Seize the Writing Day

I see Lindsay Lohan only did 14 days in prison, instead of the 90 she was supposed to. It's probably 14 days more than I could do. Horrible.

But maybe it'll be good for her career. Not to be too flippant but it does seem to be that way with celebrities nowadays.

Look at Robert Downey Jr. Started off in movies, forced to do TV for a while. Then a stretch in prison. Then back into movies - and now a bigger star that he ever was.

Bestselling storyteller (in all senses of the word) Jeffrey Archer did three years for treason and is now the favorite for London mayor.

Tut, the world we live in.

You couldn't make this stuff up in a novel and expect anyone to believe it!

Many people write to me about writer's block.

They hate it when the urge to write drops off in the middle of a novel or a non-fiction book or a screenplay, even during a short story.

They worry about what that means. Are they really a writer? Has the Muse deserted them? Or is it symptomatic of some more serious psychological issue?

Some writers worry about stopping even before it happens to them.

A recipe for disaster if ever there was one.

Whatever the problem, my feeling is that if you get stuck, you need to go back and examine the reasons why you started in the first place.

That place was most likely the strongest position you ever occupied in relation to your writing.

Why did you start to write?

To make order from chaos? To right wrongs? For catharsis? Or simply to enjoy the creative process?

Personally, I've written for as long as I've been able. I wrote little pamphlets about hating my sister and stealing candy from the local shop at least a couple of years before I learned to read properly.

I kept a yearly diary up until I was eighteen.

I think I started to write stories because I didn't much like the world. It seemed endless and pointless and I really needed some certainty and symmetry that made sense - and the only place I could get that was from fiction.

Reading helps with that too.

When reading you're aware that lots of other authors want that sense of control over a world - even if it's only imaginary. Especially if it's imaginary.

I've got into a rhythm recently, one I'm very happy with.

I write fiction in the mornings, up until lunch. Good days I write 1500 words - good unhurried words that I like. Bad days I'll eke out 500, just to feel I did something.

I don't worry about blocks so much as getting distracted into other projects. There's always the temptation to do something less 'Art' oriented. But I try to focus on the fiction because that's what I know gives me the most satisfaction - in the long term.

I'm only really happy when I'm writing - or thinking about writing, which is what I tell myself I'm doing when I watch movies or TV.

I'm seeing how others do it. How other artists put stories together.

I'm learning from other craftsmen and women.

Do you have excuses like this?

I guess we all do. We can't write all the time - to the exclusion of everything else - although some writers have tried - and others do.

I guess it's about balance.

You can't force the Muse. She's too elusive for that. Try to confront her and she dissolves. Call on the Muse and she's busy. You have to let her creep up on you and peek over your shoulder when you're writing. Then don't acknowledge her, just let her hover nearby, nodding unseen approval.

I think the trick is not to beat yourself up.

Write every day if you can. Stay on top of your self imposed goals.

A block isn't so bad as the effect you might let it have on you.

If you start to hate yourself, then immediately write something - even if it's just a shopping list or a set of new goals.

Your brain likes repetition - but most of all it likes the reinforcement of values already held.

So if you remember why you started writing, all those neurons and synaptic gaps will fire up again - and help get you back on your path.

If all else fails, take one of my courses. People are always telling me how inspiring they are!

Keep writing!

(c)Rob Parnell