Friday, 18 July 2008

Coffee Morning - Getting Started

You’ve taken the dog to school, put the kids in the garden, loaded the dirty dishes into the microwave, hoovered the lawn, and otherwise cleared the decks. Your favourite beverage is brewing. Chocolate is low-fat granose bars and pieces of fruit are lined up within easy reach. Pencils are sharpened, lucky mascots dusted, kissed and otherwise subjected to whatever rituals you have. Your chair is in just the right position. Your writing day begins.

In front of you is a blank screen/sheet of paper. The keyboard/pencil gleams accusingly from the tenth polishing of the morning. The blank screen/sheet of paper is still there, still just as blank.

At this point, one of two things happens:

1 - You wake in a cold sweat from the nightmare.
2 - You resort to Plan B.

Plan B is the thing that gets you writing, even if it isn’t the project you are meant to be working on. For some it involves dashing off a haiku, for others it is freewriting until your subconscious mind (or, in my case, my unconscious mind) picks up the thread and you find yourself back on track.

My Plan B tends to be one of my other writing projects or the odds and ends of editorial work I have on the go. I often find that if I start sorting one of those and begin to get interested, something wakes up inside my head and lurches about a bit, worrying at me until I find I get back to what I really want to be doing.

What is your Plan B?


K.Imaginelli said...

Oh dear~~in my plan B, B stands for Bad! I usually start surfing the internet--either celeb gossip (celebrity meltdowns do a fab job of making me feel less miserable about whatever writing-induced meltdown I'm having) or writing blogs/advice. I also do a lot of daydreaming about the sequel to the novel I'm trying to revise. I might jot down a few notes about the sequel and then realize that I can't begin writing it until I've revised the first novel. That thought usually brings me back to the work at hand...eventually.

Samantha said...

Great post. You do include interesting facts about the subconscious mind and how it works. Do check out, they have a whole host of interesting and helpful articles. Also,maybe you can use some tips here.

Fiona said...

For me it's walking in the forest. Whole chunks of dialogue appear in my mind but nine times out of ten I don't have a notebook or recorder. By the time I've got home it's all gone but at least I'm in the 'zone.'

liz fenwick said...

Form me its the the egg timer. Another writer friend Anna Lucia suggested a while I ago that I set the timer for twenty minutes and sit to write for just that time. Each time I have used it has worked and words have appeared - not saying they were always good but they certainly broke the impasse.

Great topic :-)

B said...

I have to just write. Freewrite if I am really horrendously stuck, but mainly just start typing or writing away. Even if I realise I've gone in the wrong direction, at least I've got warmed up.

L-Plate Author said...

Hmm, my plan b has to be the day job. For me, I can't start to write a nobel now until it is planned so I know what I should be writing as soon as I sit down. Not that it comes out to that plan most of the time but I 'force' myself to write 1000 words when I'm at my desk, if I'm drafting.

Because I have the day job and time is precious, I can only do one project at a time so this works for me. I tend to read over what I have done the night before in the morning and by the time I get home after letting it stew I am ready to write the next bit.

I write most evenings, after checking blogs etc, so if I find nothing is working, then I will lose myself in the current book I am reading until the following evening. One thing I know is that you can't force the words. If I do, I always end up deleting them.

So for me, my plan B is a glass of wine, a bar of chocolate and a few pages of someone else's.

Great topic Graeme. Have a good week everyone x

Lucy Diamond said...

I always start off with a bit of blog-reading and ambling around the internet before I can do anything. Then I have to switch off the internet connection and force myself to work.
I always have a few things on the go and have to be quite organised and self-disciplined to meet all my deadlines. I have two writing days a week and the rest of the time I'm on mum duty, so I find that when I'm sitting at the computer I'm very focussed on what needs to be done that day, how many words need to be written etc. It's that which keeps me going - fear of missing a deadline (so unprofessional!) and, back in the early days, it was fear of not having any money, and knowing that my two days' writing had to pay for half the mortgage and bills etc. That definitely keeps you at the desk, believe me!

Lane said...

You mean dirty dishes don't go in the microwave:-)

Plan B is this. Think of someone I've seen. It could be someone in the supermarket/street who has caught my eye. Write a very short flash about them. I have a folder full of these little micro characters.

Plan B #2 is read/edit/crit something written by one of my writing group.

Plan B #3 is go back to wip and try to write a 100 words or so, knowing that it will be deleted. This takes the pressure off.

Plan B#4 is have a little lie down. A creative nap usually works wonders:-)

Have a good weekend everyone!

CC Devine said...

My Plan B tends to be a bit of internet browsing and possibly even an urgent need to do something domestic which is normally the last thing I feel like doing except when it comes to sitting down to write!

I like Liz's egg timer tip so may give that a go.

Lane - I find that I see people about and jot down ideas that have occurred to me as a result of their behaviour/clothing etc. but have never written flashes as such. Really like that idea so may try that too.

Great post, Graeme.

Leatherdykeuk said...

Some good answers there.

Personally, I use prompts from sites line The Write Idea and The Grail and Museteasers, and if I have none to hand then I'll take six random phrases from my RSS reader and use those.

NoviceNovelist said...

Thatns for a good topic Graeme - Plan B is always read a few writing blogs and then read something I love which always gets me thinking about craft etc. Sometimes I grab a few random books off the shelves and read the first page to see what makes it good. Anything to get me back in the writing zone!!!

Chocolate ALWAYS helps!!!

Off on hols for the next month - back mid August - happy writing!!

Flowerpot said...

I might write a blog or look at whatever article I'm writing. That usually helps.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Usually freewriting, or - particularly if I'm stuck on something specific - reading a few pages of a how-to book. One or the other always does it for me. (I do lots of Internet surfing too. But in my case that's nothing to do with being stuck and everything to do with procrastination.)

Anonymous said...

Another great topic to get me started on a Friday. Thanks Graeme.

At the moment, I can't even imagine having any trouble getting started each day with my writing. Writer's block also seems to be a thing of the past, though I suspect it will rear its ugly head again one day. There's simply so much to do, you see.

I never start with a blank page/screen and stare at it. That's simply not how I begin, even with a brand new project. There are so many other activities associated with creating a work of fiction (and probably non-fiction too). There's planning, plotting, research, design, storyboarding, editing, proof-reading, organising, and many more... Oh yeah, and writing. When you multiply all this by the number of projects I have on the go, then I calculate that each morning I theoretically have a choice of around 64 activities to choose from!

And then there's the weekly Cloud Line homework to do as well.

So why am I sitting here writing this?
Does anyone know how to make more hours in the day?

Debs said...

Good morning, great topic too.

I have a nasty virus on my computer at the moment Av2009 and my brother in law is going to hopefully sort something out over the weekend. So frustrating though and I've taken ages to be able to post this. Thanks for the coffee, though I think vodka would suit my state of mind better at the moment.

I start each day by checking emails and a bit of blogging then I go to the shed (no interned access there) read though and edit what Ive done the day before and by the time I reach the end of that day's work, I find I'm raring to go.

Kate.Kingsley said...


Nice topic! Love the variety of approaches.

For me, I remind myself that I have permission to write total crap because that will all disappear in the edit. And after a few paragraphs of swill I tend to hit my stride & then I'm off and running. Also the "I'll just keep going till the end of this page" thing works a treat as I end up getting into a nice flow and keep going beyond the end of the page.

As a back-up, reminding myself how very much I want OUT of my current job is a big old motivator too!

Anonymous said...

Plan B: scour blogland, have a catch up. A bit of staring out of the window usually helps, sometimes a walk around the fields and more often than not, a cuppa.

CJ xx

Cathy said...

My Plan B is the ironing pile. It's amazing how quickly the inspiration comes when I desperately want to get out of doing the ironing...

SpiralSkies said...

Being obsessed with nit-pickery, I go back over the last chunk of the WIP, edit as necessary and that tends to get me back in the zone of whatever I'm supoosed to be writing instead of blog surfing and general faffing.

Also means I have less editing/proofreading to do when piece is finished which allows more time for wine!

Great topic Graeme. Not sure about those dodgy health bars instead of chocolate though?

wordtryst said...

I do a little or a lot of procrastinating then come back to the page. If it's still intractable I turn my attention elsewhere. Usually ideas start flowing again when I'm in the middle of doing something totally unrelated.

Some good suggestions here, though. Sometimes procrastinating is simply not an option.

KAREN said...

Plan B is re-reading something I've already written - usually gets me in the mood.

Plan C is setting up my laptop (which doesn't have Internet connection) in another room, away from the PC and refusing to allow myself back on the blogs until I've written something!

Helen Shearer said...

It's still morning here so technically I'm on time. I rarely gets blocked but whenI do I find reading usually gets me fired up and it usually doesn't take more than fifteen minutes to motivate me. If that fails, I close my eyes and repeat the mantra "I hate my day job, I hate my day job, I hate my day job..." Nothing gets words on the screen quite like good, old-fashioned misery.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Some really fascinating stuff there, all worth keeping in mind. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

Clare Sudbery said...

I have a silly tendency to refuse to allow myself to do anything other than what I'm supposed to be doing, so my Plan B tends to be either NOT writing anything at all and hating myself for it, or coming to somewhere like NovelRacers or some other online forum for writers or sometimes just my own blog, having a whinge abhout how rubbish I am, then giving myself a swift kick up the backside and finally getting going on what I'm supposed to be doing.