Madame Heap on Writer's Block

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I went to Syracuse this past weekend to spend a day talking to their local chapter and had a fabulous time. For one thing, Richie drove me so we had a mini-road trip. We'd been longing for one but can't really afford to do it, so we had a great time. The hotel was nice, the bed was fabulous, and the company there terrific. Plus the weather on the drive home was exquisite.

Oddly enough (or maybe not oddly) I find I'm able to talk for 6 hours straight with no trouble at all. Plus more than an hour and a half the night before. I never thought I was such a yakker. I don't need to be in the limelight, though I don't mind if I am. I'm also happy to sit back and let others talk. Which is pretty useful.

Anyway, we talked about everything to do with writing. After 37 years as a published novelist I pretty much know it all and have seen it all -- I think of myself as the All Knowing Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock. Madame Heap to you. AKA Sister Yoda.

Anyway, one topic that really hit home was writer's block. I think a number of you out there are writers, or would like to be, but something stops you, either in the beginning or after a certain point. So here are Madame Heap's sure-fire cures for writer's block.

1. Set your alarm and your coffee for some ungodly hour like 5 am, get up, grab the coffee and go straight to the computer. Believe me, if you're fool enough to get up so early you're not going to want to waste that time doing anything but writing.

2. Write long hand for a while. Get a nice pad of paper and a pen with a color ink you adore. I like Clairefontaine paper, graphed, with a fountain pen and purple or aqua ink, but don't decide you must have that and order it through the mail and wait two weeks for it to arrive. Then you can either type it out or use Dragon Dictate, which is great but doesn't like the word "fuck" which I tend to use a bit too liberally in my writing. It always puts "frack" which even word-check doesn't recognize.

3. Change where you write. If you have a home office try your living room or your bedroom. Go to the library or a Starbucks or a Barnes and Noble. But stay off the internet.

4. Use a program like Vitamin-R, or a timer, or there's a free online program and I've forgotten the same. Oh, it's www.writerordie.com. I'm gonna need to check it out. It has all sorts of productivity tools and tricks (I learned about it from someone in Syracuse -- these talks go both ways). With them, you set a time for writing, like 20 minutes or half an hour, then take a timed break (I do 10 minutes) and then back to work. It's helpful for me because that way I can always wait till the end of my work span if I want to check email or have a burning need to see what's on sale at Amazon or work on a jigsaw puzzle (computer ones).

5. Find a writing partner and go write with him/her. The two of you can keep each other on task. I do that with my BFF Sally and I've done it with Lani Diane Rich.

Those are ideas if you have a specific project/story in mind. Next week I'm going to give you some writing exercises that can get you going.