Stalled Writing Mind Needs a Jump Start


Writer’s write.  Right?

Except, sometimes we don’t.

My mind has stalled.  That doesn’t mean it’s ready for the junkyard.

I had the bright idea to take a vacation day today.  I was going to go hide somewhere and finish editing those next fifty pages of Biomalware and write one of the short stories I have started.

Then I remembered that I have an appointment with a budding author today to talk about how to publish an ebook and the desk shifts at work got rearranged so I am scheduled on the desk today after all.


The truth is that I just can’t clear my schedule of life to write.  Writing is going to have to happen around my schedule.

And I’m not like those authors who are capable of staying up late writing into the wee hours of the morning and going to work on coffee and a couple hours sleep, or getting up a couple hours early to write before work after going to bed at midnight, once the munchkin is taken care of.  I need more sleep than I get now.

I’m going to have to grab my time to write and edit when I can, whenever I see a few minutes to do so, on a daily basis.

There may be times when I have a chunk of time to devote to it, but that isn’t my daily life.

Sometimes exhaustion or sadness over events of the world keeps me from feeling creative, my body gets overwhelmed or, like last night, I worry about the coming weather and find myself restlessly flipping back and forth between and Facebook.

These things serve to distract me.  Sometimes, I feel like I’m trying to turn a car that’s lost its power steering back on course.  You can do it but it takes some real muscle.

So, I’m curious, my question is – how do you fit writing into your life?  Is it daily, weekly or just whenever you can?  And what do you do when you feel like you’ve gotten off track to get yourself back on?

(Please join me on my Facebook page, where I will be posting a daily note on something interesting or inspiring about writing or life in general. Just click here -> Melora Johnson’s Facebook page.)

The Power of “Could” Over “Should” For a Writer


This past week I’ve been on vacation, at home, but I’ve got diddley squat to show for it in terms of writing and editing. 

My plan was to edit the first fifty pages of Biomalware then go back and start a total re-write.

Then I got an idea for a new short story. 

Then the short story turned into a novel idea.

Then I made a list of all the short stories that I’ve started on my computer and never finished.

Then I made peanut butter chocolate chip muffins with my daughter.  (She did the stirring.  Well, some of it.  She’s only 2 1/2.)

And did a few Soduko puzzles.

There were other things in there but you get the idea.  Not much writing or editing.  Part of the problem is that I think about what I “should” do and my brain balks like a mule.

So, I’m going back to an old idea I learned years ago, turning “should” into “could.”  Instead of telling myself I should be editing Biomalware or working on a short story, I tell myself I could edit or pick a story to work on.  For some reason my brain just hears it differently and I don’t get the malaise that I get when I tell myself I “should” do something.  Hopefully that will help me getting some writing or editing done over the next three days, before I go back to work.

I did manage to post a new short story to Yahoo!, Memories and Choices.  I originally submitted it to the Writer’s Digest short short story contest but it didn’t win so I’ve put it out there for the reading.  It’s a bit of science fiction, magical realism and fan fic.

I understand there’s a Camp NaNoWriMo running this month.  They can be great for motivation but I won’t be participating this month.  I’m trying to focus on quality over quantity right now.

Happy Writing!

Why Do We Write?


I haven’t felt much like writing lately. I mean, I want to, but my mind seems to resist the idea.

Is it fear? Of what? Of failure? Well, we’re all afraid of that. The truth is that no matter what I write some people are going to like it and some aren’t. I think what I’m really afraid of is disappointing myself. Not feeling that what I’ve written is good enough, in my own mind.

As I was driving home the other day, the thought occurred to me… I don’t have to do this. I have a good job that pays my bills and is, in itself, satisfying. I’m not writing to make a livelihood or meet a deadline.

So why am I doing it? Why do I write?

Someone, not long ago, asked me that and then told me that a professor had told him what the “right” answer was. Really? There’s a “correct” answer to that? I don’t think so. I think there’s a personal answer.

I write, in part, because I like to write. It’s fun. I like to play with words, like some kids like to build castles with sand. I’d say that’s reason enough.

I write because I have something to say, a story to tell, either that I think will interest someone out there or help them in some way.

I write because it’s how I make sense of the world and how I express my outrage or joy. I think much better on paper than out loud.

Okay, yes, and partially because I like the rush of getting positive feedback from people who read it. Last night I read a short story in writers group and everyone thought it was okay but one person really liked it. That was enough.

This year I’ve taken the mantra “write the story you want to read” to heart. I don’t know where I first found it, but I have it written down on a scrap of paper. I don’t think I have the skills yet to really do that. Sometimes I get a glimmer. Other times I read books others have written and despair of ever reaching those dizzying heights.

I think – perhaps I need to read more, learn more, write more. Or perhaps I’ll just never be that good.

Still, I know that I can’t try to write like someone else. That simply doesn’t work in the long run. But how do I create a distinctive voice all my own? Is it already there and I can’t hear it because it’s the voice that’s inside my head all the time?

I know, occasionally, I write something and think – oh, that’s nice. I like that.  And that’s just plain fun.

So, why do you write?

Back into the Book

Once again, post NaNoWriMo letdown has cut down my writing output.  It’s been nearly a month and I’ve written nary a word. 

This seems to happen every time I write a huge amount every day for a month.  My brain blanks out on writing and I delve into more visual and tactile creative pursuits, only coming back to the writing after a month or more. 

What have I been doing in the meantime?  Well, mostly crocheting a baby blanket, going to work and taking care of my daughter.  Oh, and watching some really enjoyable episodes of the newer Doctor Who.  (Pssst, Netflix is evil.)

We had a great writer’s group meeting Thursday night and I was all revved up to edit and get back to work on my manuscript but yesterday came and went without me so much as opening the document.  Instead we got groceries, I cooked, sorted baby clothes and did a bunch of other things. 

So, I am publically stating my goal.  I will, by October 25th, have a finished manuscript to hand out to my writer’s group.  It may not be perfect but it will be as good as I can get it in that time. 

Today is September 22nd but I’m working this weekend and probably won’t get a chance to work on it until Monday so that gives me almost exactly a month.  Monday will be about excising the bits I don’t feel fit and making a map of what I have yet to do.  Then I will get down to work. 

To mis-quote Edison, success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

Changing Approaches

I’ve read a lot of articles and blogs by authors who talk about the way that they write or their “method.”  The truth is that there may be as many methods of writing as there are authors, but I’m coming to the conclusion that we need to be open to changing the way that we do things based on our current situation.

My preferred way of writing has been to get up in the morning and write but that isn’t really possible these days because of my schedule.  I have to tuck it in wherever I can, like writing in my head on my drive time then scribbling it down when I get to work.

Also, I prefer to keep taking in information on a topic until I reach a critical mass and start synthesizing it into a new form that will be my novel or short story.  That isn’t working for me right now so I’m planning to start my novel anyway and use Laurel K. Hamilton’s method of writing.  I remember reading an interview with her where she said that she writes along and when she comes to something that needs research she simply inserts something along the lines of [insert info on _____ here] and keeps going.  Sounds like a good way to draft.

At writer’s group last night, one of my fellow writers talked about trying to add to scenes and not getting anywhere so instead he was writing down everything he knew about all his characters and then he would see where that leads.  As he read what he already had, we made suggestions and we could see fireworks going off over his head as he made connections and thought of more.  (Writing as a group jazz improv is really fun, I have to say.)

I think it’s important to be willing to change directions or approaches when you find that what you’ve been doing isn’t working anymore, for one reason or another.  I just got the Scrivener writing software and I plan to do the tutorial for that and see if it opens up a new way of approaching the novel for me.  I might try Jim Butcher’s approach (from his blog) again because I think it might work particularly well for the novelization of Biomalware.

It comes down to this – when what you’re doing isn’t working, try something new because banging your head against the keyboard just turns on sticky keys.

Procrastination and Angst

This is not going to be pretty.  It’s going to be disgustingly, revoltingly, self-indulgently… agonizingly… angsty.  You might want to look away.

Still with me?  Okay, you were warned.

Argh!  Why?  WHY am I procrastinating on starting the novelization of Biomalware?!

I started a short story one day and ended up deleting the two paragraphs that I managed to write.  What is going on?!

Have I attached too much importance to Biomalware so that I’m scared to start it and mess it up?  I need a shitty first draft, as Anne Lamott puts it, to work with.  (Though I tend to get what I ask for so I’m a little nervous to think of it like that.  Maybe just focus on Julia Cameron’s idea of asking the Universe to do quality control while I produce the quantity.)

I need a schedule.  First thing in the morning is my favorite time to write but that’s not really possible with a 2 year old who has an erratic sleeping schedule.  Lunch time at work and nap time when I’m home is my only real regular time to write.  Hard to get my mind into that space when I’m amped up or overtired but it’s the only time I have so I’m just going to have to make that sleep deprivation work for me.

Sleep deprivation tends to put my internal editor to sleep first.  (Shhh.)  I feel like I’m just sleep deprived enough to write something interesting.  For example, this popped into my head earlier, “I must be a trial to live with at times but it’s got to be more fun than your average camel.  At least I don’t spit in your eye.”

I think I may have to start with something smaller, something I haven’t invested so much hope in.

Or maybe that’s just more procrastination.

Okay, time to write.