Category Archives: Writer’s Block

How to Stay Creative in Political Turmoil

creativity
Image Taken From: http://bit.ly/2rJ7C0x

The aftermath of the most recent US Presidential Election seems to have changed everything, especially social media. For people working in creative fields, this new environment has at the very least been upsetting, but at the worst has been a mental health crisis that makes it almost impossible to accomplish anything. As someone who follows a lot of authors on Twitter, I’ve seen this topic come up repeatedly. How can you keep writing fiction when it seems like the real-life problems and villains are so much more threatening? How can you be creative when it seems like there’s a new headline talking about the end of the world every day? Here’s my list of suggestions to keep yourself creative and productive even in the midst of so much political turmoil.

Disconnect:

Are you feeling like you just can’t handle having access to social media or the internet while working lately?  The first step you can take is investing in an internet blocking service. Over the years, several different software programs have been developed to completely restrict or partially block the internet access of your phone or computer, allowing you to get work done. One of the most popular programs is Freedom, which works on iPhone, iPad, Macs, and Windows computers. You can add websites and apps to a running list and block them for up to 8 hours at a time. Once a block is set you can continue adding distractions to it, but you can’t end the block until time runs out. With pricing starting at $2.42/ month, Freedom provides an excellent escape from the latest CNN headline or Twitter explosion for a few hours. There are also other programs such as RescueTime which doesn’t restrict your internet usage, but sends you a printout at the end of the day stating exactly how much time you’ve spent on each website you’ve visited. If you think you can handle having internet access while you work and only need a little bit of time management shaming to keep you in check, RescueTime might be right for you.

Get Inspiration:

Make sure you have an idea or a work in progress that is interesting enough to keep that inspiration ball rolling no matter how insane the headlines. Even if you are struggling to find your next big idea, answering small writing prompts can really get your brain flowing. Books like 642 Things to Write About, or its sequel, 712 More Things to Write About, both from the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, are filled with short prompts. Even answering a small question about yourself or allowing your brain to wander down the path of “What If?” can be the start of an entire new project!

Another key to getting inspiration is keeping something to write with on you at all times. Whether it’s saving little snippets on your phone or carrying pen and paper around, you never know when inspiration might strike! There’s nothing worse than feeling that adrenaline rush of a new idea, only to have it slip away before you can jot down some notes. It’s important to be ready for inspiration to come at any time.

Self-Care:

Self-care is all the more vital during uncertain times. Taking a break can be necessary to recharge and get your creative juices flowing again. But what exactly counts as self-care? Anything that makes you feel relaxed and recharged! Maybe it’s putting on headphones and going for a walk. Maybe it’s putting your face in a pillow and screaming out your frustrations. Maybe it’s hitting the gym, going for a run, or curling up with your favorite book and a cup of tea. Do something that lets you escape and brings your focus and energy back to center.

Often, we get so wrapped up in our daily tasks that we forget that it’s okay to take a break. The toxic policies being developed in the U.S. Government right now are hard to deal with and so is all of the violence occurring around the globe. No matter how involved you are in the social movements, or how directly affected you are by current political issues, everyone is entitled to a self-care or mental-health break. Once you take a step back and recharge you will be able to launch back into writing, activism, or any other responsibilities with renewed vigor and see better results.

Remember Why You Create:

Writers are vital to our society. We document history, scientific achievements, and the latest news. We create fantastical worlds and tell the stories of ourselves and others. In times like these, it can be easy to feel that creativity and writing pale in comparison to so many other things. In these low moments, remind yourself why you create and why you write. Readers, especially teenagers and young adults, rely on writers to help them understand the world around them. When asked by the LA Times in an interview about writing for young readers after the election, Meredith Russo, author of If I Was Your Girl, said, “They still need me. They still need us. So as tempting as it is to hunker down and go into survival mode, we have to remember that we have a responsibility to young people to preserve their sense of stability and hope.”I write because, someday, I want to tell a story that will change someone’s life the same way so many of my favorite books have changed mine.

In a time filled with so much hatred, we need more personal stories. We need to continue working to provide a platform across all genres for writers from different backgrounds and social groups. As long as writers produce positive representations of minority groups, there will be people reading them and learning to understand. So, despite how difficult these past few months have been and how difficult the next several are going to continue to be, keep writing. Stay informed on what is happening around us, but don’t let it keep you from being creative. It really could make all the difference in the world.

-Megan, Intern

 

Sources Consulted:

Authors on the 2016 Presidential Election

13 YA Authors on Writing in the Age of Trump

Postelection, Overwhelmed Facebook Users Unfriend, Cut Back

6 Apps that Block Online Distractions So You Can Get Work Done

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Filed under Megan Raible, politics, Writer's Block, writing

The Need to Write

Reading Sandor’s post reminded me of people’s responses when I tell them that I’m a writing major; granted, I’m from Emerson, which is a smaller, more concentrated school (Math? Science? What are those?), but I still find that I’m always quick to defend my major, particularly when speaking to people outside my school. Well maybe “defend” is the wrong word, since I usually follow up my admission by saying “Yep, writing. Lucrative, I know. I fully expect to be living above my older sister’s garage for most of my life, or at least ’til she passes away and I can move into the main house.”

However, perhaps I shouldn’t be so self-conscious and deprecating of my chosen path, especially when it maybe wasn’t much of a choice. Just as my sister was always destined to become a nurse (which she’s incredible at), I think I was always going to be a writer. It could have come from growing up across from a library, visiting there every day, and eventually working there for two years in high school. It could have come from my mother reading aloud to my sister and I nearly every day when we were children. I definitely had the childhood for a writer, but then again, so did my sister. There was something different, then, that drove me to pick up a pen throughout my life every time I was upset or ecstatic or bored, and eventually drove me to major in writing.

A lot of my writing teachers talk about feeling the need to write, the burning for it; how they write because they must to survive. And I get worried because I’m not always sure I feel that. I get paranoid that maybe I’m just writing because my mom’s always told I’m good at it. Maybe I was really meant to be a dancer, or a marine biologist, like I wanted when I was 9. Or a unicorn, like I wanted when I was 5.

However, I don’t always feel most of my primal urges. I don’t always want to eat, or sleep- okay, maybe those are bad examples for a college student. But as many times as I feel my well of creativity as dried up, there have also been times where the only way I was going to stop typing was if my fingers fell off, because I just had too much to say. Inspiration may wax and wane, but I believe the heart of a writer is always true, whether or not they know it, and whether or not a difficult industry may discourage them.

Just as Sandor said, we write to communicate and to communicate well, and we also write because we have to share our common human experiences. That’s why, when one of my sister’s dearest patients passed away, she was compelled to write an essay about it. For my sister and I, as well as millions of others, there is a therapy in writing that can be found in few other places. I hope you keep this in mind when you write creatively; that while it’s good to stay mindful of your audience, you’re also writing for you. Let what other people think influence your third or fourth draft, but let that first one be yours. After all, that’s what editors are for!

From Cambridge Editors,

Katie (the one the right)

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Filed under Audience, Editing Your Own Work, Katie Walsh, Uncategorized, Writer's Block

Why We Write

Whenever I meet someone new there is always the inevitable conversation topic of where I go to school and what I am studying.  “Oh you go to BU,” they’ll say, “what’s your major?”  I respond, “English and Philosophy.”  This always seems baffle people, they look at me as if to say, “why do you want to study that? In this job market?”  As if there was a preconceived understanding that there are only a few “real” majors.  I’ve noticed that my science, business, and engineering friends don’t get this reaction whenever they tell someone what they’re are studying, leaving the humanities majors to shift uncomfortably in undeserved embarrassment.

Well I’m here to right a wrong, and make clear an issue that a lot of people tend to take for granted.  When it comes to the many skills that people can choose to hone in order to make themselves a desirable candidate for almost any professional career, writing is by far the most useful.  And this isn’t my own humble opinion either, when you compare the number of science students being accepted to top medical schools to the number of english and philosophy students being accepted to top medical schools, the results may surprise you.  English majors beat out the science majors every year.  Why is this the case?  The answer good reader, is writing.

Writing is crucial to our everyday lives and professions.  In any endeavor you might undertake:  a term paper, a dissertation, a novel, or even a project proposal, writing takes precedence as the key medium through which we communicate our ideas.  True, being a well spoken individual is impressive, but writing is by far a more demanding form of expression than verbal communication.  You probably have experienced this first hand, what seems like an incredible idea will pop into your head and you will try to convey it verbally.  Now try and write down that idea and try to be as clear and concise as possible.  You’ve probably found that once you sit down at your desk, or wherever you do most of your work, your idea, which was once so clear and well thought out, is suddenly muddied with vague assertions and half baked phrases that you thought would sound great on the page. Still don’t believe me? Well how about another example.

Tape record a conversation you have with one of your friends, or even better, Turn on CNN or FOX, or MSNBC.  Write down word for word what the newscasters or you and your friend say. The result will be an incoherent babble of ambiguous buzzwords that carry little to no meaning.

The truth is unavoidable. Writing simply demands a higher level of cognitive thinking to produce clear and concise ideas, that no other form of expression requires.  Because of this undeniable truth, everyone, and I mean everyone, should know how to write.  Not just for professional purposes, but so that we can better understand each other as human beings.  Who are we? What do we believe? What do we want?  It’s crucial that the answers to these fundamental question are clear to everyone, which means that when it comes to intelligent and humane discourse good writing is the cement holding the building together.

Stay active, writers.

CambridgeEditors

Sandor Mark

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Filed under New Team Members, Sandor Mark, Uncategorized, Writer's Block

Writer’s Block Attacks Again!

Katie’s post got me thinking about what I do to counter writer’s block, both as a poet, and as one with a general interest in writing.

Often my writer’s block comes out of an impatience; a desire to express an excess of ideas and emotions urgently! The ideas are without definition. They are disorganized, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear starting point for the project, let alone a readable path for it to follow. Often, designing a project with rules can help to get ideas flowing because you can focus on the rules of the game, rather than the overwhelming sense of not knowing where to begin. You begin with the rules!

Here are two projects that often help me to shake loose these thoughts from the unreachable tangle, and to begin to organize them:

  1. Write a letter. Ideas seem to flow more easily when the writing takes the voice of a speaker in conversation. The letter can be addressed to a real person, but it doesn’t have to be. You can write it to one of your characters if you are creating a fictional world. You can write it to your sister. You can write it to an inspiring figure; one who you would love to share your ideas with, if you had the chance. Whomever you address your letter to, I think you will find that writing about your project, or about the themes that your project is focused on, will help you focus. The most salient ideas will condense in your mind as you write your letter. You’ll be able to understand your thoughts more fully; to write about them more accurately, and with more assurance. Sometimes it is just easier to express your ideas to a person, imagined or real, rather then to the potentially massive hypothetical and judgmental audience that your finished work will eventually be read by. The letter is really a workshop, or discussion with yourself, on the topic which you wish to write about.
  2. Blackout Poetry. This project works especially well in writing poetry, but it could potentially be applied to other forms of writing as well. In this exercise, you find a newspaper or magazine article, maybe even a page from an old book that you don’t mind writing in. First I read through the text, marking words that I find interesting or pertinent to my theme on a scrap piece of paper. (The association can be loose! The idea is to make connections between your idea and the words on the page!) Then you slowly work through the text, blacking out words with a pen or marker, and leaving some visible, until you are left with a (sometimes rather abstract) piece of writing composed out of the writing of the original found text. This method of extracting my idea out of found text often helps me to solidify my thoughts on the subject, and opens me up to expressing my own idea in ways (and words!) that I never would have thought to otherwise.

 

Below I have attached a sample of a Blackout Poem that helped me compose a series of poems about the sun, and the fractal qualities that permeate nature, and sometimes, our relationships.

Poem that emerges:

I painted a dusty spiral.

Spiral.
The way seeds are distributed
within the head of a sun:

nautilus temples
to order their pictorial spaces,
satisfying in this shape.

*

Slowly in his chair
he notes natives deserting
their myths.

With his own strange demons
loss occurs daily.

I don’t think I felt this relation more acutely.
I just kept the feeling
on warm rocks.

*

There was a meteor
that certain philosophers thought
but couldn’t feel.

I sympathized with
all of nature,

so attracted to
the Nile:
universal glue-
parallel in every man.
The basic particle
groping after

invisible familiarity
first leans forward
toward a back, covered,
abstract.

*

He needs
character of the plant.
Drawing on my own
ample
stalk
of rhythm
he introduced me,
he forced me
at its texture.

He turns,
folds his hands in his lap.

From CambridgeEditors,

Alex

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Conquering the Writer’s Block

When you’re a writer, there are few worse feelings than the dreaded writer’s block. It’s that friend that loves to drop by unannounced and far too often, just to whisper in your ear: “What do you mean you’re trying to write? You’ve got nothing left to say. Let’s watch 30 Rock.”

Now, I’ve heard some people say that they don’t believe in writer’s block. These people are somehow blessed with the self-discipline to sit down in front of their computer or notebook at a certain time every day (probably before noon, too), and stand up a few hours later having produced a considerable amount of decent, solid material. I imagine that these people also actually floss after every meal and remember to change their Brita filters however often people are supposed to do that.

However, I do believe in writer’s block, and not just because there’s a Wikipedia page on it. No, fellow writers and readers, I’ve been there. Whether it’s an essay due in 4 hours or a certain story that just won’t come out, I’ve definitely had those moments where I start to wonder if repeatedly hitting my head on the keyboard might be more productive.

Whenever I get that feeling while trying to begin some creative writing, I usually turn to the internet for some inspiring, (and most importantly) free prompts, and I thought I would share some of what I’ve found. Kathy Steffen over at The How To Write Shop wrote an article a couple of months ago about getting over that “getting started” hurdle, and here are some of the prompts she came up with, for either fiction or nonfiction:

  1. Write about waiting for a baby to come
  2. Write about a birth
  3. Write about being a child at the turn of the century. Next, a child in 1920. 1930? 1940? 1950? 1960? You get the idea…
  4. Write about going to school for the first time
  5. Write about a teen-age fan and the icon they adore (person, character, movie, etc.)
  6. Write about a dance in a gym
  7. Write about a first date
  8. Write about a first kiss
  9. Write about a party
  10. Write about a graduation (high school, college, beauty school, driving school, etc.)
  11. Write about a wedding
  12. Write about a marriage
  13. Write about a breakup
  14. Write about a divorce
  15. Write about a family reunion
  16. Write about waiting for death
  17. Write about fighting death
  18. Write about a death
  19. Write about the morning of a funeral
  20. Write about a family ritual

The life events listed above tend to be changing points in a person’s life, moments full of drama and urgency, and as such writing about them can imbue your prose with the same qualities. Write about yourself or a character of yours, and don’t get tangled up in concerns about whether it’s the beginning of something larger or if it’s going where you want it to; just keep writing! Because when you’re a rich and famous author, you can always pay someone to buy your Brita filters for you.

From Cambridge Editors,

Katie

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January 25, 2012 · 7:56 pm

January Inspiration

Hello fellow writers,

I’m one of Cambridge Editors’ new interns, Katie! I’m an undergraduate writing major at Emerson College with a focus in non-fiction, and I’m looking forward to/dreading graduation in May of this year. I’m also a bit of a social media enthusiast (which is the fancy term for someone who specializes in whiling away hours online), so you might be seeing me posting here from time to time.

Anyway, today I thought I’d let you know about our current January special we have for all those creative types out there: a 10% discount for professional assistance with your memoir, novel, short-fiction, or any other creative writing! So if you’ve made New Year’s resolution to finally start that book of poetry, now might be the time; it’ll probably be easier than keeping that “healthy eating” promise we all make to ourselves every year. Just email us at harte@cambridgeeditors.com, describe your project, and mention the special for your 10% off!

For some inspiration, here’s the always-entertaining Stephen Fry with his thoughts and feelings on language:

So, as Oscar Wilde said, leave us to “tidy up the woulds and shoulds, wills and shalls, thats and whiches, etc.,” so you can get back to enjoying the language!

From Cambridge Editors,

Katie

 

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Filed under Katie Walsh, New Team Members, Specials, Writer's Block

Writer’s Block

Vibrant shades of amber grace the leaves on the trees outside my window. The picturesque view could tantalize anyone into a daydream.

Daydreaming can be counterproductive at times, but can also foster creativity. When I feel a bout of writer’s block rearing its ugly head, I’ve found that letting my mind relax into a daydream is a great jolt out of it. You’d be surprised at what your subconscious mind can come up with.

 

Richard Rhodes was a visiting author during my M.F.A. summer residency in 2007. He proclaimed that the only cure for writer’s block was to, “Place your ass in the chair.” More often than not, that works.

 

How about you? What do you do to cure your writer’s block?

 

 

Ashley Troutman

Managing Editor

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