Blank Screens and New Beginnings

I’m supposed to summit a piece for writer’s group on Tuesday but I can’t think of a single thing to write. Poetry? A short story? A brief essay? Do I go through some of my old writing and clean something up? That kind of feels like cheating, since I’ve haven’t written anything in so long. I really think I should write something new. For the life of me, I can’t think of anything to write.

Now that I’ve written this rambling thing, I’m no longer staring at a blank screen, so that’s something, I guess. Still, this is by no means a submission. It’s hardly ten pages of brilliant prose.

After days, weeks, even months of editing for others, I’m finally to a point where I can write something for myself, but now I don’t have anything to write. I feel like I have nowhere to go. I opened my Work in Progress folder this morning and I have four active WIPs that I could work on:

  1. Nightbound is the fourth novel in the Spellbringers series. It’s more than halfway finished, I think, but I’m not sure about the direction it has taken. I could open that up again, though I feel like I need to read through it to refresh my memory of it.
  2. The Protector (Abe’s Story II) is a prequel in the Spellbringers series. A lot of it is fleshed out, but needs a total rewrite. I’d have to re-read The Warrior and really immerse myself in the Spellbringers world, which I’m not sure I’m in the mood right now, especially since I’m about to dive into about 3 different editing projects for 3 different clients.
  3. Harvest Ball Queen (not committed to the name) is about halfway through. It’s a paranormal novella for teens. I’m not 100% on the direction of this one. Well, actually, I’m cool with the direction, but I have some details to work out. I could submit some pages from this. It’s old writing, but I’d like to finish this. I think it’s pretty good, if I do say so myself.
  4. The Mommy Blogger is a contemporary novel that started as a NaNoWriMo novel over 2 years ago. I think it has some potential, but I never really found my stride with it because I kept starting and stopping. I would like to get back to this at some point when I can commit some real time to it.

So, I think that gets to the heart of what’s holding me back from finishing these four main projects. (Don’t even get me started on the dozens of other novels I’ve started and quit over the many years.) I start projects and lose momentum. Sometimes it’s depression that makes me stop. Sometimes I get stuck on a plot point and give up. Sometimes I prioritize other things like work, kids, life, editing projects, and just let my own writing fall by the wayside. I guess I need to make a real decision about where I’m going with my writing. Am I going to make time for it and get started once again? Or am I going to be a hobbyist, only picking it up when I have a chance between all the other things I have to do? In life, you can’t have it all and you have to choose what’s important. That’s where I’m at right now.

While I might not be any closer to figuring out what I’m going to submit for Tuesday, this brief post does set me in the right direction. First, I need to make a choice. If I’m going to be a hobbyist, there’s no point in opening up my WIP novels to submit; why bother? As a hobbyist, I should write a brief, new piece (perhaps a short poem) to submit. If I’m going to take my writing seriously, though, I need to figure out how I’m going to reprioritize my time so that I am writing nearly every day and actually completing these novels and finishing new writing projects instead of leaving them languishing in a folder.

To all my writer friends out there, how many of you have a difficult time balancing your writing time with your other responsibilties? Is it hard to prioritize writing, and as a consequence, do you see yourself as more of a hobbyist than as the fulltime writer you’d like to be? How have you overcome your challenges?

9 thoughts on “Blank Screens and New Beginnings

  1. I feel this blog so much. I have posted about things just like this! My writing has fallen to the side so much and other things had taken over. I finally sat myself down with this same question. I did decide that writing is my choice career.

    How I am working getting back into a flow state is I left all my other writings in a folder. They are big projects and they come with a lot of commitment. Going from no writing and jumping back into a massive project seemed so overwhelming. Every time I tried my brain freaked out and I quit again a few days in.

    This time I changed the way I did it. I gave myself a blank page, a blank story idea. Instead I thought of the most interesting type of character for me and I wrote from there. No genre in mind. No storyline idea. I just wrote about this character and what their life would be like. I’ve found doing this that my brain works in my subconscious and a plot had began forming organically in my work.

    The hardest part was letting go, not trying to strategize or pick a direction. I knew there were pieces I SHOULD be writing, but I needed this particular piece for me. I needed time to remind me why I love to tell stories and to reconnect with that inner core.

    My writing was never about making oodles of money or even publishing. I write because people fascinate me. The way they react to things and it makes me wonder what they had been through that caused them to do such a thing. Writing allows me to explore human emotions, psychology, and their depth in a way that I can understand them, not judge them.

    Sorry, this is turning into a blog all of its own. Still, I think if you want to start writing once more, start fresh. No pretenses. No old work. Just you and a thought you wish to explore or a character, maybe even a situation.

    Like my hubby man told me, if you were a body builder that went to the gym for 8 hours a day and could bench press 300 lbs, but life got in the way. For some reason you quit going for a long period of time and then you suddenly decided to pick up the habit once more, you wouldn’t jump right into 8 hour gym days and 300 lb weights. You would start out slow, nice and easy and work your way back.

    So, maybe start with something small. A flash fiction piece would work or even a short story. Something you could get done in a day or two that will help build up that momentum. One bench press at a time.

    I’m always here if you need to talk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tricia Drammeh

      Oh my gosh! Don’t apologize! This comment is so right on. First, your hubby is so insighful, it’s scary. Second, you and I are so much alike, I can’t believe we aren’t related in some way. Like you, I become super overwhelmed when I open up one of my big projects. My brain just goes into panic mode and shuts down. It’s too much too soon. Also, I got into writing for the same reason. I mean, I’m not gonna lie and say I didn’t have a brief fantasy at the beginning of million dollar movie deals, but honestly it’s always been about exploring characters. People always come first for me; plot comes second. If I never sell another book, I still want to write. I don’t want to slip into hobbyist mode. I really do want to get back to writing on a regular basis.

      I think putting my writing on the backburner isn’t just about the writing for me. It is part of a trend of putting myself on the backburner. As women, and particularly as mothers, we have a habit of putting ourselves last. And, as you know, it doesn’t stop when our kids grown up. Grandchildren come along, and we’re right back in there helping to raise kids all over again. I’m going to have to carve out sacred time for writing when I don’t allow anyone or anything to sidetrack me. I know that’s easier said than done, but if I’m ever going to write again, it’s necessary.

      Thanks for commenting, Misty. I’ve been keeping up with your blog and following your journey. I know you’ve struggled through depression, changes in schedule, illness, babysitting, and everything else. You’ve inspired me with your determination and positivity. I’m always here for you too! Let’s help each other on this journey!

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      1. It would be amazing to have help through all of this. I agree with your insight as well. It isn’t just my writing that gets put to the side but me in total. It is so hard to fight through all of it. Even if you just carve out two hours a day, that is better than none.

        It took me finishing my first book before the lofty ideas of movie deals and big paydays came to me. I even knew the angles I wanted it filmed at and actors I wanted to play certain parts for my second book. I think it is a natural part of it all.

        I know I’m a storyteller. I really do make up stories for everything. Taking the dogs for a walk something that would be insignificant to others could happen but I noticed so I spend the rest of the walk telling my hubby man the story that goes with it in my mind.

        He is an incredibly insightful person and has been here by my side trying to coax me back into writing.

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  2. “Am I going to make time for it and get started once again? Or am I going to be a hobbyist, only picking it up when I have a chance between all the other things I have to do? In life, you can’t have it all and you have to choose what’s important. That’s where I’m at right now.”

    That’s where I’ve been floating for awhile now because, while I enjoy writing, there are so many things I don’t enjoy that are necessary for any measure of “success” and I’m burnt out on that. I’m burnt out on FB parties and newsletters and blogs and advertising strategies and tweets and push, push, pushing. So I took a break from that but, without all of that, I make 0 sales, so the effect from that is to say, “no one’s reading so who cares about the writing then?” I’ve missed a lot of things over the years – events, movies, time with family – to get books written and I resent it because I’ve never made enough money from.it to compensate what I missed. Sure, I enjoy writing, but only so far. As we all know 80% of it is not fun, but real work, and I have to feel I am working for a reason, that I’m getting a return on the time investment, and I just don’t. That’s why Micah’s book is languishing. Money aside, I used to be able to push myself by saying, “well, it’s okay to miss X because we’ll at least make some people happy.” But with no one buying, no one is reading, and no one is being made happy, so why am I missing out on things? If I want money I can make a cover, or do some formatting, or whatever, in a lot less time, and get a lot more for it, so there’s no cash angle, and there’s no human angle, which leaves me just writing for myself and frankly, I’d rather watch TV, lol! I’ve barely watched it in ten years because it’s been a constant life wrapped around pushing, promoting, editing, writing, with the idea that eventually I’d get enough loyal fans I could concentrate on the work and they’d do some of the pushing for me. Needless to say, that viral moment never happened and I’m just blase about the whole thing anymore.

    That said I have two different reactions for you. As a fellow writer, I agree with the above. Start small and work back in. If you’re not enjoying it, there’s no point in pushing yourself, because in the current sales climate I think even legit, focused, full.time writers are having trouble with sales. BUT, as fan of your work, I have to say, “Do I need to kidnap you, hobble you, and chain you to the bed with a laptop??? Where are my books??? Ahhhhh!!!” Lol!!! 😉 Seriously, you are the indy author that renewed my faith in indy after I’d read so much…not as well written stuff, shall we say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tricia Drammeh

      That’s how I feel about your writing. I love your work and I’m always eager to read more, but as your friend I understand why you don’t want to push yourself. As writers or “artists” we are told not to make it all about money, but in reality, it is about money, at least to some extent. We all have bills to pay. As you pointed out, there are many other things beside writing that must be done in order to be a successful writer, and those are very time consuming and often expensive. Advertising is very costly. Right now, I can’t even wrap my head around promotion, though I must admit I didn’t do anything to promote the last several books I promoted. It’s much more enjoyable to write, but you’re right – that is still hard work.

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  3. Always! My life is looking after others and by the time I’ve done that, and made time to keep relationships healthy with those around me there will never be time for my career to be anything more than a side hustle. Maybe one day, when the ones leaning are grown, or dead, but I suspect I will be looking after McOther, or his parents, by then.

    For a while I was trying to advertise, trying to keep the money coming in. Now I just have a small ad on Facebook for mailing list sign ups and I’m trying to concentrate on building a back catalogue. If the kind of people who like my stuff are a bit niche, and they are, it’s important that there is lots of product for them to buy! Easier said than done though. But letting the other stuff go was quite significant, it was like I gave myself permission to think bollocks to the rest of it and just write. I am loving writing at the moment. I don’t do it that often, I’ve a series of new releases coming out and there’s a lot of editing/uploading etc to do, but when I write, I love it and I’m writing what I want to and enjoying it.

    So, I don’t know if this helps but, while my father was really ill, I developed a technique to be able to write even if life was doing my head in. Like you, it was was a case of giving up, or completely re-evaluating how, what and when I wrote. The technique that has helped me is this:

    Have lots of projects on at the same time. In my case, some are fiction, some are non-fiction, some are short stories and some are massive great long books. That way there is always something I have the mental capacity to work on.

    I’ve started writing novellas, about 20k, and they are about characters I already know in a world I’ve already built, so in theory, I don’t have to try too hard.

    Second, I read a thing by Joseph Michael, the Scrivener coaching guy, where he talked about your limbic system. Apparently because writing is important to us sometimes, our subconscious suspects it may be a danger to us and that’s why we procrastinate. He suggested that a good way around this was to aim to write for ten minutes a day. That was a revelation, having written 40k in two years, I did 170k in 2018 simply by having a project available for every mood and writing these 20k shorts. I intended to bring those out last year, but my car broke and the repair bill was so huge I had to wait. Also, my father died and I couldn’t write anything after that for some months.

    There was a brief period of optimism when I was able to start on the long novels again, then I realised Mum has dementia too, and I’m beginning to lean on the ten minute rule again, although so far, it looks as if I’m good for another 20k of one big novel before I’m back into the storm. Then it might grind to a halt or revert to shorts. I’m also releasing the shorts I wrote, there are four so far two out, two to go and anther in progress. Although these are quite easy which helps even if they’re about a world which doesn’t really sell.

    So I think when you’re strapped like that, it’s a case of just writing what you can, even if it isn’t always what you want. My theory is that even my blog counts!

    I hope that helps, if only so you know you aren’t alone in this conundrum. I can only think that people who write full time must have very understanding families and their parents are either obscenely healthy or dead.

    Cheers

    MTM

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tricia Drammeh

      I’m so sorry for everything you’ve been through. I think many people of a certain age find themselves exactly in that position – raising children while taking care of ailing parents. In my case, it’s helping to care for a grandchild. It’s funny because I used to think when my kids grew up that life would settle down. What a crock of SH*T. I’ve learned to prioritize sleep. That might sound crazy, but that’s what I do. Nothing comes before sleep. I try to get a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep when I can, so that when an emergency does come up, I can cope. Sure, I could cut back on sleep and get some writing done, but I won’t. So, yeah. I could “make” time for writing, but not at the expense of my sleep or mental health. Some would probably say that means I’m not a “real” writer.

      You’re one of the writers who have been around for a long time, and who I enjoy reading. I’m glad you’ve found ways to work around the craziness in your life. Things will probably never settle down, as you’ve probably learned, but I admire you for finding ways to still follow your passion and talent. The day you gave up writing would be a sad, sad day for everyone.

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      1. Bless you, it’s life isn’t it? I decided a while back, that if I waited for the storm to pass it might not and I might never achieve anything. I also read about the limbic system and how you can fool it into cooperating if you aim for ten minutes a day. But then again, one demented parent is a much less complicated organism to deal with than two so I am aware that for the last three months or so, my creativity has definitely returned … either that or it’s the HRT Mwahahahrgh.

        I hear you about sleep. That’s sensible, and on the up side, grandchildren get older, and more self sufficient … start school and then … maybe … there’ll be more time. 😉 If it helps, it took me two years to work out how to write, and do all the other stuff.

        Whatever you do, I wish you peace and happiness to do it in!

        Cheers

        MTM

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  4. If only finding time to write was my greatest struggle.

    The truth is we can’t have it all, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the right to want it all. Writers are some of the hardest working people out there and whenever they aren’t typing “the end” they are questioning their role as a writer. If labeling yourself as a hobbyist helps to set your priorities, then do it. Even a hobbyist can get a burst of energy and a stroke of luck and finish a novel. The difference between the novelist and the hobbyist is that the hobbyist doesn’t beat themselves up as much when missing a writing goal because of work, family, or life. Not sure if that helps at all, but do know that I’m rooting for you. I love what you have going on with your WIPs.

    I started writing short fiction a few years back to give me a sense of accomplishment. I may not finish a novel a year, but I write at least 4 short stories a year. Here’s to seeing if I can finish at least one of my 5 WIPs, and you one of your 4 in 2020.

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