Facing the Blank Page…Again

Every writer I know has trouble writing. — Joseph Heller

The blank page taunts me again. It demands my attention, requires me to make the Big Decision. In order to do what they love, writers make sacrifices. Some writers don’t think of them as sacrifices while others feel guilty about them. Writers also need to really get to know how their minds work in order to survive writing. Curiosity rules the writer’s mind, especially a curiosity of why human beings behave as they do. Trouble writing can be about the writing itself (find the right words, editing, grammar, narrative structure, etc.) or about creating the conditions in a life in order to be able to sit at the desk to write.

Yesterday, a realization seared my mind. The Blank Page was throwing a tantrum in order to get my attention, and when I stopped long enough to pay attention, the thought marched through my mind like a screaming subtitle across the screen of my life: I needed to focus my attention and just do it.

What does that mean? For the rest of the day, I reflected, had discussions with myself in my mind, and finally realized that I’d been giving myself too many free passes. My Attention Butterfly flits from one interest to another, never staying too long in one place before moving on to something else. My imagination latches on to an idea and spins endless variations on it, testing different directions, capturing my attention away from what I know is most important to me in my life. Granted, it’s been a rough year lifewise, and that’s interfered with a lot. But it looks like my life will be settling down and now it’s time to return to my creative process and trust it.

My “Office”

What does that mean? The short answer: I need to laser aim my focus on my writing. I feel a tremendous pressure, both mentally and physically, to stop restlessly wandering and concentrate on my creative process, figure out what I need to do to nurture it now, and then spend the time I need to spend to get down on paper (or the computer screen) all the stories that have been skipping around in my mind lately. I’ve known for a long time that my ravenous curiosity can consume me, and what I need to do is put it on a diet of writing or writing-related food. It’s particularly helpful when I’m doing research for something, and I’ll need to ratchet it up to research questions that have been coming up as I’ve been working on the Aanora story.

So, the “blank page” I’m writing about this time isn’t actually a piece of paper or the computer screen, but the dedication to writing. I have writing projects lined up like planes on a runway. But the control tower isn’t paying attention.

I know what I need to do, and I’m determined to do it again as I have in the past in order to write and write and write, i.e. establish a writing schedule and cut everything else out of my life. A comment by a writer in a magazine yesterday also hit home — the writer was talking about how the more writing a writer does on a consistent schedule, usually daily, the better the writing becomes, the faster it hits the page. I experienced this in 2007 when I edited a draft of Perceval’s Secret, then immediately wrote the first draft of Perceval’s Shadow and half of the first draft of Perceval in Love in about 10 months before life stepped in front of that writing train and stopped it cold.  I would love to get that kind of momentum going again, even with a fulltime job stealing time away from the writing during the work week.

My imagination is ready. My mind is ready. What about yours?

P. S. If you’d like to read my first Facing the Blank Page, it’s here.


6 unusual tips for writing characters who’ll keep readers riveted – guest post at Ingram Spark

Roz Morris has written a guest blog about creating compelling characters, and I agree with all her tips! Motivations that drive the action make stories really hard to put down. If you want to know what the tips are, please click on the link and enjoy!

Nail Your Novel

How do we create fictional people who feel just as real as our closest friends? How do we build layers of complexity that will bewitch a reader and keep them hooked for several hundred pages? Ingram Spark noticed I had a book about characters (here) invited me to their blog to write my six strongest tips on the subject. The first tip will cheer anybody who’s had feedback that said ‘I don’t believe your protagonist would do that …’ Do come over.

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When Inspiration Strikes

Dust Sculptures in Rosette Nebula (Photo credit/copyright: John Ebersole

I wrote one of my favorite blog posts, “Inspiration Doesn’t Wait for You,” here almost ten years ago, and as I read it over this morning, I realized that it is the best description of my writing process that I’ve written. However, it doesn’t really describe how, when, or where inspiration can strike when it does strike. So how do I know when to be open to it? I’ve been thinking about this lately because ideas have been popping into my head at the oddest times.


One large project I’ve been working on (at the same time I’m looking for a fulltime job) is thoroughly cleaning my apartment. It’s not a huge apartment, but the clutter had been accumulating, as it usually does, as well as the dust and dirt. So I’ve been working on the cleaning a little at a time to keep this project manageable and not overwhelming. I detest housework of any kind. But I love it when my living space smells fresh and gleams. To distract myself while I’m doing this onerous task, I usually pick music I love to listen to while I work — could be classical, classic rock, or a Broadway musical.

I’ve just created conditions conducive for my imagination to come out and play. At some point while I’m cleaning, a thought will pop into my head about fiction or an essay that I’m working on. The most recent example occurred while I was cleaning in my bedroom — the thought came to me that my short story Light the Way was as much about different people having different expectations about the same thing as it was about the main character sharing her experience. I wrote a note to myself and finished the cleaning for the day. The next time I worked on that short story, I revised to make clearer the different expectations aspect of the story.

In the Shower

On Sundays, I like to have a relaxing, quiet day, and one of the things I do is take a nice, long, hot shower. My mind wanders all over the place, often thinking about the week ahead, what I accomplished in the past week, and my writing. Or I’ll start daydreaming about traveling or outer space, or being rich. Usually, when I’m almost finished, that’s when the idea will pop into my head. The most recent example of this occurred last Sunday. And the idea came to me with a physical jolt. I needed to rework one section of the Aanora story to add a little trip to another dimension for her to show another character something relevant to him in terms of character development and their relationship. It was one of those things of “Why didn’t I think of that before?” it was so obvious after I thought of it.

My suspicion: inspiration is like a cat stalking me, its prey, and that cat only pounces when she sees that I’m in the perfect position (or state of mind) to be captured. And I do often feel “captured” by a strike of inspiration.

Between Sleep and Wakefulness

Of course, it’s easy to think of inspiration striking while daydreaming or listening to music. That happens to me also, especially when I’m listening to music. But another fertile time occurs in the bleary state between sleep and wakefulness. I feel like I’m rising up or floating up or rocketing up depending on whether my alarm clock has gone off or not. The other morning, as I was slowly coming out of sleep, a sentence popped into my mind. Yep.  Just like that. I heard myself saying the words, and then I realized, oh my god, it’s the first sentence I’ve been seeking for Perceval’s Shadow. Now, I’m not working on the revision of that novel right now. In fact, I haven’t thought much about it because I’ve been trying to finish the short stories I have in progress. So for this gift of a sentence to come to me now is truly magical.

Inspiration can be courted but not coerced. Demand what you will from it, but prepare to be disappointed. Inspiration will not be forced. Invite it into your life and then provide welcoming conditions to entice it but don’t just sit around waiting for it to arrive. Do something! Write something everyday, read voraciously, clean house, take a shower, or take a nap….

Photo: Vasillisa/GoodFon.su

Why do I Continue to Write?

Why do I continue to write? This past week, I’ve been thinking about this question a lot as I juggle job search, writing, and promotional planning, as well as trying to clean my living space and actually see and interact with other people. When I think about it, I can come up with some compelling reasons not to continue writing at this point.

Reasons not to continue writing:

  • Sales for Perceval’s Secret have been abysmal. While lack of constant promotion and marketing would be the reason, along with not being an established and known writer, sales remain disappointing.
  • Lack of time as I need more and more to spend time working at something that pays well in order to pay the bills.
  • Lack of time for constant promotion and marketing.
  • The fact that I tend to be a slow writer, so even if I had 8 hours a day to write, it’d still take me time to finish short stories, essays, and the novels that are in various stages of completion.
  • This blog hasn’t established me as a writer to read as was the purpose when I began it in September 2007. Blogs are supposed to build audience, right? I know that I have readers who occasionally leave comments, but that hasn’t been translating into book sales.

So, why do I do it?

I have the choice. I can look at the above list and conclude that the reason behind it all is that I should stop writing, that the world is not interested in my point of view or creative expression. Or I can look at the above list and say screw it. I’ve had the powerful drive to write since I was a child and nothing really has changed. I still need to write, to express myself creatively, to write stories. I want other people to read my stories and to enjoy them (as much as I enjoyed writing them).

How do writers know if people are reading their stories? Sales only show that people are buying the books, but that doesn’t actually guarantee that they are reading them. Of course, a large percentage may be reading them since they paid good money for the books. But how can writers know for certain if people are reading their books? Readers need to tell them.

I consider myself a professional writer, i.e. it’s a job for me not a hobby. I’ve gone through a long apprenticeship, and I continue to learn, but at this point, my stories now are better than anything I wrote 20 years ago. But for me there’s another aspect to writing that’s harder to describe. It’s like so much a part of my brain that I am always thinking consciously or subconsciously about writing — new ideas, stories I’m working on, characters clamoring for my attention, they are all there in my imagination. So whether or not anyone reads my writing, I still write.

Think for a minute about what you do in your life. In your job, do you like it when your boss acknowledges something you’ve worked hard on and praises it? Do you do anything in your life that you love and can’t imagine living without? Do others know about it and support your efforts? How would you feel if no one supported your efforts and you received little to no positive feedback? Would you continue?

Performing artists receive immediate feedback from their audiences with applause. Writers in all forms, painters, sculptors, composers all tend to work in solitude, produce on their own, and depend often on third parties to present their work to the world. They do not receive immediate feedback, sometimes no feedback at all beyond sales. To continue creating under those circumstances takes incredible strength, discipline, and a profound need to create. Those of us who have that need know what it feels like. On the days that I do not write, when other needs in my life demand my time, I tend to not be in the best of moods and sometimes it affects me physically — I feel sick. As soon as I return to writing fiction, though, my mood lifts and the sick feeling dissipates. I’m happiest when I’m writing. And it would seem I’m also healthiest physically and psychologically when I’m writing.

Taking care of the business side of writing is not writing. It is business. So when I’m working on my current promotion plans, I’m not fulfilling that need to write. But I am working to get the word out that my stories exist in the world for anyone to read, and I’m trying to fashion the best invitation to read my writing that I can.

Have you read my novel Perceval’s Secret? An excerpt is available on another page of this blog, or you can buy it at Amazon or B&N.com. Have you read any of my essays at ClassicalMPR.org? I’d love for you to read what I write and then, if you feel comfortable doing it, let me know what you thought.

Jobs, Income, and the Future

Doug Muder at The Weekly Sift wrote a year ago about jobs and the economy, reviewing historical trends and how conservative macroeconomics has affected America. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. The owners, i.e. the wealthy, do not use their money to create jobs. They use their money to obtain more money.


Designed by Christopher Bohnet, xt4, inc.

When I was creating the America in 2048 that Evan Quinn leaves in Perceval’s Secret, I was thinking about what I observed happening in American society, i.e. the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer, and there was a new class of working poor that did the work for the wealthy. This is now a reality in 2018 America. In the Perceval’s Secret America, the wealthy also have the political power (think Donald Trump) to rule the country as they wish and prevent any change. America had become a “Potemkin Democracy,” i.e. appeared to be democratic but was actually a fascist dictatorship.

I like this post from The Weekly Sift because Muder goes into detail and explains with examples the process.

The Weekly Sift

What “the jobs problem” is depends on how far into the future you’re looking. Near-term, macroeconomic policy should suffice to create enough jobs. But long-term, employing everyone may be unrealistic, and a basic income program might be necessary. That will be such a change in our social psychology that we need to start preparing for it now.

Historical context. The first thing to recognize about unemployment is that it’s not a natural problem. Tribal hunter-gatherer cultures have no notion of it. No matter how tough survival might be during droughts or other hard times, nothing stops hunter-gatherers from continuing to hunt and gather. The tribe has a territory of field or forest or lake, and anyone can go to this commonly held territory to look for food.

Unemployment begins when the common territory becomes private property. Then hunting turns into poaching, gathering becomes stealing, and people who are…

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