Tag Archive | fear of writing

Routines and Writing – What’s it all about?

Every morning I follow a routine. I wake, let little Ernie outside for his morning “whittle,” feed Vinny his wet food, make coffee, take my morning medication, pour a morning cup of hot coffee and then settle down with my computer on my lap.

When the computer is “booted-up,” I follow another routine of collecting my free chips for the Facebook casino game I enjoy, check my email accounts, and finally I settle down for a morning of writing. I think the hardest thing I do everyday is come up with an idea for my blog. Anybody else have this problem?

I rejoice when I actually have an idea before I start writing, but those cases are so rare, it’s not worth talking about. So, by trial and by error, I slug it out and search my brain for an actual topic. When I really get stymied, I go and look at other blogs for inspiration, but most of the time the topic comes by just writing. Getting my fingers on the keys, pounding out familiar strokes, and seeing the words appear on the screen — at this point– ANY words will do. When I have SOMETHING down, at least I can work with it or DELETE it and try again. I’ve broken the ice. Whatever I’ve written  proved to me that there is something in my head I can discuss.

In my writing class, I call this stage of the game “FREE-WRITING.” My students call it a waste of time. My novices are not convinced that a writer must limber up like a toned athlete.  Sometimes I think they believe that ballpoint pens are magic wands, producing the necessary word count without effort. What they don’t understand is important things happen during this warm-up stage. They don’t connect THINKING with writing. (Heaven forbid!) For them, writing is a necessary evil they must endure to complete their desired programs; after all, why does a hair stylist or a welder need to know how to write?

My reality is I will convince one or two of them that writing is fun. I’ll convince another few that writing is something they must conquer to be viable in the world. And the rest will not change their minds about anything I try to teach them about the joys of writing. It’s the way of the world. I just wish I was more powerful to change it.

With Teaching there’s Always a Challenge

Last week I had a conversation with one of my students who writes pretty well for an introductory course. I was surprised when he came to me after class and said, “Ms. McCloskey, I’m completely lost.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Surely, I had done my best to reach all of my writing novices with my superior teaching skills. Didn’t I? I had worked up a sweat teaching this stuff!  Had I not explained subjects, verbs and prepositions with clarity? But right here in front of me was evidence that I had not. I was shocked.

Not only was I flabbergasted by his confession, but I was also puzzled how I could help him. I thought I had broke down the above mentioned parts of speech as far as they could go. I even showed a “Schoolhouse Rock” video I found on YouTube! What more could I do?

On the spot, the best thing I could think of was to steer my student to the Internet where there is a wealth of lessons to learn the basics. I also encouraged him to go to the student center for some tutoring. After he left, I thought, “Boy that advice was really lame!” I felt deficient, and went home with my teaching tale between my legs.

So the next morning, I decided to pull out one of my “teacher” lifelines and called a teacher friend of mine. She was not a writing teacher or even a tutor on campus; she was an elementary teacher. That’s right. I was heading for ground zero to try to help this young man understand the parts of speech he missed in elementary school.

I explained my dilemma and she gave me this advice: Make the students own their work. Now it was my turn to be confused, but when she told me what she meant, I got it. Her advice was to have the class write sentences of their own and identify the subjects, verbs and prepositions in their own work.

So tonight my class will have an assignment to write ten sentences. I can hear the moaning now. But Lord, so help me, I will teach these people the grammar lessons that they should have gotten so long ago. If any of you are elementary teachers now, please don’t pass along students who don’t “get it” because at some point, these children will grow up and have to face the grammar lessons in front of a teacher like me to realize their adult dreams. Please help them at a young age. They deserve it.

Being Out of Sync With Routine

I’m feeling guilty today. Why? I didn’t write yesterday. I feel like I committed a mortal sin — for all of you non-Catholics out there — that’s a REALLY BIG SIN! One you can certainly go the Hell for committing.

Unless, of course, you confess the offense and then do penance.

So, here’s my confession. “Bless me, father, I have sinned; I did not write yesterday.”

And I hear, “For your penance:  Write two chapters in the new novel and entertain your readers by completing the blog.”

I’m sorry I didn’t log-on yesterday, but truly, I couldn’t think of anything profound to write about. (Humor me, I know not all of my blogs are not the greatest American literature.)

Like all writers, I have a usual time that I write. For me, it’s morning, but for the past two mornings, I’ve been out of sync with my routine. One morning I was speaking about my novel, and the next morning I had a stack of assignments to grade for my class, so I could give them back on Wednesday evening, and this morning, I attended a computer class to advance my skills with the Blackboard software that we’ve talked about a few blogs ago. So, here I am writing with my faithful puppy beside me taking his afternoon siesta, while I try to pretend it’s morning so I can get my “mo-jo” going again.

My husband says, “You need coffee. That will get you going.”  So, now I’m off to the kitchen to get a Cup  o’ Joe, only to find the pot is empty!  He must have drank it all when I was at class!

I look at the empty pot and realizeI have found another excuse for not writing. I’m sure he must be the devil!





The Unlikeable Ones

I’m still having trouble getting on track with this new novel. I broke the siege of writer’s block. It’s not that. I’ve written 15 chapters so far, but I have discovered I have difficulty creating characters who are inherently evil. These characters are the kind who wouldn’t know a kind thought if it slapped them in the face. You know the type, right? I want these people  to be black to the core, and the best I can do it come up with a weak shade of gray.

I think I’ve pinpointed the heart of the problem. I have never met any such a person, and I truly don’t want to meet someone so sinister. So how do I let my imagination travel into such territory? I’ve read books with such characters, and of course, I see them on the television every night in prime time—(I admit it, I watch cop shows), but these resources haven’t helped much.

Unlike other characters, these “bad guys” don’t whisper in my ear. Maybe it’s because I shut them out? Or maybe it’s because no one is all bad or all good? I’m not sure. All I know is these unsavory, pain-in-the-backside bullies frustrate me. It’s so serious, I’ve even thought about not pursuing this storyline, but then the stinkers win, don’t they? So what’s a writer to do?

I’d welcome suggestions. Speak to me. I think being a good person is getting in my way.

Out, damn Block!

So far, the “Apple Pie and Strudel Girls” novels have pretty much written themselves. Even the book that’s with the editor right now called “Finding Gessler” went somewhat easy. This story is about a Jewish father and son who lost each other during the War and their search to reconnect in the early 1950s. But the book I’m working on now is a struggle. The plot is emerging, but it’s slow and tedious. The pain this book and its characters are causing me is almost overwhelming.

I’ve written about seven chapters, but now I need to really get into the meat of the story– which I think is a clash of the old world ways and the new world ways of thinking. Not an original idea, I know, but it is a solid conflict. For a country built on the backs of a steady stream of new immigrants, it’s a classic.

I just haven’t found that spark of inspiration yet and its been over a month since I penned the first few words of the novel. I fear that what I’m writing now is pedestrian and boring, when I intend this story to be full of action. I know it’s a bad case of writer’s block, but knowing the cause of my situation isn’t helping. Writing pieces like the “saddle shoe” story was a diversion that hasn’t helped. Being on campus again hasn’t helped. Even hearing success stories about the series hasn’t been inspirational. My worst fear is that I’ve lost my mo-jo– that I’ll never write another novel.

My only recourse seems to be this: If I’m a writer, then I must write. If I write crap, so be it. There’s a wonderful key on the computer that I use after such a spell. It’s called “delete” that I use frequently when I know I’ve given birth to something that should never live another day.



In The Hush of The Morning There Came Words

Today is a rainy day. It’s dark and quiet, until a roll of thunder in the distance erupts and sound of heavy droplets hit the windows. The antique clock chimes six o’clock. Nobody except me and little Ernie pug are out of bed, and he has gone back to sleep by my side. It’s a perfect time to write.Why? Because I always put  my most difficult task first. I’m at my best in the morning, and I will most likely accomplish the task. I can face anything then–even the blank screen.

But there is a challenge. There’s a cursor sitting there blinking and like a taunting child its chiding me, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah–you can’t catch me!”

I stare at the little stinker flashing again and again, until I touch the keyboard. My hands don’t move, but my mind is saying, “Don’t let that electronic blinker get the best of you!” And so I start. Slowly. A word at a time. Not knowing what today’s blog will become. I have no plan, but miraculously my fingers speed up and the taunter sits on the words I’ve written. I’ve beaten the rascal! I’ve put something down!

Just getting started with SOMETHING helps the fear of not having something to say go away. After I have something to work with, I’m in charge. I can go back and fix it,  delete it, or begin again. The little cursor forgets I’m in control; he has to do what I command.

So, for everyone who wants to call himself or herself a writer, face the fear of the blank page (or screen) and forge ahead. Do your stream of consciousness writing, I call “pre-writing” in my writing class. At this stage of the game, all you’re out to do is conquer the cursor. Don’t let the little nuisance get the best of you! He doesn’t know you’re fortified with a cup of coffee and a faithful friend like Ernie!

Go for it! Let the day begin!