April 12, 2007


Sometimes things come to you when you need them the most. That’s what happened today when I opened my Absolute Write newsletter and clicked on an article about writer’s block by Mayra Calvani. You see I’ve been struggling lately. I sit down at my computer with the best of intentions. And then I inevitably get sidetracked. Last night I spent four hours reading about George Eliot’s extraordinary life because I was looking for the right book to have my heroine read. Unfortunately, my story is set in 1853, almost twenty years before Middlemarch was published. One of my critique partners says this should be known as NTW (network time waster) from now on, and is to be rooted out before it can rear its ugly head. Given my propensity for NTW, the article was exactly what I needed to read.

One important point it raised was that lowering your expectations might actually make you more productive. If I set a goal that is impossible for me (20 pages a day) then I’m more likely to write nothing because I get depressed about my inability to reach the goal. But if I try to write five pages a day, I might just surprise myself and get excited enough to write more, thereby surpassing my initial goal.

I know there is only one cure for not writing, and that is to write. Author Elizabeth Hoyt wrote in a recent article on Romantic Inks:

Here’s the deep dark secret that we published authors hide: we’re not necessarily better writers than the unpublished. What we do have is a finished and polished manuscript. Ninety-nine percent of writing is finishing the product…which is why, every day, I sit down and write. I sit down and write even when I don’t feel like it—especially when I don’t feel like it.

I have a long history of writer’s block. The most famous example is the college paper I turned in six years late. It was a paper about a Vietnam war book, and I finally managed to write it while I was traveling in Vietnam for three weeks. I somehow needed that historical immediacy in order to finish a task that had been weighing on me for so many years.

Have you ever struggled with writer’s block? Have you done anything extreme to jolt yourself out of it, or do you have a simple little trick that works?

I know, I know. Just sit down and write.

I will.


13 thoughts on “NTW”

  1. Ah, NTW, the number one activity that fills my day. So this is where I’ve been going astray… =)

    Best of luck staying in the chair & writing!!!

  2. My theory is you can work with crappy writing. So even if you write something, and it’s crap, you still have something to go back and edit.

    And smaller goals is a great method. I did it with weight loss. Once upon a time when I was a good little dieter. I would set small goals, easily make them, and feel good about myself. That motivated me to lose more weight! If the goals are too high, you’re too hard on yourself when you don’t make them.

    I spent four hours last night shopping on freaking Ebay. BAD SHELLI.

  3. Hi Lenora! I haven’t heard anybody else saying they can’t post. That’s very strange. Did you get an error message? Hopefully your writing block has waned! (But if it hasn’t… come try posting again and let me know whether it works this time!) =)

  4. LOL! Now, here I am, with one of my prime NTW’s – blog-hopping – reading my own advice back at me. There’s irony for you!!

    You and me, kid – we need to stop the NTW’s and get our fingers moving over our keyboards. Chat w/you next week! :?)

  5. Hmm, I suppose there is a difference between writer’s block and just not ever getting around to writing anything? I think it’s only the latter I suffer from. As of Friday I don’t even have full-time work to blame it on.

  6. Thanks, Shelli. I know I need to curb my inner editor and just “vomit onto the page” as one writing teacher put it. I know how productive you are, so it must work!

  7. Hi Erica,

    It’s so weird–I’m able to post on other blogs, but when I try to comment on yours, I get this error code: bX-5rq7iq

    I’ll keep trying, though…


  8. Lenora – Writer’s block is a wicked thing. . . my NTW is blogging. . . I love going out and reading and responding. It’s like keeping in touch with my friends. But, I try to devote a couple of hours a day to simply WRITE. . .even if it is dreck. It gets easier and easier to press the delete key when needed.

  9. I’m LMAO because I still have a paper due to one of my graduate profs from, well, let’s just say LONG AGO. I’m pretty sure he’s forgotten by now, and it’s a bit late to rescind my degree.

    I cured my writer’s block by deciding to quit worrying about whether my book ever got published or not. I think writer’s block is a direct result of our fear that the work will fall short in the eyes of others. This is a given. It will fall short in someone’s eyes. Accepting that helped.

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