Tuesday, April 29, 2008

three days and ten pages

I've been selfishly taking advantage of sarah's break between trimesters at med school (and she passed round one of her boards, so I bask in the totality of her awesomeness) to get some writing done on our novel. For the past three days we've been passing a chapter-draft back and forth, using comment boxes and font colors so we can see who's adding what. What we wound up salvaging after all this was ten pages (and I'd say the chapter is half finished). When I put everything back to black and read it out loud, I was quite impressed w/ how well it flowed in terms of the unity of style.

So far, this chapter is the most collaborative. And I think I'm safe to speak for her when I say how much we love the conversational part of this collaboration. The comment boxes not only respond to a word or sentence or paragraph ("love it!"; "not sure if I'm feelin' it here"; "can you come up w/ a better word here?" "what do you think of this?"; etc.) but also talk about the characters, or us in relation to the story. (For instance, how we reek of coffee for days after spending two hours in a coffee shop; how we might approach speed dating from a social scientist point of view, how I started to fall in love w/ one of the male characters after reading sarah's description of him, and so on.) It keeps us excited and plugged in to both the process and the product. We both get giddy when we find an email w/ an attachment from each other, and we get frustrated when we must attend to the rest of life instead -- studying, grading, husband, household, etc.

Let it be known that I'm still plotting to get her and her hubby to move down here, because I am selfish and evil.

And, while I'm blogging, I feel the need to address something Stacey responded to in connection to a recent post about the publishing intensive and the advice about holding off on the query process for a while. Stacey brought up "six months" and recommended against it. I re-read my post and never saw an actual number. (But, this might have come up in a conversation during our writers group meeting.) Of course, everyone has their own opinion, and I value both Zelda's and Stacey's insight and experience. And now that I've had a few days to think about it, it's a tough call. I haven't sent out queries since late January, mostly due to the demands of school and finishing up my second novel (the sequel), so that right there is a considerable passage of time. And yet, I haven't done anything since to bolster publishing credits, and that was Zelda's suggestion for the interim, to submit to magazines, journals, etc. Perhaps I can continue to do both. Interestingly enough, I couldn't go to sleep last night until I re-drafted the synopsis section of my query letter (of course, this was pretty late, and I haven't read it since, so it could be crap). I tell my students that writing well requires practice. So does querying well, I guess.

And finally, speaking of students, I cracked up when I read my student's reflection on his improvement this past semester: I'm much better at noticing error's on my paper. That, my friends, is the joy of teaching.

Monday, April 28, 2008

and then there were four

We've just added a new member to our writer's group. For almost a year, the "group" consisted of Stacey and myself. And we had a revolving door of members who committed and then never showed, or couldn't stay because of extenuating circumstances, etc. When R joined us, Stacey and I were both excited to have a new pair of eyes and a new perspective. R has been a wonderful equilibrium, especially since Stacey and I are quite different stylistically, as are the kinds of things we like to write and read. But I got the sense yesterday that as all four of us sat in the restaurant, discussing R's story, that now we were a "complete" little group. And I had this silent moment of Presence, and thought, wow, this is really cool. We are still four very different writers w/ different backgrounds and experiences. But it works for us. We're very open and accepting of the feedback. We respect each other and are not afraid to be a little vulnerable now and then. I appreciate that.

I know that some writers don't like writers groups because they think having a group interferes w/ the process, and that first drafts aren't meant to be shown anyway -- especially not when they're half finished. And I can understand this; most of the time, first drafts are messy-- they lack focus, direction, details, coherence, etc. Most of the time the writer can't figure out what the hell's going on in a first draft, so how do we expect a reader to read it and respond favorably? In terms of academic writing instruction, sharing writing in draft form (a.k.a. peer review) has become standard practice. And yet, how daunting it is to hand over what you think is crap to another reader. It's tough, man.

But a writers' group has done several things for me. One, it helps w/ accountability and discipline. It gives me a deadline. When my turn rolls around, I damn well better have something to bring to the table. Two, it's a great opportunity to experience my writing from others' point of view. As a writer, I often try to step outside of myself and into the shoes of another reader, but my writers group almost always shows me something that I never could've seen myself. And three, it gives me a chance to read and respond to other writers, to glean ideas from them, to learn new genres that I otherwise wouldn't expose myself to. I've learned something about suspence-thriller thanks to Stacey's novels. R is writing a good murder mystery. And I'm looking forward to A's piece. It gives me a chance to not be a teacher and instead a peer. And it's nice to put that hat on from time to time.

And then, of course, there are the fortune cookies. Fortune cookies at our writers group meetings are always a good thing. Join a writers group just for the food opportunities -- the writing will benefit, too.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

lessons, confessions, and retractions: a publishing intensive

Oh man, I am so fried. And it's only 1:15.

I attended a 3-hr publishing intensive workshop this morning. The key word here is intense. We had a small, yet diverse group of writers, ranging from nonfiction to children's fiction to my chick lit. And Zelda (our fearless facilitator) was excellent in giving people a forum to speak and ask questions and share experiences.

Where to start? I learned so much--not necessarily all *new* information, but I certainly had some awakenings and massively had to humble myself. I suppose the most important one was the follow-up to the lightbulb moment a week ago.

There is another side to the craft of writing: the business of writing. And it's so easy to get caught up in the creative process, and to see the creation like a child w/out a single flaw. It's easy to get so caught up in the "please read this and like it" that you forget about those things you would apply to any other job situation: do your research; persuade an agent and a publisher that you're going to make them money; show off your credentials (first, get some!); make connections; and so on.

My first humbling moment was, thankfully, a private one. I'm not doing enough of these things. Not nearly enough. Or I'm doing them and I'm not doing them well. And I can. Thankfully, I believe that much.

On self-publishing: Here's where my retraction comes in. I've gone back to my original position, which is that self-publishing is not right for me. And this is coming from a business point of view. I didn't do enough research. I didn't have all the facts (or, at least, enough of them). And now that I do (and know where I can go to get even more), I'm certain that my reasons for having made the announcement that I was going to were not good enough -- they weren't sound business reasons, although I thought they were at the time. Pride-swallowing moment number two.

And then, I really went and did it when I offered up my query letter for critique and feedback. And I admit: when I was barraged w/ critiques and questions, I went on the defense -- not angrily, mind you, but I just wasn't ready for it. But Zelda did what a good teacher does: she intervened, and gave me a moment to figuratively breathe. She invited me to *listen* and then told me to pick up my pen and write down what my co-participants were telling me (she said it like that, too: "pick up your pen and write what we're telling you." I so needed that!). And then I let down the wall and listened. I was ready. I asked for more. And their comments and suggestions helped me to cut the cord from my letter that I had read and re-read and re-wrote umpteen-thousand-million times and see/hear it from the point of view from the agent who wants to know how this is going to make her/him money.

Isn't that something? I teach audience and purpose for a living. I conduct workshops in which I ask my writers to do the difficult task of stepping into the shoes of their intended readers; and yet, I barely knew my audience here. I was talking around them, over them, at them, underneath them. Everything but to them. Each agent may as well have been that ambiguous "general public" or "anyone who is interested in reading this" that my students so often mis-identify or characterize.

Perhaps the most humbling moment of all was when Zelda recommended that I stop the query process for awhile. It was tough for me to hear that for a few reasons: 1) Because she was right and I knew it, 2) because I felt like I had just stumbled to the bottom of the hill again, 3) because I have this looming sense of urgency, that the more time that slips by, the farther into obscurity I will fall.

The last two are fear and ego-driven, of course, and thus not valid. All three are ego-driven, in fact.

And so, to avoid staying in the ego trap, let us call it like it really is.
Here's where I'm at:
- I've got a kick-ass first novel that still needs another 20K words, sequel or no sequel.
- I've got to hold myself to the same expectations of thorough research that I hold my students to when it comes to knowing the market, knowing as much as I can about an agent, knowing what's gonna make money, etc.
- My query letter is not sufficient.
- I've got to explore and aim for other publishing options (magazines, literary journals, other kinds of blogs, etc.)
- I've got to attend to all of these things before I can resume the query process.
- I've got approximately three months to devote my full time to it, come May 3rd.
- I can do it.
- Urgency is bullshit.
- I am a writer.

I suppose then, that a fitting end to this post is that when I came home and checked my email, I found an attachment from my PIC of our latest exchange of ideas and drafting. For one thing, it was a loving reminder of why I bother w/ it all. Without craft, without process, without creation, there is no business, no product, no market, no query. Without joy, there is no will.

That one humbles me enough to make me a little verklempt. (ok, a lot verklempt; I'm tearing up so much that I need to get a tissue...)

I could really use a Caribou fix. And some student papers await grading. That might actually clear my head. And awwwwaaayyyy we go!

thanks, Zelda.
namaste, writers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

solitary collaboration

We're in what is known as "Dead Week" at the university where I teach -- it's the last week of classes and its name is derived from the practice of not assigning students any more work, introduce any new material, etc. I use it as a time to conference one-on-one w/ my students as they finish up revisions on their final papers.

Of the ten + students who had made appointments w/ me for today, five called to cancel and two were no-shows. That left me w/ a bit of time to do some writing of my own once I took care of some emails, work-related items, etc. Ever since my writer's block, I've been doing most of the writing of my latest novel longhand. I keep a notebook devoted solely to it, appropriately decorated w/ cafe images (my novel is primarily set in a bookstore/cafe), and have been taking it w/ me everywhere for the last week.

As I may have told you in an earlier post, this is the first time I am co-writing a novel, but not the first time I've collaborated w/ my PIC. A couple of years ago, my PIC (partner in crime) had temporarily moved in w/ me, before I relocated to NC and her to upstate NY, to co-write the first draft of the screenplay for my first novel.

I don't think I could pull this off w/ anyone else, especially since I am so controlling w/ my writing. But somehow, we make it work.

My PIC is currently a med student. Specifially, chiropractic. And she was an art major in college, folks. Go figure that one! I don't know how she does it, man. It baffles me; the level of stress and the volumes of work and all the memorization and the pressure... there's just so much at stake. The selfish part of me (dare I say, the writer) wants to seriously persuade her to quit, to get her and her hubby to move to Raleigh (where he would easily find a job in his line of work), and get her to do something less stressful; say, become a hairdresser (they teach anatomy in hairdresser school. For example, how many bones make up the head? One: the skull). Just think of all the product she could get... I want her to do this so she could be close to me again, so we could spend hours in Caribou Coffee (since we can no longer be at UJ's or Mirasol's) with our pages making revisions and talking about the characters as if they live and breathe, just like we used to do.

How I miss the talking. Face to face.

Alas, I can't. She has her own path, and I bow down to her and the journey she makes every waking moment.

But man, I loves when her trimester ends and she gets a break. As I write this, she's visiting her mom in Vermont, and we spent the day emailing each other pages that began as freewrites and are slowly turning into a finished chapter. Although this isn't how we've been working thus far, today we each added a layer, brick by brick. We talk to each other in our drafts. Right smack in the middle of our text, we change the color of the font and start a conversation about a word or a line or a thought or an idea. One time we went on for two pages and the entire palette of Word font colors all in response to a four-word sentence.

When it comes to writing, process takes many forms. It is amorphic, really -- moldable clay one minute, jello the next. It's a solitary act so often; but sometimes Stacey's wife, or even just Stacey (and yes, Stacey's a guy, folks -- a cool guy) and I meet at Panera Bread or Caribou and just participate in the act of writing together, each working on our own projects but doing it in each other's company. And for me, that is so life-affirming, so communal. And, I might argue that as writers we need to be communal as much as we need to be solitary.

I miss my PIC dearly. Not just because it would make our collaboration easier, but because I miss her company. And yet, when I am alerted to her emails, and if I'm lucky enough, it comes w/ an attachment of a draft or a bit of feedback, then for a moment, she is here beside me, and we are in my Fairhaven apartment eating cookies and watching The West Wing all over again.

(But really, would it kill you to just *consider* being a hairdresser? Two words: scalp massages...)

Monday, April 21, 2008

good to know

So, I may have spoke to soon when I announced my decision to self-publish. I received a very important piece of information from my twin brother: major booksellers don't like featuring self-published authors and they especially don't like print-on-demand companies. I had thought that because of my "inside connections" (i.e., him), I could get a couple of reading gigs at my hometown (NY) bookstore (I'll not reveal which one or where). And the reason has nothing to do w/personal feelings against self-published writers or reputation or anything like that: it's business. A store can't make money off a self-published author.

In other words, if I go to my local B&N and say, "Hey, I'm a self-published author and I'd like to schedule a reading at your store," then they would have to pre-order a number of books from the print-on-demand company. So let's say they order fifty copies. And let's say that I get a turnout of about twenty people, and of those, ten buy a copy. That's forty copies B&N is stuck with, and they can't send those books back because print-on-demand companies don't accept returns of orders. What's more, if I offer to liquidate the stock, then I'm stuck footing the bill. Further still, if I say, "No problem! I'll bring my own stock!" then they're still not making money because then I'm selling them out of the trunk of my car, so to speak.

Basically, wombmate said that I'd have to promise B&N a smashing turnout and sales, and then deliver on that promise. A really tough sell, especially if the book has just come out and I'm, like, nobody to them.

And great news -- I was able to reserve a seat in published author Zelda Lockhart's publishing "intensive" for this Saturday. So far, I've picked up really good vibes from Zelda, and Jesse said he's heard good things about her workshop, so I'm really excited. And I can bring my self-publishing considerations to her and ask for her feedback and guidance. So I'll keep you posted (literally) on my self-publishing venture.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

a week of lightbulb moments in the life of an aspiring writer

Tonight was my third outing to QRB in Raleigh this week, this time to see a panel on publishing a book/getting an agent. My good friend Jesse has spent the last year building a sort of grassroots campaign of panel discussions in bookstores and libraries across the state on topics ranging from the craft of writing to self-publishing to agent querying to podcasts and media. I'm so grateful to him for this service, because I know there are writers who are completely in the dark about this subject, as I once was. Each panel gets better, more diverse. He has had best-selling authors, up-and-coming authors, self-published authors, authors of fiction and non-fiction, authors of various genres, etc. Jesse moderates each discussion and begins w/ self-designed questions devoted mostly to craft, followed by an audience Q&A that shifts drastically to "but how do I get an agent?"

In On Writing, Stephen King touches on this very topic, and mentions how many aspiring writers feel that somehow getting an agent or published requires some kind of secret handshake or password, when really it's not that foregin. "Easy for you to say, Stevie," is usually my first response whenever I read that passage. No matter how many of these panels and workshops I go to, the process does seem like a mystery to me, and never within reach, possibly because there are so many X-factors: the competition of one's fellow writers (and there are so many fellow writers out there, some really good and some shit); the mood and clientload of the agent; the appeal of the query letter; the marketability of the genre, etc. There is no one formula, no magic word that gets you "in." There's no golden ticket.

I've attended several of Jesse's panels (and I've asked him to save me a spot for when my book comes out), but tonight's really got to me. Sometimes it's the common sense things that elude us for whatever reason, and it's like getting smacked in the head, like on those V-8 commercials. I learned two key things tonight: agents wanna make money, and the query letter is like a cover letter for a job.
I mean, it's so simple. How many times have I told my students, "the cover letter gets you the interview; once interviewed, you get you the job"? The query letter gets you the attention of the agents -- it's to get them to want to read your manuscript, and it's to persuade them that you'll make them money, and how. Once that's achieved and they've asked to see more, my stellar (may I say, "loving") manuscript gets me the agent.

And that was my a-ha moment. My query letters haven't been tailored enough to specific agents -- I've done some homework, but I've not done *enough* homework. There's not enough of *me* in my query letter -- as is, it's more of a form letter--perhaps not *that* bad, but a little stiff. I've made improvements in the last year, but not enough. Not what it takes to get an agent interested in me, in my work. Wow.

Afterwards, a bunch of attendees and the panelists headed over to the restaurant across the street, a slightly less generic version of TGI Fridays. I got to talk to author Dusty Rhodes (another great name!) a little bit about living in Wilmington and his own winning query letter and just had a good time hanging out w/ writers in general. And beofre the night ended, Jesse asked me if I wanted to be on a panel in the near future (finally!). In fact, he wants me to talk abut blogging...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

get aggressive

I went to a second reading tonight. This one was a published novelist named Nancy Peacock (great name!) who, despite her critical successes, could not afford to live as a full-time novelist and thus made her living as a housecleaner. And so, she wrote a memoir about it.

In comparison to John Kessel, this reading was not well-attended -- maybe a dozen or so people. All women, w/ the exception of one man. And it's possible that I was one of the youngest women there.

That alone seemed reflective of her story.

During the Q&A, I asked her a question: "Have you reconciled the two (writing and housecleaning)? If so, how?"
Her answer: "Yes. I gave up housecleaning."

Later, I raised my hand again, and this time shared a comment about how her story needs to be told to all the aspiring writers who have the expectation that the Stephen Kings and Oprah Book Club authors are in the majority. And heck, come to think of it, the public needs to be set straight as well.

In response to my comment, Nancy mentioned that she kept telling herself, "no one else is going to do it for me." She also repeated the phrase "buckle down" when answering questions about keeping a writng schedule, and deadlines, and getting an agent, etc. In the way that I was validated last night when John discussed his process and his struggles, I was equally, if not more so, validated by Nancy's use of the phrase "buckle down." And here I've been beating myself for not "buckling down" enough, for not, what she says, "getting aggressive" with my writing careeer. "That's what my friend told me I needed to do," she said. "I needed to get aggressive."

When I went to the table to get my book signed, she asked me what I do for a living, and I told her, and told her about my own struggle to balance the two. She told me not to give up on pursuing an agent, and credited me for continuing my career in light of a full time job that takes up so much "psychic energy," as she called it. She signed my book w/ the note "Get aggressive." (The pacifist in me thought that maybe this phrase is too violent as a mantra, but certainly it's a proactive statement. I do, however, like "no one's gonna do it for you"...)

On top of everything else, today was "Poem in Your Pocket" day at the bookstore. Recite a poem and receive an extra 10% off your purchase. I didn't have any poems w/ me, and blanked out when invited to recite one. What came to mind was a poem I'd composed when I was seventeen and in my artsy, New Romantic phase (I think I had discovered e.e. cummings, too). Thus, I recited:

Give me a break; I was seventeen.
Still, I got the 10% off, and was able to buy two books for under 20 bucks as a result. Life is good.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

two unrelated events

This evening I went to a reading by John Kessel, a published science fiction author and professor at NC State. I was pleased to learn that his writing process is very similar to mine: he spends a lot of time thinking about an idea, works on a first draft slowly but is relatively pleased w/ it when it's done, and then spends a lot of time re-writing -- loves the revision process. I also found out that he can get caught up in the procrastination, and also doesn't get as much time to write during the semester because of his teaching responsibilities; but, come summer, he gets into a writing groove. Just like me!

I can't tell you how much this validated me. I've been getting down on myself for not being disciplined enough, for taking too long to get a draft done, for not balancing my writing career w/ my "day job." And here's someone well-respected, published, who faces the same challenges as I do.

I'm going to email him and tell him how much I enjoyed the reading.

And here's another bit of writing news: I've decided to self-publish my first novel. I've been on the fence about this idea for the past year, and in terms of fiction, it never quite felt right to me. I wanted to take a shot at getting an agent. And while I haven't sent out nearly enough queries, I'm concerned that the longer this first book stays unpublished, the more dated it's going to be. The novel is four years old already (and geez, how did four years pass in the blink of an eye?), and it's already generated interest from students, friends, family, etc. Add that to a better understanding of viral marketing, and I think it could sell books.

I'm not sure what fully turned the tide for me, but since I've made the decision and started telling people, I feel better and better about it. It definitely has its disadvantages, and I'm not going to stop querying agents, but I'm confident that something good will come of it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

on preseverence

I hit a wall this past weekend regarding agent rejections and the current status of my writing career. Normally, I take the rejections in stride. If I had learned to handle love rejections as well, I could've saved a lot of money in tissues. But every once in awhile, it gets to you, and you feel like no one is ever gonna like your stuff enough to beg you to let them represent you. You feel like no one would ever pay money to read your stuff, and even if they would, they won't because they're never going to know about it, or know you exist.

It's daunting: the vast list of agents, the varied submission guidelines, the money spent on stamps and letterhead, and the bold letters: not accepting new clients, the lists of magazines and literary journals and their submission guidelines, more money spent on stamps and letterhead, the contests, the conferences (and their fees), and so on.

I called my brother who, unfortunately, has had his fair share of rejections in his lifetime as a musician. I needed some wisdom and advice. And I needed my little crisis of faith to be heard by someone who wouldn't judge it.

"It sucks," he started. "Being an artist of any kind (and making a living) is really, really hard. But you have to stop thinking about the money and start thinking about why you're doing it."


The point was driven home further by my good friend Jesse, who talked about perseverence. "I didn't really get the concept of it ten years ago," he said. "But today it's much clearer to me."

I think I get it too. It's relentless, non-stop, follow-through. It's keeping your eye on the ball (the "ball" being "why you're doing it"). It's about shutting off the tv, not buying the double grande mocha decaf latte, and perhaps not writing in the blog so much. It's about sending out 100 query letters instead of 20, about following up on press releases and marketing. It's about giving something to the business rather than sitting back and waiting for someone to come to you.

So, when I take stock of my writing career, I need to ask myself, "Am I persevering?" and answer honestly. And honestly, today my answer is, "not enough." And maybe that's still sugar-coating it. Maybe an even more honest answer is "No." And I can't blame it on the demands of my job, or my financial situation, or anything else. So the question that follows is, "Do you want it enough? Do you know why you're doing it?"

I have to make a choice, every day, to be a writer.
Today, I say, Yes.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

um...it'll come to me in a minute

Question: Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it? And is the term "writer's block," a possessive, or "writers block," a plural?

Answer: Funny, dear imaginary question-asker, that you should ask that question, because I've been going through a bout of it lately (and that last question is my own -- I shift back and forth between possessive and plural, but I think it's more to do w/ me typing too fast and forgetting the apostrophe when I go plural. If anyone knows for sure, do share).

I've never met a writer who doesn't get writers block. It doesn't come from having nothing to say or to write about. Let me offer a simile: writers block is like opening a refridgerator full of food, staring at all of it, and saying, "there's nothing to eat." Ditto for the closet-full-of-clothes-and-having-nothing-to-wear-on-a-first-date syndrome. It's fear-based. It has nothing to do w/ the words (or being hungry, or well-dressed, etc.). Rather, it's about needing to fulfill something and fearing that you can't. I would guess that in the case of most writers, it's a perfection issue.

I often write so much in my head for days that when I finally sit at the computer or w/ my notebook to put it all on the page, I freeze up in fear that the perfect combinations of words and scenes and dialogue that I so wonderfully imagined are now lost to me. Worse still, I want the book, scene, essay, etc. finished, mastered in one draft, flowing like water, when in reality it's the babbling brook no matter how many times I've written it in my head.

I fear I have nothing to say. I fear that what I have to say has no meaning, makes no sense. I fear that what I have to say is worthless and matters to no one. I fear that what I have to say is stupid, or not funny. I fear that what I have to say is too truthful, or not truthful enough. I fear that what I have to say exposes too much. I fear that I am not good enough, that no one will like what I write, that no one will like me.

So how do I deal w/ it? Crawling up into a fetal position on my couch and watching three hours of "Law&Order CI" is one method... Seriously, though. The best thing to do is not fight it so much. "What you resist, persists."

I do one of several things. I either stop writing for a while and go back to thinking, or I freewrite about my writers block. It might look something like this: I finally have all the time in the world to write and now I'm sitting here staring at the screen and absolutely nothing is coming out. I'm drawing a total blank. I was intending to work on the next chapter of [insert novel title here], when [name] does [thing] and [other guy] walks in and catches her... Stating my intent sometimes (not always) opens the gate, and although it's really rocky at first (like striking or popping out the first few times at bat), eventually I get on a roll.

Another trick? I psych myself out, by writing this as my first line: This does not have to be perfect. It can be as crappy as it needs to be. It's a first draft. (If I'm feeling really blocked, I usually write: it's a fucking, god-awful, shitty first draft.) Believe me, it helps. I even shared this one w/ my students, and I can't tell you how many of them start their own drafts or in-class freewriting this way (w/out all the profanity, since they know they have an audience of more than themselves). It's about allowing, not resisting the fear, and surrendering to it. It's like saying, "hey, I know you're scared. It's ok to be."

Then there are days when I don't even get that far. I won't even go near the computer for days, or I'll do everything on it but open Word. I'll play solitaire on it for so long that after the fact I lament that I just wasted hours that I'll never get back, that new gray hairs came in while I was dealing a new game for the sixteenth time. I'll send emails to every single person in my address book; I'll write on my blogs or other people's blogs (heck, what do you think I'm doing right now?); I start googling things. I start replying to all the emails that replied to mine. I might even IM someone. You know it's really bad when cleaning my house, especially my bathroom, is a more appealing option than writing.

Guys like Stephen King tell you to write through it, and I suppose that's good advice. Really, it's about what works best for you. I do caution you to not let it go on for too long, though. The longer it passes w/out you doing something about it, the worse it gets.

What snapped me out of a recent block was my PIC (partner in crime) sending me a freewrite of imaginary blog responses for the novel we are co-writing (yes, the character has her own blog -- isn't that so art-imitating-life? -- trust me, hers is much more interesting and communal...). So I started replying to the comments w/ my own, as if they were real comments, and started to have fun. If we do wind up using them for the novel, I'd have to tone them down a bit (I think I took out my writers block frustration on the imaginary bloggers comments -- my own wound up being quite harsh and aggressive), but the point is that the next day I wrote at least ten pages longhand, and when I re-read them, I found that it was actually pretty damn good.

And so, now that I've finished this post, I think it's time to get the next ten pages of the novel written.

After I dust my livingroom. And my bedroom. And straighten out some papers. And I have to finish my taxes, too. And there's some prepwork for school that needs to be done. And I have to organize my sock drawer. But after that, I swear, I'm ready to go.