Elizabeth: Industrial Strength Writer’s Block

WritersBlockI just got back from three fun-filled weeks in Oxford, UK.  I was there for a class in Victorian Literature (sensation and detective fiction) as well as to do some sightseeing and catch up with friends.

Since I was staying in a 700+ year-old college with no phone, no television, and extremely limited internet access I figured those three weeks would be a perfect time to get some substantial writing done.

Sadly, I was mistaken.

Though I packed up my draft manuscripts (in varying stages of completion), my post-its, and my highlighters, they never even made it out of my backpack that first week.  To be fair, I had quite a bit of reading and studying to do, not to mention a paper to start researching and a presentation to develop, but thoughts of writing never even crossed my mind.

IMG_0039When I finally did get some free time for writing, the page in front of me remained stubbornly blank, despite my best efforts.   Apparently the Girls in the Basement missed the flight over and were off lounging on a beach somewhere drinking margaritas.

Hoping to trigger some creative thinking, I grabbed my camera and went on some long photo-walks.  While I got some great pictures (I think), I made zero story-progress.

IMG_0158Undeterred by my lack of progress, or by the head-cold I picked up from one of my fellow classmates in week two, I spent some time attempting to write at this outdoor spot where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to hang out.  I was hoping they had left some good-writing karma behind, but if they did, someone else got it.  The views were lovely and the surroundings peaceful, but my word-count remained at zero.  Even these strange flowers (below) from the garden, which seemed like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland or Dr. Seuss, failed to trigger my imagination.

IMG_0447When I couldn’t even put together a Random Word Improv story on Friday, I knew I was in trouble.  So I packed up my writing paraphernalia, called it a day, and headed off to Blackwell’s book store for some quality retail therapy.  It may not have helped my writer’s block, but I did get some great Regency reference books that I’d been looking for, as well as some interesting fiction works.

Next week, when my jet-lag is all gone and I’ve caught up with all I missed at work, it will be time to get back to my daily writing practice.  For now, I’m going to give my brain a rest and cuddle up with a flat white (coffee) and a book from my newly acquired stash.

So, has anyone else had an unexpected encounter with writer’s block lately?  If so, do you have any suggestions for getting past it?

12 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Industrial Strength Writer’s Block

  1. Not really writer’s block, Elizabeth, just not writing. I thought I’d have lots of time in Scotland to work on my story (stories) but it didn’t work out that way. I played Random Word Improv on the London-Glasgow train journey a week last Friday, and after that my manuscript stayed in my rucksack for the entire trip.

    I did get some wonderful story ideas, though it was a bit of a mixed blessing. I was staying on a remote Highland estate which was just right for my contemporary Gilded Lily stories – shame I’m not working on those right now 😉 . When I come back to them I have lots of great new stuff to drive the books. The research I did while I was in California was also for Gilded Lily, so I feel as though the Girls are telling me I have to go back and finish that series when I’m done with Alexis.

    Now I’m home and drowning in laundry and some urgent annoyances from Real Life, but I’m planning to get back to Alexis and Kierce tomorrow. Here’s hoping I can re-build momentum quickly after my downtime for RWA and Scotland. I’ll report back!

    • Jilly – sorry to hear you didn’t get the progress you had wanted, but kind of glad to know I’m not the only one with that problem. Great that you are getting ideas for the Gilded Lily stories; that will be helpful I’m sure when you get back to them.

      Here’s hoping that your Real Life annoyances are dealt with quickly and you are able to dive into your manuscript refreshed and ready to go.

  2. I never get any writing done away from home.For whatever reason, I need my utilitarian writing room, where there’s little distraction, to produce. I always pictured myself hanging out in coffee shops, typing away, but it turns out they’re just a place to buy expensive beverages and people-watch. Writers’ retreats would be a total waste of time and money, except that I generally seem to come home revived and productive.

    Maybe that will work for you, too!

    • I know what you mean about coffee shops Jeanne. I tend to get so distracted by people-watching (and making up mental stories about them) that I forget all about working on what I was planning to work on. They can be great places to pick up useful bits of dialogue though.

  3. Oh, boy, do I feel that pain! I find that there’s an input mode, and an output mode, as far as my Girls are concerned. And my Girls don’t do them very well simultaneously. Travelling is just a tremendous amount of input (and to be honest, output as well, as we creatively solve problems that pop up such as flight re-routing, getting the most out of our hotel rooms, or negotiating the complex relationships of 70 people at a family reunion). There’s nothing left for writing — or at least, I’m too tired to do it.

    One of my little fantasies was that I’d be a travelling writer at some point: typing away every morning from 8 until 10, then heading out and sightseeing and filling up on real life all afternoon. I have not found that to be very practical.

    Heck, I opened up the computer for the first time in days today to write a blog post. I started at 8:00. Then I got to chatting with my sister, and we looked at my daughter’s pictures on Facebook, and now I’m starting to think it might be important to take a shower and get out of my jammies in case any relatives drop by . . . it’s 9:10 already, and I haven’t made much progress on my blog post at all.

    But, since I will be jetlagged and in Tokyo next Saturday, I have to get that blog post done and scheduled — and it better happen today. At least a first draft and finding the picture. If I can get that done, I can finish up tomorrow before I head out to the airport (four hours away by car).

    Ha-ha-ha. It’s gotta get done today. Who am I kidding? Tomorrow will not be a good day to polish up a blog post.

    Glad you had an excellent time. I’m sure it’s all going to be useful later when you have time to sit and write!

    • Michaeline – your idea of input and output modes makes a lot of sense. There was definitely a lot of input activity going on during my time away, not to mention all that effort that was expended being sociable when I am so normally not. No wonder there was no brain capacity left for writing (output).

      Good luck on your blog post and hope you enjoy your remaining vacation time.

  4. I have been blocked for a while. I think I just need to force myself to write something/anything to get the ball rolling again. Like Jeannie, I don’t get much writing done away from home either. I got a lot of plotting done when we had our writer’s retreat at Justine’s, but no writing. I support giving yourself a break, like waiting out an adrenaline dump, before getting back to it. It might give you a fresh perspective.

    • Sorry to hear you’ve been blocked a while too. Hopefully we will both be able to get the ball rolling again soon. I like the idea of this break leading to a fresh perspective.

  5. I can write when I’m away from home, but I’ve never been in a situation where the book is in trouble, as I’m in now. I have made progress this week—wrote 2K words and deleted 5K. It’s not the direction I want to go, and I’d like to think I know more or less what I’m doing. But I’m going on vacation next week for almost four weeks, and if I don’t at least open the manuscript, I won’t remember it at all when I get back to it. So we’ll see how it goes. Maybe it will just be an extra weight for me, too.

    Glad to hear everyone had a good time!

    • Yay! for the 2K words this week, even if you did delete 5K. Hope you have a great vacation an are able to remain engaged (and productive) with your story.

  6. Pingback: Jilly: Hooked by the Olympics – Eight Ladies Writing

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