Blogger's Block--Overcoming guilt
I haven't been posting very much in my blog, and I feel guilty about it. I know I'm 'supposed' to maintain an active author presence. But sometimes I just come and stare at my blog and think what am I supposed to do with you today?
Then I make the mistake of checking out my blog statistics thinking 'well, maybe no one is reading these posts anyway,' and then I'm chagrined and amazed (and okay, maybe a bit happy) to discover that I still get hundreds of individual hits a day, even when I haven't posted in a while. But that's when the gnawing comes in: Are people waiting for something from me?
So my thinking always goes something like this, all in one spinning, dizzy, and finally stultifying breath: "I should write a post. Probably something related to the seventeenth century, because that's what I know really well. But I don't feel like spending the time researching that topic right now. Okay, so maybe I should write about writing. But what do I really have to say about writing? I could write about my book progress, but I talked about that already. Ugh. I have nothing new to say."
Given that my most popular posts are on cuckold jokes and the origins of dogs playing poker, sometimes its really hard to know what other topics could possibly be as interesting.
Apparently I have blogger's block, a phenomenon perhaps not as well-known as other more interesting writing maladies, but I suffer from it nonetheless.
We-l-l-l, I'm sure blogger's block is just a form of writer's block. And a quick glance at the all powerful internet shows that there are strategies for overcoming said blog blockage. But for me, blogger's block doesn't truly stem from a lack of blog ideas (although that's clearly part of it), it stems from trying to write out of guilt rather than out of pleasure.
Guilt is a low-level motivator. Guilt doesn't promote creativity. And writing out of guilt isn't inspiring; instead, it snaps the spirit. But I love my blog, and I don't want to write out of guilt.
So with any luck, I'll be inspired by some new cuckold stories soon or something equally silly.
Did I ever tell you the one about the candlemaker, the cockswain and the cuckold? Boy, that's a good one...
Proactive Interference...A really useful explanation for why it can be hard to keep a story straight...
I've been running into a funny problem while reflecting on the edits for my second Lucy Campion mystery (From the Charred Remains, out in April 2014!).
It's the same problem I encountered when talking to a book group tonight...
I'm having some trouble keeping the details of my stories straight.
Crazy, right? How can I not know my own stories? I spent YEARS writing them (at least A Murder at Rosamund's Gate.) But still, I have notes and charts and timelines and figures (yes, figures!) detailing subplots, tracking character motivations, etc. And yet, I'm still a bit confused sometimes. How is this possible?
So I raised the question of my faulty memory with my chief psychological consultant (literally my resident psychologist, a.k.a my alpha reader). "I wrote the darn thing!" I whined, er, lamented. "How can I not remember all these details? I shouldn't have to re-read my notes to know my own story. Do I just have the worst memory in the world?"
And, with a lift of his eyebrow and a stroke to his goatee, my cognitive psychologist replied, "Ah, well let me tell you about a little thing we in the field like to call PROACTIVE INTERFERENCE."
And here's what he explained:
"I'd imagine it's always harder for the writer to remember the details than it is for a reader. For the reader, there is one reality and it is laid out there on the page. The writer, however, has vividly imagined (and discarded) many realities. These early imaginings compete and interfere with the memories for the most recent version of the story. This proactive interference is a hallmark of human memory and, sadly, it is largely unavoidable. Be thankful that you took good notes in the first place!"
(See why I keep my alpha reader in my permanent employ? He helps me rationalize my disorderly thinking with a neat psychological construct!)
But this idea of proactive interference, and this notion of multiple imagined (and discarded) realities, really does resonate with me. I've found that even though I take notes as I write, I don't keep track of the scenes, characters events, etc. that get deleted or shuffled around. So I retain this memory of what I wrote, even though it's no longer in the manuscript, which is why I'm sometimes confused months later. I also wrote another unrelated novel in the interim, which probably doesn't help with my recall of the one currently being edited.
Perhaps I could do a better job of documenting the changes I make when I write (although, really, it's not like I EVER get rid of a draft!).
But, in a way, I sort of like the idea that underlies this confusion. Maybe it's part of the romantic image of writer as creator: the idea that one being can simultaneously hold multiple realities is strangely compelling.
Or maybe its just convenient to pull out the "proactive interference" defense. Dazzle my questioners with the multiple realities angle, and I can sidestep the missing details altogether.
But what do you think? Will that fly?
As the water wheel turns...
Because I think in metaphors, this Syrian water wheel perfectly explains my absence from my blog. Since A Murder at Rosamund's Gate released a month ago (has it been that long already?!), I've barely done any writing. I've been so busy with my day job (faculty development), my night job (teaching), my all-the-time job (family), not too mention all the fun book-related events I've been doing, that I've been neglecting my super-late-at-night job (writing).
And I miss writing.
For me, writing is just fun. The problem-solving, the research, the dreamy imaginings, the discovery of character and motives, the joy of putting down the perfect word at the perfect moment...It's all a process I truly enjoy.
Yet, I'm conscious of being like the Syrian water wheel above. Immobile. Fixed. Dessicated. (Temporarily, I hope!).
Normally, as each of my little cups bearing water gets emptied, it will soon swish down through the water to be replenished. Right now, I think I've emptied one too many cups. As the noted psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi might say, my flow of creativity has been halted. (Check out his Ted Talk on the secret of happiness and connecting with your creative self.)
But I'm excited. In a few weeks, the academic year will have ended, I'll have turned in grades, wrapped up the programs I run, completed some work travel, and then I'll have time to write--and perhaps more importantly--the flow will return, and I'll get that water wheel turning again.
But I'm curious...do you have a metaphor or mental image for how you think about writing, (or anything else that you particularly enjoy?)
Historian. Mystery writer. Researcher. Teacher. Occasional blogger.