Trying to Clear the Log Jam

Old book bindings at the Merton College library.
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Well, over the last few days, I’ve done some serious blogging, but no fiction work.

I can’t tell if I’m depressed over my job situation and prospects, or if I’m just … in a dry spell.  Whatever the case, it’s annoying as all get out.

I’ve tried reading.  Over the last few weeks I’ve read more than I read all of last year combined.  I’ve been thinking about reading some of my craft books to see if those break something loose.  They helped — briefly — when I originally read them.  Well, some of them helped.  One of the best books I own on the craft is Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.  It covers a lot of things, and gives an overview of another book he wrote on plotting.  He gives some great tips and examples, and even a couple of terrific exercises.  Good stuff.

So maybe that would help.  Problem is, I don’t feel motivated to read it.

Ultimately, that’s the problem, I think.  Motivation.  Not having any ideas doesn’t help either, but lacking motivation is a major issue.

Another issue I have is guilt.  I feel guilty about writing when I’m out of work.  I don’t give myself permission to do it.  I feel guilty about not working on my current novel, my semi-finished manuscript, or something I’ve promised someone else.  I have a literary fiction piece I could plow into again, but I can’t get excited about that project either.  I can’t get around the guilt of feeling I should be doing something else when I want to write.  Search the job boards, help clean the house, play with the kids … anything.  But writing?  Can’t seem to get that one in the schedule.

Late at night I read, but that’s not helping as much as I thought.  I’ve pounded down a couple of novels in a couple of weeks, put one down because it stank, and now have started another.  So I’m pretty busy as a reader.

None of that is helping me write, though.  Even though it should.  Meanwhile I have yet another idea for a novel languishing on a legal pad on my desk.  And I’ve got about ten others I could tweak and torque if I didn’t like any of the other things I have simmering too.

So maybe ideas aren’t the problem.  If not, it’s motivation.  And guilt.

Those are pretty tough obstacles.  Do any of you out there struggle with getting yourself by an obstacle to something you love doing?  What tricks and/or techniques do you have for getting around the blockade?  Writers, what do you do to get over those blocks that I haven’t tried yet?

Sound off, y’all!


    8 thoughts on “Trying to Clear the Log Jam

    1. Put yourself in a strange situation. Create a story about you then take what you’ve learned and adapt it into a piece of prose or something.

      How about, just an example of something to do, you put on your worst, ragged clothes, cover yourself in muck and panhandle for a day. See what it’s like. Sort of a mini Black Like Me but homeless instead of black. See what it’s like. Or drag. One afternoon in the shoes of somebody else. The experience might push your muse towards a topic of writing you haven’t tried before.

      These are interesting ideas, thank you very much. I’m almost homeless now, so if I don’t get a job pretty soon I might be trying that second suggestion whether I want to or not.

    2. What you describe is exactly like what I feel about writing: that I must do anything EXCEPT write, that writing is taking away time from my “real” duties, mostly to do with DH, I feel he resents my writing time, and that may or may not be true. I took the advice of carving out the time every day to write. All I did was then pile on the guilt of not writing when I had the opportunity. Anytime I’d plan to write, I’d drift into other tasks without even realizing it. I see now I should have just given myself permission–real permission, not lip service–to stop for a while. I think the trigger for my block was the pressure of having an agent, believe it or not. Self-imposed pressure, but pressure, all the same.

      Hope you found something in that rambling paragraph that helps. 🙂

      I always do, thanks sweetie. I think the biggest problem isn’t “giving myself permission” — it’s ACCEPTING the permission I give myself, if that makes any sense. Even if I figure out how to do the former, the latter is even more rare and elusive. It’s like hunting Bigfoot.

    3. I usually take it as a sign that I need a break and take a vacation. Just because writers can “work” from anywhere, and basically all the time, doesn’t mean we don’t need time off.

      I was reading an article by Lois Duncan recently where she wrote that she found she couldn’t write during times of her life that were emotionally overloaded. I realize that is true for me as well. I can blog for the most part, but when I am grappling with stuff or am just in a heady emotional period – I can’t write.

      Perhaps you could approach this differently. Instead of looking at it as writing until you find the next job, consider that you are a writer and it is your job now to write.

      I think that second paragraph pretty well sums everything up. I’m so stressed about finding work I can’t make myself do anything creatively. I’m not sure the “writing is your job” thing will fly — although it would certainly be a dream if I can get there mentally — just because this job has no paycheck. Which is all I need from a job right now anyway. But it’s not a bad idea. It won’t hurt to try.

    4. Knyt
      Ok I am going to help you since you know I HAVE LOTS OF TIME ON MY HANDS i am going to help you out this one time ask yourself these 3 questions and be honest about it

      1. What would I be doing right now if I could NOT Work ?? (Physically Not Work)
      2. If this was 10 Yrs from now and I had to be doing something at this very moment in time What would it be???
      3. What is the ONE THING in this world that drives me and makes me better all around (Man, Husband, Dad)??

      I absolutely promise the answer to your current situation is in their…much luck with great thanks for being there for me…Zman sends

      Thank you Steve. I really needed to hear those things and I need to sit down and answer those things for myself, before my God, with my hat in my hand. I’m going to be sure and do that very, very soon. Like, later this afternoon when I get back from the errand-running. Thank you again, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to be there with you in your journey. You’re still in my prayers, bud. 🙂

    5. I agree with the above. I think it is also important to observe your surroundings…there is usually something to write about…

      True enough. A lot of pretty funny stuff is out there and a lot of fodder.

    6. “Accepting permission” makes perfect sense. That’s what I was trying to get across in my “lip service” comment. You have to accept it or it does no good, that’s the problem, huh?

      I THINK so. I’m not 100% on that, though. I’m still analyzing/assessing, but I don’t want to take a LOT longer doing that, y’know?

      And Zman has some good questions, but again, accepting the true and honest answers may be a problem. At least, it has been for me at times. Hope you can get there.

      Me too. I don’t know if those questions can guide me out of the quagmire here of unemployment, but they’re going to be VERY interesting answers. And not something I can spend just one afternoon looking at, I’ve discovered. But thanks for being so encouraging, hon. 🙂

    7. I’ve been where you are, and often. I have let periods of my life pass by without doing any writing.

      But nowadays, I just tell myself, I WILL write for 10 minutes a day…even if it is free-write, even if it is crap.

      What’s blocking you, as it blocks most writers, even the successful ones, are the words that need to come out before any of the “real stuff that matters” does.

      Believe me, even people with loads of time to write, with all the money in the world, in the best circumstances to write, have such blocks. All the time.

      So just pick up a notebook and write for 5 minutes, let whatever come out. Then do it again tomorrow. And the day after. And slowly increase the time.

      The only way to get writing is to pick up a pen or computer and just do that. Write.

      Annie is spot on: “consider that you are a writer and it is your job now to write.”

      When I need a push, I read a poem, which I share with you here in the hope that it might set off a spark somewhere:

      ***Air and light and time and space***

      “–you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,

      something has always been in the


      but now

      I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this

      place, a large studio, you should see the space and

      the light.

      for the first time in my life I’m going to have

      a place and the time to


      no baby, if you’re going to create

      you’re going to create whether you work

      16 hours a day in a coal mine


      you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children

      while you’re on


      you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown


      you’re going to create blind



      you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your

      back while

      the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,

      flood and fire.

      baby, air and light and time and space

      have nothing to do with it

      and don’t create anything

      except maybe a longer life to find

      new excuses


      © Charles Bukowski, Black Sparrow Press

      Powerful words, Damyanti. Thank you. Thank you so much.

    8. Aww, good luck with that. Just don’t push yourself to write, you just need a motivation. Maybe when you get that job it will motivate you to write again. Maybe take a vacation somewhere and hope to find something that would motivate you.

      Whenever I’m faced with obstacles, I try to get around with it by being with my friends and delve into Escape Literature. But for the most part, hanging out with friends and sleeping is the way I get around to it LOL. Something that would fill me with ideas.

      By the way, I love the new header! Makes me want to change my layout LOL

      Thank you very much! And I had to make the header in Photoshop, just so you know. 🙂

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