Starters and Finishers

I loved reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, “Better Than Before”. Throughout the book she suggests that through knowing yourself better, you can manipulate yourself better. Something I have found to be a powerful tool in self improvement. In particular Rubin loves to divide people up into two groups. The aspect I want to discuss today is the difference between starters and finishers.

Starters love taking the first scoop in a tub of peanut butter, and cracking the seal on a fresh tube of toothpaste or chapstick. Finishers, by contrast, scrape clean a peanut butter jar, push out the last of the chapstick, or squeeze out the last toothbrush full of paste from the tube.

I am a hard core starter. I think I am in the majority here. Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving

A quick break from the regularly scheduled programming to express my gratitude for my creative community. (Yes, you are a part of my creative community.) My life would be poorer without the people in it who support, push, and encourage me every day. I am inspired by the bravery and compassion I see you all bring into the world. You make me feel safe enough to create and share. Thank you.

How to Escape the Book Doldrums

I like to believe we have all been there. The book doldrums, where everything you write feels stale and boring and just plain bad. I’m in them now and let me tell you it is not a fun place to be. In my experience, if it is boring for you to write, then you better forget about it being interesting for the reader.

I am determined to get through these doldrums and keep making progress on my novel. So I thought I would remind myself and share with you all the ways I have made it through the soul-sucking times in the past.

In recommended order of operations:

1.) Skip the problem.

Is there a reason you have to write the scene or sequence you are writing? It may be that nothing of any significance happens in the section you are attempting to write. If at all possible, cut to the chase. Literally.

2.) Cause problems.

If there is absolutely a good plot or character reason for the sequence you are writing, then congratulations. Now, why don’t you make it really really hard for your characters to discover that plot point or have that personal insight? Create roadblocks. Find arguments to stir up between allies. Think of how your villain or antagonistic force could most mess up your hero’s day. Create challenges and your story will rise to overcome them.

3.) Work the problem.

If you feel your ideas are stale, spend some time coming up with some crazy alternatives. Whatever element is sticking in your writer’s gears, try to isolate it and come up with a huge list of possibilities. Give yourself permission to come up with all the boring, silly, or dumb ideas then challenge yourself to come up with twenty more beyond that. I’ve found I often run out of bad ideas at some point and come up with at least one or two I don’t hate.

4.) Avoid the problem.

Stop making yourself crazy. Go outside. Look into the eyes of a loved one. Make a snack. Take a shower. Do something to break the self-flagellation cycle. Give yourself some space with a set time limit. A five-minute stretch break can do wonders. Sometimes a month or two off of a frustrating project is what you need to come back refreshed and with new eyes (and experience) to help you find solutions to story problems.

5.) Barrel through the problem.

The hardest advice of them all to follow. When you instantly loathe everything you put on the page it can be hard to continue. But sometimes just putting pen to paper or finger to the keys for draft after draft, and page after page is what it takes to wear down the nagging voices in your head that say you can’t do it.

I hope one or all of these helped you. I’m off to find my own way through the doldrums.