With NaNo coming up, this is the time a lot of people start to panic. They don’t have an idea or a jumping off point. Luckily for writers, the world is filled with things to write about. The problem, of course, is actually finding something that inspires you enough to come up with characters and a plot in order to fill a novel-length document. I figured, for our second to last blog before NaNo kicks off, I’d lay out a list of possible scenarios/settings to kick off your imagination. Feel free to add your own to the list! A lot of these, I’ve written in the past, but there are plenty more out there to explore.
Recently, I read The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, I’d never heard of it until my friend insisted I read it, and as we all know, I’m one of those annoying people who dislike doing things people tell me to do, especially when “IT’S SO GOOD.” You’d think that in my late twenties, I would grow out of that, but we are what we are. Anyway, I am more apt to give things a chance at this age than I was as a teenager, so I dragged myself down to the library to borrow the book.
At some point in every writer’s career (at least, in most if you’re not super overly cocky about the quality of your work), you’ll hit the bottom. This is the place where it feels like nothing you write is good enough, that you’re not improving in any way, and that it would be pointless to continue. We’ve all been there, and if you haven’t, you’ll get there eventually. I’m not saying it to be mean–it’s a fact all writers face. We’re full of self-doubt and have a nasty habit of comparing ourselves to others. For some, the bottom is where they stop writing and funnel it away into a desk drawer never to look at again. For others, it’s a time to wallow and complain and generally feel terrible until we get it together enough to pull ourselves up.
Some people might think that wallowing isn’t the way to deal with a problem, but time is really what it takes. Some people might call this writer’s block as well, but that isn’t what it is. You may start projects and then abandon them because you feel they’re simply not good enough. That’s completely okay. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and give yourself a break.
When you hit rock bottom, or at least, what feels like it, it’s going to suck and it may take weeks or months before you start feeling better about it. Like everything in life, your brain has to take time to wrap around it and work through why you’re feeling that way. It may be because of comparisons you’ve made to others, comments others have made about your work (whether true or not), or just a feeling of ennui. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid of not writing for a while. If you can take a break, do it. Revitalize yourself. If there are problems, work on them. I tend to make the same writing mistakes over and over, despite knowing my faults, and that sometimes makes me wonder if it’s even worth keeping going. If you can’t learn from your own mistakes, how are you supposed to improve? It’s a difficult question to answer and one that has to be answered. It sucks, but you have to remember that this too shall pass. Well, hopefully anyway.
I’ll say upfront that I don’t write every day, at least not on something that could be considered a writing project. Sure, I type words every day, but it’s not the same as sitting down and writing part of a novel or story or even a blog post. In the past few months, I’ve felt creatively drained and a part of me wants to take a long break from writing and editing until I feel like myself again. Unfortunately, it’s not really an option because ideas pop up and any writer will tell you they’re difficult to ignore. What happens then, as has been happening lately, is that I’ll start a story and then abandon it somewhere in the first few thousand words. The question here, however, is not if you should stop writing but if you should write every day.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. A writer writes every day. Those are just a few cliches that I’ve found to be untrue in life. You don’t have to write every day to be a writer, but does writing every day really help you become a better writer? I say, it depends. If you have the stamina, the drive, and the ideas to write every day, you should. There will come a time, as there always does, that those things will dry up. Sometimes it only lasts a week. Sometimes it lasts years. I’d say this is what people call writer’s block. It isn’t a lack of ideas but rather a lack of drive. A writer is a writer no matter what, no matter if they’re currently writing, if they’re published, or what.
Burn-out is a real thing that gets a lot of writers when they least expect it. Back in college, I used to write a new story every other week, from short 500 word things to novel-length 100,000 word stories. I thought nothing of it. It was easy and came naturally, but years later, even writing one short story a month is difficult. It could be because I’ve learned so much more about writing since then – plotting and themes and everything else that needs to be included in a good story – but it could also be that those things have slowed me down. They force me to think and rethink and question my choices. It can be a burden as much as something helpful.
I say, if you have the drive to write every day then by all means, do it. But don’t push yourself so hard that you lose all interest in writing. It’s better to write less and still have great ideas than write frequently about nothing.
As a child, I read a lot on my own – I was pretty regular at the local library as my mother, a preschool teacher, highly encouraged reading. As I got older, however, my time reading got less and less until high school when the only things I read were for school. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about terrible books they had to read, but for the most part, I didn’t have too many bad experiences. Perhaps it’s because I grew up a reader and reading long books wasn’t torture for me. I’m not sure. There were a few gems amidst the many books we were assigned to read, so here are my five favorite books I was forced to read by teachers (in no particular order).
Everyone always writes posts about books they loved and they gush about the prose and the characters and everything about them. Of course, I have books I have loved but I also have books I have absolutely detested every minute of reading them. Here are my top five most hated books in no particular order: