Writing Non-Fiction posted September 12, 2015 Chapters:  ...16 17 -18- 


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Get out your Mallet and Chisel

A chapter in the book How This Critter Crits

Written Today's Half-Pound Yet?

by Jay Squires


Have YOU Written Today's Half-Pound Yet?
 
 
A writer-friend, respected for his honesty, once told me the famous French Author Honore de Balzac, boasted that the daily volume of his writing was so huge he weighed it rather than counting the pages.  I tried to verify the quote today but struck out on both Google and Wikipedia.
 
 
But you know, it doesn't really matter!  If he did say it, he was probably exaggerating slightly as good fiction writers often do.  If he didn't say it but you have a chance to look over his prodigious portfolio, you'll probably agree with me he should have said it.
 
 
Besides, isn't it a wonderful metaphor for what many of us could give ourselves permission to do more of?  I mean, get the words outta your head, for cryin' out loud, and onto the screen.  Don't spend so much time crafting the perfect sentence somewhere behind your eyeballs, let it splash out in all its inane structure and grammatical incorrectness.  Let it be as rough as a block of granite, lying there.  Grab your mallet and chisel.  Now … let the work begin!

                                                                                                 
 
 
You’ve got your block of granite. Mallet held high. Chisel on its mark.
 
 
Your big ol’ ...  block of marble ...  juuuust waiting ...
 
                                                            Your Block
 
 
                                                                        YOU’RE BLOCKED.
 
 
      What does writer's block mean to you?  We've all experienced writer's block.  I've had a few writers tell me they haven't.  I try to wait 'til one of us leaves the room before I snicker.  I don't believe 'em!  Or, I believe they're not 100 percent committed to a writing career. 
 
      Are you a neophyte in the writing game?  Or have you been harboring the dream for the better part of your life?
 
      It really doesn't matter.
 
      The time frame is less important than the degree of dedication to the craft.  Let me explain.  If writing is one of the most important things in your life—if you can't imagine deriving as much enjoyment from any other activity—congratulations!  And you are a prime candidate for full blown WRITER'S BLOCK. 
 
      Why is that?
 
      I'll answer that question with another:  What image is conjured up in your mind when you bash face-first into that blank screen?  What thoughts race through your mind?  Isn't it the likes of: "Why'd I ever think I could write?" "A kindergartner can write better prose than I! "Who am I kidding?"  Etc.
                                                  Image result for writer's block
                                                    
 
      Standards … Standards … Standards.  At the point we start taking our writing seriously we develop standards of excellence.  In most cases those standards are patterned after our favorite writer.  Or, if you've been a long time in the writing world your standards are probably now patterned after your own best efforts.  Regardless, when you reach that impenetrable and non-overcome-able blank screen you are—whap!— face-to-face with self-avowed personal incompetence!
 
      Is there a way over writer's block?  A way around it?  Or, can you burrow under it?  In short, can you get past that gigantic, dumb, white expanse that shrieks in a dog-whistle-silent way only you can hear: "Ignoramus!"  There are probably a hundred different ways espoused by a hundred different writers … but if your choice of methods doesn't enliven your fingers to dance across the keys and produce those wonderful symbols on the screen—then, it hasn't done diddly!
 
      So let's get down to basics.
 
      The great American psychologist/philosopher William James proposed a three-word theory that has proved itself again and again.  Those three words are "Actions create emotions."  Don't put them on the Interesting Thought Shelf without thinking about it.  Work with it.  If you desire happiness, act happy.  If you desire to be a successful writer, then keep your eyes peeled for your muse … and when you find her, kill her!  Or, at least send her packing!
 
       Once you are museless, rewrite the simple formula: If you desire to be a successful writer, write!  Put your fingers on the keys and keep pushing until the right rhythm and tune take over and your fingers dance on the keyboard.
 
       Allow me to get personal.  For close to a year, ending January 1st 2013, I was smack dab in the middle of the biggest writing drought I'd ever experienced.  The Sahara Desert of droughts!  Oh, I published my blog posts regularly, tweeting cute stuff on Twitter, maintaining a presence on Facebook.  I had a novel and collection of short stories doing decently on Amazon.  But my Writer's Conscience, whose voice sounded suspiciously like that of my Insurance Sales boss (I worked for Allstate): challenged, "What have you done for me recently?"
 
       In truth, I hadn't done anything recently to move my fantasy novel forward.  Nothing.  Nada.  I waited for that indefinable moment when all the stars lined up, and a warm fragrant breeze blew.  Yep, I waited for my muse to bail me out.
 
       So two days before the launching of 2013, I took a long, hard look at myself.  "I'm not a writer.  I was a writer, but I'm not a writer now.  A writer writes."  I would allow myself two days to wallow in my excuses, but starting January 1st I would again be a writer!
 
 
        I had the serendipity of having read a blog at the time, just a little paragraph out of the post, really, that gave a link to The Writer's Store.  They were offering a free downloadable device that Jerry Seinfeld developed to help him stay on top of his comedy writing. (I checked today, by the way, and it's still free!  Here's the link:  http://bit.ly/QRWthc )  It's so simple.  It's a 365-day calendar.  At the end of each day Jerry wrote he got to mark off that day in red!  The effectiveness resided in its title: Don't Break the Chain   He hadn't for the years he used it.  I was determined I wouldn't either.
 
 
        I needed to put some teeth in my personal commitment, though.  They're cleanly brushed, so use them if you desire or come up with your own.
 
 
        I knew some days:
 
                 I don't feel like writing.  Okay.  Accept it.  Then write. (I only do 2 hours per day.)
                 I'm sick, physically Ill.  Sorry.   Throw up.  Poop.  Write.
                 I put in 3 hours on my blog post today.  Great!  Now, put 2 more on your fantasy! 
                 I forgot about my Grandchild's b-day party. Go!  But when you get home—write  
                 My wife won a 3-day trip to Disneyland.  Go!  Play! Have fun!  Write 6 hours.
 
        You get the idea!  The two hours, daily, is non-negotiable!  But I discovered something about myself in the process.  About two weeks into it, I was writing with a joy I thought I would never experience again.  I was closer to my characters and the plot and the timing because all were with me every day.  And my family was taking me seriously again.
 
 
        With 72 red Xs on my calendar, I was 8 solid chapters into my fantasy.  One proud Papa!*
 
 
*Note: This was written 72 days into the year 2013. As an update, I completed the year without missing a day and was well into the second “Don’t break the Chain Calendar” when, as some of you may remember, my computer crashed. I lost about 18 chapters (which I STUPIDLY hadn’t backed up since I thought Scrivener automatically did).
 
 
So I should implant another tooth in my “personal teeth commitment” above:
 
 
           My computer crashed and I lost months of un-backed-up material. Cry! Swear! Shake your fists at the heavens!
           Then WRITE like there’s no tomorrow.
 
 
I’d love to tell you folks that’s what I did with my fantasy novel, but too many of you know The Trining sat on the shelf for several months.
 
 
During that time I fell off the wagon with my “calendar”. I became a personal misery drunk. My drink of choice was procrastination. Usually I drank it straight, but occasionally I followed with a chaser of “woe is me!”
 
 
Then, one day I’m ashamed to say, I was driving while procrastinating, and I almost ran over a muse who was jaywalking, as they are wont to do. My heart racing, reality crashed about me. I knew what I had to do.
 
 
I backed up and finished the job with the muse. I wasn’t even sure it was my own personal muse, but if it wasn’t, the dimpled grill of my Chevy HHR did some other writer a favor. Assured there was not even a twitch of a pulse in her, and being sobered by the event, I drove to the nearest Barnes and Nobles, purchased the latest issue of Writer’s Digest, and resolved then and there, never again to fall off my calendar wagon.
 
 


Book of the Month contest entry

Recognized


It dawned on me more than once (and since it can only dawn on one once, let's say it high-noon-mooned me the other times) that you folks may think I'm getting a piece of the "Don't Break the Chain Calendar" action. Let me assure you, I'm not-- though 10 percent of free might turn this clunk's head. I'm just a believer, that's all.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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