Tag Archives: Writer’s Block

The November Challenges & Friday Reflections

Happy November, folks!

For the next thirty days, there will be millions of writers across the globe drilling away at their keyboards (or filling up several notebooks, if they’re into longhand)! If you listen closely enough, you might be able to hear the clickety-clack of typing already.

Yes, November is a very active month for the writing community. Because we’ve got several challenges going on.

November is most popularly known as, of course, National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to:

Write a novel, approximately 50, 000 words in length, within the thirty days of November.

It’s best to keep in mind that NaNoWriMo is just a way to get the words on the page. (It has its shortcomings.) The completed work still needs revision, critiquing, editing – there’s a lot that goes behind a well-written novel. We have to flesh out settings and characters, make the most out of every scene… There’s a reason some writers take several years to get just one done.

A lot of people plan/outline their novels in advance and do the writing part during November. Others prefer seat-of-the-pants writing.

Some do it to bust writer’s block. Your NaNoWriMo novel may be terribly written, but at least you’ve written something. You can go by what Katherine Mansfield said,

Better to write twaddle, anything, than nothing at all.

Some people take up the challenge purely on whim – just to see if they can do it.

And that’s precisely the spirit with which I took up the November Poem-a-Day Chapbook Challenge for the first time a couple of years ago! Mr. Brewer hosts it over at Poetic Asides and it’s a lot like the April Poem-a-Day challenge, only that this time since it’s a Chapbook challenge, participants write their November poems around a specific theme.

When I first attempted the November PAD Challenge, I didn’t have any theme in mind, and even now Mr. Brewer does mention that it’s not an absolute necessity. But two successful November PADs later, I feel like I’m ready to take up that bit of the challenge as well!

NaBloPoMo is another interesting November event – the National Blog Posting Month Challenge. Participants all over the blogosphere have probably posted about this by now. The challenge is to make at least one blog post every day, during November.

The crux of the three challenges is the same.

Write a lot.

Write every day.

Two out of three challenges (the November PAD and NaBloWriMo) demand that you write every day. And most NaNoWriMo participants try to write every day because 50, 000 words more doable with daily writing.

As a result, you’ll challenge yourself.

The first few pages or poems or posts may be easy enough, but after a while you’ll hit a block. That’s the challenge. To keep at it is the promise you’ve made to yourself when you make the commitment.

And finally, by the end of it all, you get stuff done.

By the end of the month, you have a decent output to work with:

    • poems around a specific theme to polish, edit, compile into a chapbook and perhaps publish
    • thirty blog posts that you wrote and published online within a month
    • fifty thousand words/a novel that you managed to get written, ready for editing

Writers just have to take their pick – go with whichever challenge you think suits your genre/style best and give it a shot! Maybe you’ll try two at a time, or all three, if you want to.

Of course, you may not want to take up any of the challenges. You may not have the time. Or you have other priorities. But you could always surf the net — writing blogs effuse inspiration in November. Come up with a different challenge for yourself: write (at least a little) every daycomplete a short story or a collection of some kind; give yourself a challenge, try new genres and styles. Whatever you’d like.

Be a part of the fervor.

Friday Reflections: News

Before you leave, here’s a prompt (based on my first poem of the month) to get you going in case you haven’t written your first November challenge page/post/poem:

news.

You could write about what you heard on the the 6 o’clock news, you could write about sports news, the news paper; maybe someone in your family told you some good/bad news today. Maybe your best friend’s adoption request got approved. Maybe your cousin landed his dream job. Maybe your daughter made the basketball team. Maybe you could write about how or why you would be in a news headline – maybe in a supplementary paper, maybe for an interview. You could write about a journalist or columnist.

You could write about a character who collects snippets of news. That could transform into fiction — maybe he or she collects snippets about specific incidents or crimes, maybe he or she was involved in them somehow. Or trying to solve them!

Maybe hearing about NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo or the November PAD Challenge was news to you!

Have you ever picked up the morning paper and frowned at the headlines – not because it’s devastating or depressing, but because it’s irrelevant? Sometimes newspapers print advertisements on the front page or report something relatively unimportant (perhaps about celebrities, where maybe news about the latest political or economic developments are due?). And then there’s always the debate about whether newspapers report the truth as is or sensationalize it.

My first November PAD Challenge poem considers an outsider’s perspective on a news report (such as myself) in contrast with the perspective of someone who had been involved in the very incident reported.

Go ahead, get started with your November writing. All the best to writers everywhere! And most importantly: happy writing!

Back after a break + a Writing Exercise

Hello, folks! I’ve been offline for a couple of weeks, but I’m back and I thought I’d offer something useful with this post: a writing exercise.

“Create or Die!” – What took me there:

I was rather burnt out after the April Poem-a-Day Challenge. I didn’t notice it because I shifted my focus from poetry to the novella I started writing in May.

It hit me when I was done writing the novella. I came back to my desk the next day and thought I’d write; but the novella was done. Maybe I’ll poem for a while, I thought, certainly in the mood to pen a verse or two.

Nothing came to me, not a phrase, not a word, nothing. I was sure I’d come up with at least an idea of a poem, but…naught! My mind was far too preoccupied with all of those other activities that fill up the To-Do list. The mundane, the day-to-day, the routine work…these were cluttering my thoughts, I knew so.

And whenever I feel “blocked” or am simply not able to write creatively for more than a handful of days, I become rather restless. I suppose somewhere in my mind, I have Mr. MacLeod’s message blaring like an alarm:

This time, though, I was not willing to simply wait for the dry spell to pass. I wanted to do something about it.

The answer seemed obvious and impossible at once: I’ll have to break through the Writer’s Block by…writing.

Immediately, I thought of an exercise I’d read about long ago…

The exercise in question, however, is not just a one-time thing – it’s a commitment. You have to stick with it, at least for a few weeks.

Ms. Julia Cameron’s famous Morning Pages.

The Pages

It’s relatively simple: Every morning, you have to write. Fill three pages of a notebook in longhand (it must be in long-hand), in streamofconsciousness style. It’s more or less a free-writing session.

Don’t stop for anything. Just write. Anything. Don’t even think. Even if you have nothing to write, you’re allowed to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, until you come up with something. And you have to do this every morning, without fail. Don’t skip it, even for just one day. Keep at it. It’s supposed to be a commitment, as I mentioned, not just a one-time exercise.

Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, style, content, theme. Write.

“I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was, too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.”
-Katherine Mansfield

Check out Ms. Cameron’s official website for a better idea of Morning Pages and its purpose, as well as the rest of the journey she suggests to all creatives.

What I’m attempting is actually a slightly tweaked version of this. I’m not writing in the mornings, as of now (I might do so later). I generally do it whenever I get time in the day to write without interruption. It takes me anywhere between twenty minutes to half an hour to dish out the three pages.

After I’m done with the pages, and have cleared my mind of, I’ll call it “noise”, I set about with the creative writing. I’m well into my Writing Mode by this time – the momentum keeps me going. Whether I work on a poem or a short story, I’m more focused. Less distracted by life’s other responsibilities and demands.

I’ve been at it for less than a week, but I can definitely feel the difference. Yes, it’s a mind-over-matter thing, and it helps putting it down on the page.

Making it a Habit

Forcing myself to keep at The Pages is precisely what has made it effective. You can freewrite in your journal any time. But the commitment to do it every day, and for at least so much (three pages), and in long-hand – these are the key aspects of The Pages. Whether you’re just starting to write creatively, or you’re at a “Block”, this is an exercise you can use to kick-start your writing sessions. Morning Pages can also augment your daily writing quota. Whatever floats your boat…as long as you’re writing! 🙂

That said, twenty minutes to half an hour is still a considerable chunk of time, and there are a lot of people who have schedules much too tight for it. Well, there’s a solution to everything these days! Especially on the internet 😉 Do check out this wonderful place for daily writing prompts, as well as a brilliant answer to not-having-enough-time: becoming a One-Minute Writer!

As a last note, I’ll add this: if you feel like writing more than three pages for your Morning Pages, or feel like writing for a longer than the One-Minute – go ahead! Don’t let the restrictions work against you, let them work for you.

Minimum three pages…makes you dish out a considerable chunk of writing, good, bad, or ugly. Minimum one minute…makes sure you get it done. All of this so that you may produce more, make writing a habit, express yourself, open your mind. Search the deep, dark, ugly corners. Dare to write what scares you. Create.

Writing is a difficult journey, one full of impediments, self-discovery, joy, sorrow, loneliness, restlessness, even ecstasy… Let us keep writing, give every piece our best effort, and love doing it.

I hope this helps my fellow writers in some way 🙂 Happy writing, everyone!