Book Review, Books!, Inspiration, Signal Boost, Writing

Weekend Writer: On Being Stuck by Laraine Herring Part One – When You Meet the Block

Hey all, Dani here.

After my Weekend Writer post last week, I was absolutely hoping that the next writing craft book I picked up would be one better suited to me…and I know I haven’t even gotten to the actual review portion yet, but I will just go ahead and say that I think I picked up the right book. Also, I think even just the first part of this book has helped me process some of my writer’s block issues so well.

It would be really cool for all of us who want to write creatively (whether that is poetry, stories, novellas, novels, screenplays, RPGs, video games, whatever) to be able to help uplift and inspire each other, and keep ourselves motivated to strive for our dreams, so I decided to start this blog series here. This series will be a lot of me working through books on writing and creativity, maybe doing and sharing some writing exercises, and possibly doing some writing based discussion posts. It’s going to be an adventure for sure, and I hope it helps you as much as it is helping me.

On Being Stuck: Tapping Into the Creative Power of Writer's Block

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Publication Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 1611802903 (ISBN13: 9781611802900)

Summary

What if writer’s block became your most precious teacher? An empowering new process for writers who struggle with the seemingly insurmountable middle of a project, from the author of Writing Begins with the Breath.

Writer’s block is not a mysterious force that has aligned with your writing to stop you in your tracks. Writer’s block occurs when hope meets fear—when our expectations for a project or ourselves as writers run head first into the fear(s) that are uniquely tied to that hope. Writer’s block is not external. It is not part of a vast conspiracy. It is a signal from deep within to pay attention to the writing and to pay attention to what the writing is asking of us as writers. Using deep inquiry, writing, body and breath exercises, and a range of interdisciplinary approaches, On Being Stuck helps writers uncover the gifts hidden within their creative blocks and deepen their relationship not only to their work but to themselves.

My Thoughts

I’m only through the first of three parts for this book, and from the first page I just felt so reassured and comforted and uplifted by the words presented to me. Reading this book felt like I was in a soothing environment with a welcoming seating arrangement, comforting background noise, a nice smelling candle, and a friendly writing instructor therapist waiting to guide me through a session to process my writing concerns.

“Hear this: The block that you (and all creatives) experience at various times during your work is natural, normal, and part of the whole deal. Nothing is wrong with you.” — page 1

Part One: When You Meet the Block

This first part covered only six chapters over 38 pages, but they were massively successful chapters. It felt like a lot more happened in them. Now, there are several writing exercises in this book, and I have spent some time thinking about them, but as I read this while at work I wasn’t exactly in the proper position to correctly follow the instructions. I do plan to give them all a try because they do seem helpful.

The first chapter is about cultivating a relationship with your writing, and the big Deep Inquiry Practice assignment is to go into your physical writing space, make yourself comfortable, and then to meditate on your mental writing space. To explore it, interact with it, think of what your writing would look like if it manifested as a person or a creature, and then talk to your writing, get to know each other. Then after you have done this for a sufficient time there are three journal prompts to follow. Want to know what those are? Well, you’ll have to pick up this book to find out.

Chapter two is where you learn to move through the world as a writer.

“Being a writer is not about the number of books you have written on your shelves. Being a writer is a way of navigating the world.” — page 13

Writers are always paying attention to the world around them, taking note of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, bits of conversation, any experience occurring around them. The Deep Inquiry Practices of this chapter (there are two of them this time) are called Writer’s Drawer and Writer’s Word Bag. Honestly they are pretty simple. The first is about creating your own pseudo card catalog for your life as a writer where you store these experiences, and the word bag is basically a collection of words, phrases, and overheard experiences throughout your day, however random they may be. You never know when one of those experiences could help your writing.

The third chapter is about creating a consistent practice of writing.

“Writing, like any creative process, is an endurance sport.” — page 18

“Never underestimate the power of consistent practice.” — page 19

The Deep Inquiry Practice for the third chapter is all about becoming aware of how you use your time, and this is done by recording your time usage during a typical week, and then evaluating it to find where you could have consistent writing time. There are some journal questions to accompany this exercise, but again, you’ll have to pick up the book to learn more about that.

The fourth chapter talks about understanding the type of block you’re working with, because knowing what kind of block will help you work your way through the issue. There are writer-in process blocks and work-in-progress blocks.

“Writer-in-process blocks occur when you are working on your book, and the book is requiring you to face parts of yourself or your beliefs about the book that you’d rather not acknowledge.” — page 22

The parts of yourself or these beliefs in your book could include issues like deciding what a writer is or isn’t, how you feel other people will respond to your work, your fears, patterns of behavior such as procrastination or perfectionism), and unresolved personal issues. This section then tells you some ways to work through these sorts of blocks.

“Work-in-progress blocks relate to problems with the product itself. They may include issues with the structure, characters, dramatic conflict, research, and your current level of ability to complete the project as envisioned.” — page 25

The Deep Inquiry Practice of chapter four looks at who you are by asking you what kind of block brought you to this book. Honestly after reading through the two types of blocks I can actually say a little bit of both. And if this post weren’t already reaching a long word count I would consider delving farther into myself with each of these blocks. So, if you would like to hear more about my personal story with both writer-in-process and work-in-progress blocks, let me know, and I can make this topic the next one for my Friday Discussion posts.

Chapter five is about learning to dialogue with your work, and it is a bit of a longer chapter because there are many conversations for you to have with your creative projects.

“Rather than viewing the block as a problem to be solved, let’s look at it as a chance to grow–both as a writer and within your work.” — page 29

Finally, the sixth chapter is there to help release perfectionism’s chains from you. It is a short chapter, with the Deep Inquiry Practice there to help you get to know your patterns.

So I have to say that so much of this book spoke to me and my current writing situation, and I am so excited to continue on with the rest of the book. Now, Part Two is page 41-140, and Part Three is page 143-157, so I might take a few of the Part Two chapters and move them into my Part Three post, just so they stay relatively similar in overall length.

I’m excited to use what I’ve learned so far from this book to reconnect with my inner writer self and my creative projects, and to then venture forth farther into this drafting process.

Part Two / Part Three

Links to Other Weekend Writer Posts

Introduction — Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer — Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day — The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell — No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty — The War of Art by Steven Pressfield — On Being Stuck by Laraine Harris

Where to Get a Copy

If you found this writing advice helpful, you can pick up your own copy of this book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local independent bookstore through IndieBound.

You can also check with your local library.

Writing Exercise

Okay, so here’s a new segment to my Weekend Writer posts. I have this cool book released by Piccadilly Inc called “Complete The Story,” and it is a collection of random story prompts (sometimes a few words, sometimes a couple sentences) and then the rest of the page is lined so you can continue the story yourself. So I am going to open the book to a random page and that will be all of our writing prompt for the week. You can share this or not; that’s up to you. I am going to start making the first Weekend Writer post of each month an update and sharing post for my writing progress and journey. So I’ll share bits of my writing there.

The first prompt is…

He spread the map out on the table. “Here,” he said, pointing to a town I’d never heard of, in a state I’d never visited. The closest I’d been was Oregon, and I’d only been there once, twenty years ago, when…

Happy Writing!

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