Friday, 23 March 2012

On Getting Stuck In A Rut

Hi folks, 

So this will be one of those posts that outright fails is a bit lower down the scale of insight and intrigue because, frankly, I got nothing this week. 
The thing about my life up to now, (and yes my marketing advisor would probably kill me for this,) is that it's not choc-full of interesting tour dates, book-signings, many kinds of events, or even just the normal everyday mundanity of work. Graduating last July means there's no Uni-motivated stuff going on and, well, if you've not actually got a rolling publishing contract for books you can reeeeeally easily slip into the Plughole Loop of Inaction, (that glorious Catch-22 of inevitable self-condemnation that may well have held back many a would-be writer).  Anything you do write tends not to feel as good because it's not purpose-driven or intended for anything.  As depressing as it sounds writing can become just another thing you're not fulfilling.  Get stuck in that state of mind and things'll grind right to a halt.

So let's do a quick look at that then. How do you combat getting stuck in a mind-loop of 'Oh I haven't written anything, I'm a bad writer, I should really write more, *Guilt*, I feel bad I don't like writing, I can't write, I haven't written anything...'  Well, and let's say now that I'm no expert and I go through all this too, there is the purely mental approach of thinking yourself out of it.  And, well, yeah, that's not really so easy, is it? So more practically, here a couple of things to maybe try: 

The Pavlov/Behavioural Method - Pavlov, for those who've never heard of him, studied Stimulus and Response and it's a fairly easy method based loosely on his theory, though it varies in effect depending on will-power, etc. The set-up: Find something easily measured out and that you enjoy, e.g. a chocolate bar, break it up into chunks and only reward yourself with a piece if you've completed the parameters of a task, e.g. write 1000 words, finish editing a specific chapter.  The idea is that you'll eventually associate the work - the writing/editing - with the good feeling - the tasty chocolate, and hopefully get more done.
Or there's this, an inverted idea I once used to get my dissertation written:
 The 'Accountability' Approach - Simple threat mechanism - if you haven't written enough or finished your task, a friend gets to do something - look disapprovingly, slap you round the face, take £10, whatever.  The point is gain enough momentum to get further than your friend's swing.  If it works, your friend will get bored and will leave you alone and you might well have a book written by the end of the week.

Now, of course, these ideas aren't going to work if you've not a mindset ready to write. And so here's a tip:
Relax. No, seriously, stop what you're doing, stop reading the paper, stop listening to your favourite radio show/watching that tv show, forget about the goldfish/cat/kids for a moment and just relax. 
It also helps if you have your very own environment around to work in too but if not then here's a thing: customise yourself. One of the things I do before writing is to get my silly hat and plastic pipe and wear clothes that I feel good in.  This works around the idea that if I'm feeling relaxed/comfortable/like myself, then I'm probably going to find it easier to tap into my own style and enthusiasm for writing.

After all, ultimately, unless you're writing to a contract, your writing is probably just for you, at least for the time being; and if you're writing for yourself, then make it easy on yourself.  Find out what helps you to think up ideas and produce plots and generate characters.  I've heard it suggested that you can imitate another's writing style to help develop your own but, honestly, especially if you're just starting out, stick to yourself.  It'll feel much more satisfying to look at your, e.g. short story, and say "Yeah, that was me. That was all me. I did that." And when you're trying to fight your way out of a paper bag Plughole Loop, a little self-confidence boost can go a long way.  As much as you can make writing enjoyable and, dare I say it, fun; because then, even if it's not being published or read by anyone else, or even again by you, it was at least fun.

I was Neil Faarid and this was the first 'I'm struggling, let's write about that struggling!' fail post.
'Til next time. 
Thanks for reading.

Also: Sorry about this being so late in the week. I'll try and keep Friday as the regular update-day, with occasionally interesting stuff in the rest of the week, but I got a bit lost this week.

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