Monday, March 19, 2012

Burning the midnight oil

Some nights, when I'm up really late and can't get to sleep, I get some of my best writing done.

Tonight is not one of those nights.

I did, however, want to take the opportunity to talk about a talk and workshop I gave at the Moncton Library two weeks ago.

I was very privileged to have been invited to come speak about my creative process to a welcoming group of 13-18 year-olds. I discussed inspiration, writer's block and other things to a fantastic audience, then we paired off to do workshops. I was presenting alongside talented comic artist Rene LeClair, who did a comic and illustration workshop as I gave a writing one.

A surprising amount of people in the group expressed that they had some trouble with writer's block, so I took the opportunity to talk a little more about it to them.

I don't want to say that I have never suffered from writer's block, but I've noticed that in recent years, I have had less trouble finishing what I've started than before. I think part of that reason is because I have stopped placing the bill of urgency on things to be completed, which is something I was guilty of in the past. I would get so preoccupied with finishing the work in a timely matter that I would lose focus of what was important: the actual writing. Last year, I started my NaNoWriMo project and had hit the 50,000 word mark, but I didn't write the actual ending to the project until a full year later.

My best advice for writer's block is thus: continue with life. Find something else to write about. Give yourself exercises, like describing an item or a place. Take long walks and look carefully at the things and people around you. Start a field journal and write about your surroundings. Write. Write often, about everything. Take those experiences with you as you finish the work you're stuck on.

Also, never edit as you go. Once your words are on paper, leave them and come back to them later, with fresh eyes. If you get too caught up in the details of your own work, you risk being stuck in the details and never seeing the big picture. If you must, set time aside for editing, but try to make it a goal to write first, and edit later. A first draft will never be a perfect, groundbreaking piece of literature. You can progress from there and turn it into a second, third, and fourth.

Everyone writes differently, so please don't feel that I'm trying to preach. This is all simply what I find helps me if I'm stuck in a rut. If I pace myself and don't think of finishing the work, I'll find, more often than not, that the answer will subconsciously appear when I'm writing something else. That is the time that having a couple of spare notebooks lying around becomes very useful!

And with that, I'm going to try and get some sleep. Sometimes, writing becomes such a force that it keeps you up at night, even if the things you have to say are, really, only for yourself.

But on a note that is not directed to myself: a big thanks to the Moncton Library for having me to give a talk. It was my pleasure and an honor to be invited. Thank you!

And with that, good night.

(To add, Population 1 is still coming along nicely. Feel free to visit the blog and join the story!)

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