The Need to Write: Tapping into Your Creative Flow

Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank page of a [possibly] brand new composition book, feeling the gut-wrenching urge to write but instead of drafting the next great American novel, you find yourself ripping your hair out or beating your forehead on your desktop because you don’t know where to begin?

If you have ever felt this way, then let me reassure you [that] you are not alone. It happens to all of us—NOT JUST YOU! But be assured my fellow literary combatants—there are ways to overcome this.

One of the more common questions I get from aspiring authors is something that sounds like this (Don’t worry—we’re all guilty of it):  I really want (or have always wanted) to write a book, but where or how do I begin?

I try to reassure each inquisitor that (first off) I am not the great and powerful Oz (hey, I like the sound of that) despite our similarities: unlike him, sitting behind the large green curtain turning knobs and spewing out his mighty words of wisdom, I on the other hand hide behind the keyboard, tucked away somewhere on the World Wide Web offering the best advice I can—with the experiences I have collected along the way.

Like each of you (or each of the inquisitors) I struggle with the same difficulties each time I hear the stirring within my soul to draft a new story. And I don’t think that will ever truly go away.

Hopefully, it never will because it’s the struggle in the end that makes it all worthwhile. That’s what sets writers apart from any other creative artist. So, what’s the best advice I can give the potential novelist? Simply this: Writers write—sometimes you just have to spend more time writing and spend (a lot) less time talking about, researching or studying the art of writing. Put the rule books away and pickup the pen and write!!! 

I know that response isn’t necessarily fair because despite what other writers say when they [say] there’s no magical formula—in the end—there is. What I mean is this. Writing is a creative art-form and therefore (to honor the word art) you must understand there isn’t a strict written formula for how you should go about doing “it.”

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We are supposed to be the free-thinkers of the world, the ones with the right to think “outside the box” and the creative courage to color outside the lines. You should spend more time being creative and less time trying to find a solution for becoming something you were already born to become!

I know it isn’t easy, because we are raised to believe titles are associated with accomplishments and feats. You are the CEO if the sign on your office door says so. You are the manager of the restaurant if your name tag says so, etc, etc. But those rules don’t apply to us! We are different; we view the world differently than those around us, and without us the world would be bland, plain and dull. Think about it.

The best recommendation I can offer to help you get over that hump or (as much as I hate referencing the phrase) writer’s block, is to simply bypass the rule books and write. I always begin new projects with a clean, crisp composition book—the type that cost around $2 dollars that you can get from the local pharmacy.

I find time between projects at work, on lunch breaks (75% of Proud Souls was written on lunch breaks) and let my creative self take control of the paper. I don’t stop to edit, revise or review, I simply write!

I am willing to bet that if you allowed yourself 15 minutes a day, for one week, you would be astonished to discover how many fresh new pages of raw material you could create. Multiply that amount by four weeks or even eight weeks and by-golly you are on a roll!

You are on the path to completing a short-story, novella or even a novel length manuscript. I never edit the freehand draft to any stories, I simply write. I can change topics in the middle of paragraphs, add little notes and reminders to myself or even draw a scene from a moment I am living—right while I am in the midst of it! I have that right! I am a fiction writer, just as you are.

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To help break up the monotony and remind myself I am a more serious writer, I begin typing what I call the First Draft. I take my notes and begin formulating a story—answering the important questions—Who, What, When, Where and Why.

You will learn that if you write freehand during one part of the day (or week) and type that content later in the night (or week) you will begin discovering new concepts and ideals, plots and potential twists and turns for the story—and even better—you will begin discovering more and more about your characters and you can (essentially) watch them grow with each turn of the page.

I took a 4,000 word story and within (and less than) four months drafted a 67,000 word manuscript that would later become an 85,000 word novel: Proud Souls. It took two more years to see that project become a reality, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that you get past the mental roadblocks and bypass the rule books and do what you were born to do—write, think and create.

Answer the questions—who, what, when, where and why—captivate the senses and in the end, tell a good story. I believe that if you set your mind free and allow your more creative side to take control (tell the editor in you to take a nap or something), in the end you will be impressed and one day hide behind your keyboard like the great and powerful Oz and answer the question: Where do I begin?

Best of luck to you this year…and remember…I believe, because you believe!

 

7 Comments

  1. These are EXCELLENT tips for us all, especially me! While I joke around with Gary Karbon that he’s discouraging me from ever writing a book by providing stats on how little most authors profit, it’s still in my blood.

    I am guilty of that very thing: looking for a way to become that which I was born to be… a writer. Sure, I blog. And that’s great, and ultimately may be more profitable than getting published. But I have never overcome the obstacle of sitting down and forcing out a story, damn the consequences or quality that results.

    This time last year, I announced to all my MySpace peeps that I would have my first novel written by January of 2008. It’s now April of 2008, and I don’t think I ever wrote more than a few pages.

    I could go on forever, but the one thing I’d like to see you address in the future, Bobby, is your view of the blogger versus the author. This may be a post more up my alley than yours, but I’d like one of us to compare the two careers, discuss the pros and cons of each, and then conclude with a statement of ______ is better than _______ for this reason: _____________.

    What do you think? Should I tackle that one, or do you want to give it a shot?

     
  2. Bobby Ozuna

    Daniel:
    You may be better equipped to tackle that subject. I have tried in the past – see my article “Blogging Versus Writing” (http://inotauthor.blogspot.com/2007/12/blogging-versus-writing-time-wasted-or.html) – but naturally I was writing more from the perspective of the author spending too much (potential) time blogging when I felt I (they) should spend more time writing creative material.

    You have a knack for blogging–for writing articles, tips and how-to’s–than most people I know on a personal level. And sometimes I think writers spend too much time worrying about how others write (or don’t write).

    You are continuously inventing new ways to bring traffic to CultureFeast.com and new ways for your writers to help maintain those return readers. That is a gift in itself (apart from your writing) that I couldn’t do.

    I see it like this Daniel… if I could do what you do with this site, well then I would have just published my own articles from my blogsite (http://Inotauthor.Blogspot.com); but in the end I can’t. Either I don’t have the time or the willingness or quite frankly, the capacity to understand how.

    If the desire to write the novel is that strong, then I would take some of my recommendations and just do it. There is no better way to tackle the novel than by forcing yourself to make the time everyday and write. All the rules will come into play later–after you finish the manuscript.

    As far as an article to argue blogging over writing or vice-versa… I am not sure how much statistical help I might be. But we could approach the article from a blogging and creative writing perspective???

    You could touch on one topic and argue the point while I argued from the author’s perspective???

    It might make for good reading….

    Let me know what you think.

     
  3. Lisa Pawlowski

    Your column reminded me of something. A friend of mine, Britta Coleman, a Fort Worth writer, published her first novel two years ago (Potter Springs-I forget the publisher). Anyway, she signed up to get a Master of Fine Arts degree and is in there with some people who have already gotten their Ph.D’s.

    She said that all of them like to talk a good game about the book are going to write. But if you ask them how much time they actually put into writing the thing, the answer is none to a couple hours.

    BTW, Bobby, I know you’re a self-publisher, but are you going to the Austin Editors and Agents conference in June?

     
  4. Bobby Ozuna

    Lisa:
    Mrs. Britta was one of the first writers I met (over 5 years ago now) who didn’t judge me for what I hadn’t written yet, but actually inspired me to stop talking about writing and (as she says) Just Write!!!

    Be sure to tell Britta that Bobby Ozuna says hello.

    I am not sure about the conference…I begin teaching my Creative Writing courses at the North Richland Hills Recreational Center in June and my weekends will be booked til the end of the year…or at least until baseball season rolls around again.

    Thanks for the comments! I hope you truly enjoyed the article.

     
  5. Great article, Bobby!

    I am always guilty of talking about how much I want to write and then not writing. I struggle with the switch from my full-time writing gig to my personal writing…some days it is really hard to turn my professional brain off and get into the creative swing of things.

    I have about 5,500 words on my novel, but I keep coming back to it…I just need to really devote some quality time to it, turn the inner editor off, and get that word count up!! :-)

     
  6. This seems to be written personally for me.

     
  7. Bobby Ozuna

    Jess:
    My recommendation (and that’s all it is–as everyone has their own magical way of getting words on paper) is to simply write and spend as little time as possible worrying about anything other than getting the story out of your soul and onto the paper.

    I always write free-hand first…on a simple black & white composition book…and its the purest creative writing I can create. And everyday I dedicate a few moments (15~30 minutes) to adding more to what I created the day before and I allow myself FREE range to be as creative and as off-the-wall as I wish. Sometimes we have an idea of how we want to start a story…or an idea of how the body might be…or (even worse) we have a great idea for an ending and nothing more…so you have to use some creative wit to fill in the gaps.

    Toss that editorial hat aside…take out your pen and some paper and write, write, WRITE!!!
    I believe you can do it…as I did it…and trust me…I am not better suited to have created a finished product than anyone else I know; the only difference between me and someone still talking about writing is this: I made up my mind to write the story until it was “finished.” When it was done…I began the grueling process of editing and proofing and weeding out the bulk of a consistent story, thereby getting rid of some of the crap I wrote along the way.

    Stay in touch…WE CAN DO THIS!!! I PROMISE!!!

     

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