Struggling to (Re)Start

Another week, and another goal not met. Ugh. Once again, I wrote one night this week, then… nothing.

I’m not sure what the deal is with my writing (or rather, lack thereof). Maybe it’s because this was a bad week for migraines due to the change in weather. Maybe there is lingering house stuff crowding my brain (okay, there definitely is). Or maybe it’s a stupid fear I identified last year when I took Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark workshop last year–the Fear of Not Knowing What Happens Next. It isn’t the story. I really want to finish this one. I think about it when I’m not writing, but not enough to figure it out.

I am a recovering outliner. I’m not saying that outlining is bad if it works for you, but it had gotten so that it wasn’t working for me any longer. Outlining, or planning ahead, was pretty drilled into me, having worked as a software developer for 20 years. In that endeavor, failing to plan is definitely a plan to fail. And outlining served me well for the first few books I wrote.

But with the last couple, I noticed that I’d spend a lot of time planning, and no matter how much effort I put into it or how good a plan I thought I had, the book would always veer off into a different direction. And the new direction was always better than the outlined one, by far. ALWAYS. So why spend the time outlining (which is also boring) when it doesn’t help me anyway? That’s why I’m trying to get out of it. But I’ve been stuck lately. Maybe it’s because I’m just not putting the time in? I don’t know.

That’s what I’m trying to find out–if I just open the file, sit at the computer regularly, will this work itself out? The trouble is getting myself to that point. The nonfiction book I’m reading this week has given me a couple of good ideas to try, but I’m not done with it yet so I’ll discuss it after I finish.

What I’ve Been Reading: I did finish a couple more books last week, so I’m still reading. In fiction, I finished Watcher’s Web by Patty Jansen. Jansen has done it again and totally pulled me into this character’s life and world. Like her other series, it took a little while before I really clicked with the character, but the world and actions were interesting enough to get me through that initial bit, then once I was through that, I knew I’d read this whole series. Watcher’s Web is Book One of the Return of the Arghyrians series, a science fiction tale centering on Jessica, a 17-year old Australian with an odd power she calls “the web” with which she can telepathically influence animals, and sometimes people. When she’s in a plane wreck and finds herself in an otherworldly forest, she discovers a whole new world–and learns she’s not even human, but an alien race thought to be extinct. Now everyone wants her–and her powers. Though science fiction, this has a strong fantasy feel to it which is a combination I love, so I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Highly recommended if this is your thing, too!

In non-fiction, I read The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. This is somewhat of a classic now, but I will admit I went into it with skepticism, and after finishing the book, I remain skeptical. I’m not saying that his process can’t be replicated–plenty of people have done it–but it’s not for me, and I suspect, for a lot of people. It involves either quitting one’s job to start a business, or else getting a remote work arrangement in your job, so that you can spend your time doing things you want like traveling the world. Ironically, I’ve done the remote work part, but I’m more of a roots person, and am not into the extensive outsourcing that Ferris advocates to reduce the need for actively participating in one’s business. I also don’t see how that works when one is an employee, though he claims it can (not even touching on all the fields that don’t lend themselves to remote work). Once he got to the outsourcing part, I started to find it distasteful–possibly because I wouldn’t appreciate having my job outsourced, and definitely because I see this system as something done by the Kindle scammers–put out a product solely for the money, with little regard for its quality. Another big negative of the book was that the book has been updated since its original publication, but a lot of it was links to services and content that is no longer available.  Though his system is not for me, it was still an interesting read.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, not much. My goal for this week is to try a couple things in the nonfiction book I’m currently reading about habits, and also to check out Dean Wesley Smith’s video lecture series on Starting or Restarting Your Writing.

Tennessee Update: No new pictures, but they are planning to pour the basement floor this week. Hope to have some updates next week! One thing I really need to do–and am having as hard a time getting into as writing–is to declutter my house. I went through a big purge a couple years ago, but there are still a TON of things I don’t want to move. So decluttering a little bit each day is a habit I really need to get back into.

What about you–any suggestions for me to try to get back into writing? Have you read any good books lately? What’s been going on in your life? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Better than me, I hope! I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

11 Responses to \

  1. Well… You’re writing on the blog, so you ARE writing. That’s something. I took a class on the Chunky Method of writing (Allie Pleiter) this past weekend. One of the suggestions she had for writing when you’re stuck or just don’t have big chunks of time, was getting 5×8 note cards. You can hand write about 100 words on those. Maybe you can do that while at work (like, during lunch)? I bet if you write SOMETHING, by the time you get to putting it into your document, it might help get you going. You never know!

  2. I think you have enough going on that you shouldn’t be worried about writing right now. This too shall pass, as they say. The muse will strick one day and you’ll be off and running.

    I haven’t worked on my current novel in quite some time, but the characters keep talking to me. I am not an outliner by any stretch, but I do have the last scene imprinted on my brain. I have a lot going on right now though, too, so I’m not going to beat myself about waiting on it.

  3. Stacy, that’s a good idea, might give it a try. Also the Chunky Method sounds interesting; I added her book to my TBR list. Thanks!

    Robin, I’ve never been good at writing to prompts, but your flash fiction looks interesting. I’ll keep that in mind if what I’m trying this week doesn’t work. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Chris, thanks for being so kind. Thing is, I really want to get this book written. And now that I have the House Book done, I don’t really have an excuse for not writing – I spend enough time playing computer games that I can surely find some for writing. But in the meantime I am trying not to beat up on myself, as I know that is never productive!

  4. Hi Jennette! Migraines certainly make it hard to write, I’m guessing. I’ve never had one, but just a regular headache is bad enough. I’ve been stuck with the writing moving forward at least a million times, but I’m happy to say I’m finally back at it and it feels great.

    If I sit at the computer and plan on writing at least a couple sentences, it seems to get me going. If there’s a part I’m not sure about (especially with this new book, which is time travel story) I’ll just add a blank or xxxxxxx and get back to it after sleeping on it or after the entire draft of the book is done. Then those parts seem to work themselves out. I think letting my subconscious work on it actually works. Stephen King says, “Let the boys in the basement do the work.” In our case, it’s the girls in the basement.

    I’ve never been an outliner, so I’m glad to hear that it’s a waste of time. I’ll stop feeling bad about not outlining!

    My middle daughter had a baby boy one week ago, so I now have two grandsons and four granddaughters. These little darlings are my inspiration to finish my Monster Moon adventure series books. After I finish the one I’m working on right now, I’m going to finish my edgy teen novel.

    I hope everything falls into place for you with your writing, your new house being built, and with the decluttering. That’s extremely challenging to me. I’m trying to sell collectibles and people are very flaky. There are so many flaky people out there, I can see a blizzard heading my way, but I’m taking it slow and keeping my cool. We’re not moving anytime soon, so I don’t have any deadlines. Have a great week!

  5. Jennette, you have a lot going on. I’m glad you’re not beating up on yourself too hard. As for not writing–I’d recommend that you try outlining again. Give yourself one or two writing sessions to outline what you’ve done and the next two or three scenes. Me, I’m a pantser trying to learn to outline. To me, the time you spent outlining isn’t wasted. It’s building the foundation so that you _can_ veer off into a better direction. When I didn’t outline, I “wasted” plenty of time by writing stories that just did not work. Then I’d have to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. UGH. So things are going better now that I’m outlining, but I’m still not here I want to be. You may find that some stories you have to outline and others you don’t. Maybe you just outline the 5 big scenes and pants the rest.

    Decluttering–man, I have a lifetime of that to do. Every time I think I’ve made headway there’s a setback. Or maybe it’s just that instead of decluttering I’ve just shifted stuff around. lol

    Good luck with your goals this week!

  6. Lynn, I have tried writing just a couple sentences, or even just open the file, and it has worked for me in the past. Not so much now when I can’t get myself to even open the writing program. But I tried a couple things last night and it worked, so let’s hope that continues. Good luck with the collectibles sales, and congrats on the new grandbaby!

    Lynette, I’m not against outlining, but it just isn’t working for me this time around. I think part of the problem too is that I’m coming up on the ending, which I find the hardest part to write and the outline never helps there. Sometimes I declutter by shifting stuff around too, LOL. Although part of decluttering is simply putting stuff away, so that’s not always a bad thing. Thanks!

  7. I think we’ve all been there at some point Jennette. Whether it’s cleaning out the closet, putting off the gathering of the tax stuff (which is coming up soon too – yuck), or getting back into the writing saddle. I’m like you, I’m not really writing, but I’m thinking about writing. All the time. I’m always thinking of the book I’m working on as well as new books, but I don’t really want to put the time in to write them. I just want the stories to magically pop into book form. I was so excited to see my first book in actual book form, but now I can’t seem to get into gear to get the second one published.

    I’m blaming the weather. Let’s do that. Let’s blame the weather.

    Hang in there. Forcing it isn’t the best way either. Maybe just clear one whole Saturday to do nothing but write. Clear the whole day – no cooking, no cleaning, no decluttering, no house planning. Give yourself permission to take one entire day to focus on writing, or outlining, or both and just do it. Don’t feel guilty about it.

    Hugs to you.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  8. Patricia, I’m all for blaming the weather (after all, it’s at least partially responsible for my headaches)! Taking the whole day to focus solely on writing sounds heavenly, but I’m not sure I could do it. Not only because of the constant call of things needing to be done around the house, but also computer games, stuff like that. My ability to focus has gotten terrible as I’ve aged – at least, that’s what I’m blaming here. But even to set aside an hour would be nice. Thanks for your comment, and congrats again on the book release!

  9. Your problem sounds like it may benefit for a “planster” approach…. Some planning, some pantsing. The planning DOES serve a purpose. Those carefully plotted ideas form a framework to support the rest of the story… but they aren’t the story themselves any more than the vines are the delicious wine and fruit that we await at the end of the harvest.

    Be generous to yourself. Accept that not all harvests are good, and to get the really amazing ones you need pruning, control, support… and something else too.

    Best to you, Jennette

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