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6 Simple Ways to Kick Writer’s Block in the Teeth

So you’re struggling with writer’s block. Here’s the good news: You’re not alone. Great writers throughout history have had staring contests with blank pages. Here’s the better news: If you use the right strategies, writer’s block can be overcome. This article will teach you four simple strategies for kicking writer’s block in the teeth.

1. Write garbage.

Writer’s block happens when the complex and sensitive neurological process of creativity gets disrupted, typically by stress and fear. One way to overcome that anxiety is to dive into the work by writing as much garbage as you possibly can.

In other words, get writing in your project, regardless of how awful, useless, or nonsensical that writing is. This is useful even if all you do is spew words onto the page that you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, you will delete later. The point isn’t necessarily to find the right words but to get yourself writing. You’ll be surprised how quickly this breaks down anxiety and gets you to a place where writing feels natural again.

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5 Guidelines for Writing a Strong Female Character

[Banner image courtesy of flickr by Blue Stahli Luân]

People talk a lot about writing strong female characters. Writers and readers everywhere always seem excited when a story features a female as the main protagonist. This is likely because of the seeming rarity of such stories. We could cite examples to the contrary all day, but that doesn’t change the fact that the stereotypical storybook “hero” throughout literary history has been a man. In this light, it could be a relatively new thing, this female hero. It’s becoming more prevalent, but is still rare enough that the gaming distribution platform Steam has a specific tag for “female protagonist.”

But what does it take for a female character to be “strong”? Well, here’s some tips to help examine your literary laudable lady.

1. Badass characters are not necessarily strong characters.

The difference here might be a bit self-explanatory, but it’s also an important one to understand. One might watch a movie and see a female character who makes a habit of making incredible acrobatic stunts whilst simultaneously beating up dozens of bad guys. They’ll see this character and say that she’s a “strong” female character. But what they really mean is that she’s a badass.

Contrary to common belief, this doesn’t make a character “strong.” A strong character is a well-written character; a character with depth, personality, flaws, strengths, and attachments. A strong character is one that makes mistakes and learns from them. A character’s worth is not defined by the number of enemy grunts they can dispatch in a single scene.

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Key Takeaways from the Science of Stories

science-of-stories

I recently had the chance to watch a video from Stanford’s MediaX program that explored a scientific study on how, why, and which stories impact us. The video itself is rather lengthy and a bit rambly (and uses Comic Sans in its presentation), so I wanted to save you the trouble of viewing the presentation itself and pass along the key takeaways—as well as make some of my own commentary. Let’s get to it!

1: Stories Are Deeply Rooted in Our Species

According to the research gathered and conducted by Kendall Haven and his team, stories are deeply rooted in human neurology and psychology, going back further than 150,000 years. As Haven puts it, “We’re hardwired for stories.” The notion here is that the transmission of knowledge, wisdom, identity, and beliefs was substantially aided by the structure of a story. As an increasingly social group, early homo sapiens were able to make use of story for both social and survival functions.

2: “Storification” Is Pre-Conscious Behavior

When we take in information, it isn’t our conscious mind that transforms that information into a narrative structure. Rather, when knowledge is communicated, the brain transforms it into a story before it ever hits the conscious mind. This “storification” process happens to almost all knowledge that is transmitted to us, and it happens through what Haven describes as a “neural story net.” That neural story net is a sub-region of the brain that helps us make sense of incoming data, and re-structuring fact into narrative seems to be one of its primary functions.

3: Storification Distorts Factual Information

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Procrasination, Stimulants, and the Creative Process

Neuroscience of Writing

 

 

 

Why do we, as writers, procrastinate so damn much? Why do so many of us depend on caffeine, cigarettes, and other stimulants? And why are alcohol and other mind-altering drugs so often used as creative crutches? These questions don’t have definitive answers, but a look at the neurological element can give us some insights into some of these less-than-ideal patterns.

Let’s take each of these items in turn.

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Creative Writing Lessons from My Years of Freelancing

C.S. Lakin over at Live Write Thrive was generous enough to share an article of mine with her audience. In that article, I discuss major creative writing lessons I learned during my time as a freelancer. Those lessons range from the value of ritualization to the science of willpower and well beyond.

You can check out the full article here: 5 Freelancing Tips That Will Help You Write That Novel

Desire and Limitation: An Interview with Jim Krusoe

As some of you may know, I am attending the low-residency MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles. There, I’ve had many opportunities to work with well-established writers. When reviewing published work by the faculty, I was especially impressed with what I read of The Sleep Garden by Jim Krusoe. It was thus a pleasant surprise when I learned he would be conducting my second residency’s workshop.

That workshop was wonderfully educational for me. The advice I received on physical descriptions and pacing were especially valuable. Today, I hope to bring some of that same value to you by interviewing Jim Krusoe about his work and his perspective on the craft. Thank you, Jim, for agreeing to this interview. Now, let’s begin.


Rob Young / Blair

Rob: For those unacquainted with your work, how would you describe yourself? What style and thematic qualities would you say define your body of work?

Jim Krusoe

Jim Krusoe: I call my fiction meta-realism, which means nothing to anybody but me. But what I mean is the world of my fiction is a real world that also includes the unlikely, delusions, and dreams. My intent is to explore and challenge conventional boundaries: between life and death, dream and waking, past and present, artifice and natural, desire and limitation, good and bad, comic and tragic.

Rob: I’ll start by touching on a few items you mentioned at the December workshop. You mentioned that, for a recent novel, you entirely changed the point of view after your initial draft. Can you tell me more about that and how you feel POV impacts the story?

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