage press publishing” embracing the new world order brought about by the changing digital landscape. More on that in another blog.

We have in this Tuesday morning group poetry, short novels, memoirs, magazine articles, a visual artist who desires to write for his work, nonfiction writers, and several other identifiable genres. The group is about as varied as the number of people who attend. Into the skeletal matrix outlining this group and helping to define it are facilitators who sometimes bring in outside guests to talk about some aspect of writing.

The above is foundational to a recent guest comment made about "writer's block." The assumption was that because most of us are writers most of us know and understand what writers block is. At its core in the initial presentation was a given fact that all writers at different times and for different reasons have writers block.

Having never suffered writers block myself these statements have caused introspection. In reflection I believe I have never had writer's block because I've never cared what others might think of my writing. I have not tried to write a perfect novel. Nor have I tried to write the perfect story. I have been free from the angst common to many other writers wanting to be accepted into some form of a superior writers guild.

I enjoy a free style of writing where I get to see the story unfold before me. My imagination is my vehicle, whether writing upon the wings of a Dragon, in a spaceship, in a car, or on the back of a steed. Each story is virginal where I get to be the first to experience it. It is not uncommon to find myself in the story with no knowledge or understanding of the directions it might take. The experience is uniquely exciting.  

The other side of this particular coin is in a memoir. I know where it is going. I have already lived the experience and get to as a storyteller share that experience with others - someday. It follows the memoir has its own existing structure and existing timeline as a workable outline. 


Write. Write! Write! Don't stop. Other than memoirs I do find natural "slowing" points where the story seems to come together and from there can go in many different directions. I do have tools to help me find the path the story is going to take. What I don't do is actually stop. I ask myself questions consistent with were the story is located in time, place, and direction, such as but not limited to:

What does the protagonist think about this?
Where is the protagonist at?
What is the protagonist doing?
Why is the protagonist doing what he or she may be engaged in?
Is the antagonist anywhere around?
What does the antagonist think of what the protagonist is doing?
What does the protagonist think of what the antagonist is doing?
How is the scene set up?
Are there other characters, observing or interacting in the scene?
What does the scene smell like?
Are there physical or emotional feelings being displayed?
What is at stake for the protagonists and/or the antagonist?
Is this scene necessary?
Is anyone being observed in the scene?
And I write, and write, and write!

This is the barest outline of questions that can help me understand the role and action of the players in a particular scene and/or the impacts they can have on players in other scenes.

I have written two nonfiction books, two science fiction books, three contemporary books with a fourth pending, three different memoirs from different periods in my life, and a number of short stories. Of this body of work I have had one book independently published, Oregon Concealed. I have written numerous articles for magazines and newspapers with financial successes in a small way for some of those works.

Starting out; when I exposed my writing to the public, it was all volunteer offerings. Sometimes the articles were political, sometimes factual. The first time I crossed the threshold of a professional was with an article called "Stranglehold" submitted to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Journal. I did not know I was going to get paid for it.

If "professional" means one gets paid for what they enjoy doing, I became a professional. My last outside writing assignment of about 100 pages netted me $25,000.

As I now prepare to expose myself to a higher level of scrutiny I wonder whether "others" will have an impact on my creativity. I also wonder if my writing will be stifled, limiting the subject matter.

As I think about these musings I realize I have no directed answer for those who wrestle with beast of writers block. The artistic side of writing can in its simplest terms be reduced to the sum and substance of a "craft." For those who want to be craft writers I suggest a basic endeavor where they read, study, and learn the craft from those who have mastered it. Regardless of the mercenary interests of the masters many have chosen to share their understandings and perspectives on the craft which can be instructive. For the rest of us, LET'S JUST WRITE! I suggest a path of Thinking Write. LOL

Let me know how you do or any comments you may have about writers' block.

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