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norwegian-escape_i2894798.jpgYou know you’re in trouble when you are gearing up for your busiest selling time of the year and dreading it.

My fall and Christmas season are packed with events, mostly festivals, where I do a lot of my sales during the second half of the year. I was filling out applications and checks this morning and looking at my calendar with just about every Saturday and most Sundays filled up from September through Christmas. Rather than looking forward to the opportunity to get out and meet readers, refine my selling techniques, and make a living, I had a sense of dread.

That’s a warning sign to me that I’m starting to burn out. I need a break. It’s been a stressful summer because of things other than writing, but apparently, it’s taking a toll on my work life.

Luckily, we have a family cruise planned to the Caribbean. I love cruises and wish I could do more. I can see that I need this break, which is coming up next week. Of course, to get to that much-needed break, I have to pretty much double up on my workload this week.

That, combined with the burnout I’m already feeling, means I may not want to come back from the vacation.

Writers need vacations like everyone else. It gives us a chance to step away from work and deadlines and allow the creative subconscious to percolate with new ideas. If we’re lucky our choice of vacation will throw some new ingredients into the mix that our subconscious can work with. Years ago, when I returned from a vacation in the Netherlands, I wrote a creepy story set in a windmill that I still enjoy today.

So, the countdown to relaxation has begun, and if you don’t hear from me in two weeks, don’t come looking for me. It means that I’ve decided to live in the islands!

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writersblockI realized today that I’ve got writer’s block although I’m still writing around 6,000 words a week. I’m writing articles, blog posts, newspaper columns, and presentations. What I’m not writing is my next book project.

So can that be considered writer’s block? After all, I’m still writing. I’m just not working on the projects that I want to be writing. Even when I free my schedule up so that I’ll have time to write a few pages of my new book, I still wind up doing something else.

At first, I thought it might mean that the new book just isn’t working. I’ve been dabbling with three potential book projects, though, and I’m doing very little work on any of them.

Has anyone had this happen to them? I didn’t even realize it at first. Since I was writing, I thought everything was going fine. Writers write and I was writing. It was only when I started trying to focus on writing my book that I realized I had other things I could be writing.

Now that I’ve recognized the problem, I’m going to redouble my efforts to get some of my book writing done. Hopefully, I can break through the problem.

Some other post about writer’s block:

Sometimes my goals exceed my endurance. I expect it to happen when I’m working out. My goal is to bench press 300 pounds, but I can only manage 280 or I want to bike 28 miles in 90 minutes, but I can only manage 20 miles.

cycling

The same sort of thing happens when I’m writing, but it sort of sneaks up on me. I set daily and weekly goals. Sometimes I hit them. Sometimes I don’t. I can handle that.

However, sometimes I have the time to achieve one of my goals but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Some people call it burnout and other call it writer’s block.

I see them as two different things. They both show themselves in the same way. I just can’t get anything written. The difference is how I recover from them.

When I first hit a point where I can’t write, I assume it is mild burnout. My treatment for that is simple. I take a day off of writing and rest from it. I even have a rest day scheduled into my weekly plan. I don’t write on Sundays. I take a break and usually come back strong on Monday. I use the same theory with my biking. I bike hard on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I do some other type of exercise that allows my legs to recover.

Elsa-resting-born-free-680946_586_400

If a day’s rest doesn’t allow to start writing again, then I assume that I’m suffering from writer’s block. Beating writer’s block is more than simply needing a rest. It’s your subconscious trying to tell you something. The cure can be a variety of things or a combination of things.

The best way to avoid writer’s block is not to run into it at all. Here’s are some tips to do that:

  1. Write every day. If you are keeping your writing creativity primed, then it’s easy to keep things moving. Newton’s Third Law of Motion: An object in motion tends to remain in motion. An object at rest tends to remain at rest.
  2. I like to keep multiple projects going. If I get stuck on one article, I’ll jump to another and come back to the original project at another time.
  3. I had an editor give me useful advice. Don’t try and get it perfect. Just write through it. You can always come back and edit it.
  4. Jump to another place in the book and article and work on it. If the problem is the story itself, either the change will give you a fresh perspective or you’ll realize you need to play with the story.
  5. When all else fails, I’ve found that nothing beats having a deadline that I need to meet.

Your goal is to do what is needed to get your writing project moving again.

overcome-writers-blockIt’s always nice when you can start out writing a story from your outline and the words flow quickly onto the page. Too bad that doesn’t often (if at all) happen. However, I can usually tweak things as I go along and then smooth out the rough edges of a book in later drafts.

That hasn’t been the case with the latest historical novel I’m working on. It’s the third book in a series and it looks like it will vex me as much as the first book did. So I’ve taken a lesson that I learned in writing the first book to help me with this one.

When I was writing Canawlers 13 years ago, things went pretty well until about the middle of the book. I was still following the outline I had prepared, but the story just didn’t seem right. It held together logically, but things stopped feeling natural about the way the characters were acting. So I sat down with the outline and partial draft and storyboarded the novel. I wrote down each event on postcards and laid them out on my floor.  Then I started shuffling some of the events around, rewriting others, tossing a few. In essence, I was creating a new outline.

I had a better feeling about this revision, but it was still missing something. I finally wound up killing off a main character who had lived through the original outline. It was a hard choice, but his death opened up some other opportunities for other characters.

Completing the first draft based on the new outline turned out to be fairly easy. However, if I had continued writing the draft based on the first outline, I would have had to throw most of it away. The changes I made to the outline were so significant, that they affected not only how the story went forward, but everything I had written to that point.

I’m a big believer in writing your way through writer’s block and then fixing later. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, though. You have to be willing to go back to the drawing board and look at your outline with a little more experience. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find the changes I need to make with this new book so that it starts moving forward rather than wallowing around looking for direction.

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