December 19, 2017

Put the Bat Down

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine 

Okay, it’s almost time to go into that room. Got to check my list, make sure I have everything. Let’s see, I’ve got my gum, jelly beans, two bottles of water, four aspirin, tums, emery board –– oh, got to have my chocolate. Better take two Hershey bars with me today.

Now, got all that, what else will I need? I never know if everything will go smooth, flowing like a stream or if it’s dried up.

Does this sound like something you experience before you go in your ‘room’ (your writing office}?

Sometimes we don’t know what will happen when we sit down at the computer, turn it on and the screen turns white. We pull up our word program and look at the page. Staring at a blank page can be terrifying or mesmerizing.

Then it begins. Conversation with myself. It goes something like this. “Let’s see, what should I write about. How do I want to start this story? Oh, I know, I heard at the writer’s conference it is good to ask, “What if” and go from there. But wait, what if what? What about what?”

Before we know it, we’ve been in our writing room a few hours and written nothing. There is not one word on the page. We’ve gone through two bottles of water, two Hershey bars, chewed several sticks of gum, the jelly beans are almost gone, eaten three tums, and had a couple of aspirin.

The conversation now takes on a different tone.  “Why can’t I write? Why does this have to be so hard? What’s wrong with me? How can I be so stupid? I’ve written stories before, even sold a few. Why won’t the words come? I’ve lost it, that’s all there is. I’m done. What’s wrong with my brain? I’m usually able to at least start a paragraph.”

Well, the dialogue goes on until finally we get up; turn the computer off, leave the room and go fix lunch. We've convinced ourselves we can’t write, won’t ever be able to write again.

As you can see our self-compassion and confidence in our ability left before we even went into the room. We set ourselves up sometimes to fail without realizing what we are doing. 

We need to put down the bat, get rid of it. Stop beating ourselves up. Sometimes the words will come, sometimes they just need to be primed. This is very important. You must put gas in your car before it will start the motor to take you anywhere!

We can prime our creative juices by reading good books. I think reading the genre you write in is important. It fills us with food for being creative, and we learn from others.

Another good way is an exercise I talked about here a few weeks back. Take three words at random, use one to begin your sentence and the other two use in the first paragraph.

Another way to prime the pump is just to start writing down words that pop in your mind. Don’t try to think about them, just write them down. They don’t have to make sense. Maybe twenty or thirty words, then put them together, breaking sentences, you may have a crazy poem of sorts.

The point? Getting our minds off can’t do and putting our minds on can do.  How? By taking action.

Give it a try! Let me know if you have other suggestions that are helpful.


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