Last year I read The Brontë Sisters: the Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne by Catherine Reef. It was recommended by a fellow children's picture book writer, but, for the life of me, I can't remember whom. But, thank you. It was a good read. So, I thought I would share my writer's POV on this classic, along with quotes from Reef's book.
Although it is a YA book, the content is meaty enough to get a glimpse of the cloistered and dark lives of these three authors, and sense the similarity of their environment to their best-selling books as follows: "Jane Eyre", "Wuthering Heights" and "Agnes Grey" respectively.
I could feel the wind blowing across the moors, and sense the weight of their depressing lives. Since writing was not the proper vocation for women in those days, these girls took on pen names. Charlotte was Currier, Emily chose Ellis, and Anne, Acton. . . and all with the surname of Bell. Escaping their mundane existence, the three invented and imagined a host of characters and kingdoms. They lived and breathed life into them as they put pen to paper.
A couple of years back, like many, I was glued to my TV screen with a cuppa and a scone. As the credits rolled, so did the tears. I was a fairly new writer, and understood the power the written word posessed. I had just finished watching the last episode of Season Three in the saga of "Downton Abbey", the wildly popular BBC series focusing on the privileged and not-so-privileged.
What we learned throughout the ongoing story was this: when it comes to disasters, it doesn't matter who you are or how much money you make — they happen to everyone, regardless of status.
Even though we were reminded of that truth during each episode, it wasn't until I viewed the final scene that it hit me like a monsoon. It was almost too much to bear. Just when I was reveling in the "happily ever after" scene, it happened. I couldn't believe it! I felt cheated. And slightly depressed.
Those of you who have seen it know what I mean. Did the writer want to add a wicked twist to the plot? Did the actor want out? If so, could I have obliged? For whatever reason, the results did not sit well with me.
Then, almost immediately, I began to think of myself and my role as a writer. I, too, have that power. The power to write in or write out characters at will. I realized I would have found difficulty in writing a scene so tragic. So unpredictable. So unwanted.
But that is the beauty of being a writer. I don't have to write scenes that lead to despair. And if I did, one thing is for sure — they would lead eventually to good. There would be a reason. All would work out in the end. It would give my readers hope. Because we all need hope in these days of uncertainty. And I know that my hope is in God, who does work all things together for good.
Those of you who are avid fans, what do you think? Did all things work out for good in the final season of "Downton Abbey"? That was Julian Fellowes prerogative. He held the pen.
How would you have written the ending?
I've been struggling these past few months. Struggling to put words on paper. Is that you, too? Funny thing is, I have no problems with posts on Facebook. They flow like water. So, what's the deal? What I thought was writer's block is probably better named as procrastination. I know I need to write, but what do I do instead?
- The laundry (I have nothing to wear. . .)
- Dishes (really?)
- Bake (it's an escape)
- Mend clothes (I hate looking at the growing pile)
- Purchase mentor texts on Amazon
- Continue one of my writer's courses
- Submit a manuscript.
I tell myself that these things really do need to get done. And, c'mon, the last three apply to writing. Am I not correct?
Correct, but wrong. Huh?
The point is, I'm NOT WRITING.
I sure do. Challenges ALWAYS get me going. I wouldn't have much written if I didn't accept the challenges:
And the list could go on. Some months, I go from one challenge to another. My first drafts are nothing to write home about, but hey, I have something on paper to edit when the time comes. But, as I push ahead, I have found a few other resources to entice and inspire me. Even when I am not writing. Even when it's true writer's block, and not procrastination. Maybe these will help you, too:
A Writer's Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld (good help with focus for the writing life)
Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein (she's given me super editing and revising hints when I’m stuck with character and plot)
Children's Book-A-Day Almanac by Anita Silvey (helpful for story ideas)
The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron (great for motivation)
Award-winning author Candace Fleming (I consider her a friend) has advice for getting 'unstuck':
- Write one to three pages of anything on your mind. It could be thoughts on your manuscript, or just fleshing out the events of the day. Julia Cameron calls them "morning pages" because they are written first thing in the morning to get you writing.
- Any time you get stuck as you are writing a story, whether it's with a name, location, descriptive word, etc, just fill the space with a "—", and decide what to use later. Then your writing will not come to a halt, as it has for me many times!
Here’s help from Writer’s Digest: A 12 Day Plan of Simple Writing Exercises
The Character Traits Thesaurus is a helpful tool when you are stuck with ideas. Check it out HERE.
Don’t know how to begin a story? This blogpost gives you some ideas.
Ever thought of writing a Fractured Fairytale? Tara Lazar shows you how. Her how-to video is a riot!
THE ANTI-PROCRASTINATION PLAN
Now that I'm an empty nester, I find I have more time to write, but less self-control. As I've mentioned above, I find tons of things to do instead of writing. So, I schedule myself. I carve out a piece of the day that is totally free, and I concentrate on writing or revising. I also take time to read books on writing, look for agents or publishers to submit to, or take a class online. At one point, I thought of choosing one writing 'task' each day. For instance, Monday would be my submission day, Tuesday, revision day, Wednesday . . .well, you get my meaning. But so far, that hasn't worked.
A good app that reminds me of my tasks for the day/week/month is Any.do. They have updated it, and I highly recommend it for reminding yourself of the contest or pitchfest you are going to take part in, or any other writerly tasks you need to accomplish. Make sure you include the name and location of the event as well, so you can find the details when you need them. The app is available for laptops, iPhones and iPads.
Julie Cameron also suggested 'Walks' and 'Artist's Dates' with yourself. Go for a walk in the neighborhood. Or choose a safe forest preserve or park on your way to the shopping mall. And take yourself out on a date to a museum, unexplored neighborhood, or bookshop that is new to you. You'd be amazed at how refreshed and more creative you feel!
SOMETIMES ALL YOU NEED IS A PROMPT: NO EXCUSE FOR WRITER’S BLOCK
If all of the above fails, just sit yourself down in a quiet, distraction free place, open your notebook or computer program/app of your choice and WRITE!
- Your favorite childhood experience
- Your worst childhood experience
- A day in the life of your dog/cat or other pet
- Your life on a deserted island: what would you take?
- If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
- If you could make up any world, what would it be like?
- Pick a color and write about what it means to you. What word pictures does it bring to mind?
- If you have a list of titles/ideas for a picture/chapter book, pick one and just start writing.
- Get your thinking cap on and write a pitch or jacket flap text for a WIP (that’s a Work In Progress). It's amazing how that assignment will clarify the plot and characters of your story.
Well, I hope I have given you some ideas to jump start your writing and get the creative juices flowing. So. . .WRITE ON!!
What excuses do you use for procrastinating?? Share your comments below. . . I’d love to hear from you!
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.