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Writing is like meditation.  You sit down to do it knowing that it will take your whole concentration to do it well, and yet you know you can never give your whole concentration for the time that is needed.  Random thoughts pop up, you get hungry, you remember something you really need to do, or suddenly doing this other thing seems REALLY FAR MORE INTERESTING and you click over to it.

So you do like you do when meditating: recognize that your attention has wondered, bring it back to the task in a neutral way without guilt or shame, and start over again like you never strayed, even while you know it will happen again and again despite your best intentions.  This is how you write, one little block of time after another.

But that is ok, it is just how the mind works and you have to accept it.  At least, it's how my mind works.  I haven't meditated in years, but I did get better at focusing then and I have gotten better at focusing now while writing.  I'm much better at catching my attention wondering at the beginning, instead of realizing 60 minutes later that I was way off track and stalled.  I can't tell you what a relief that is - I was convinced for years that I couldn't write because I couldn't keep my focus on the screen long enough to actually write something.  I've learned the hard way to catch myself wondering, and to learn how to keep the words flowing (often- but I'm still really working on this).  Throwing up a [research this later!] type thing really helps me keep momentum - I think if I'd known about that years ago, and really understood that your first draft doesn't have to be perfect!, I'd have kept writing instead of convincing myself for years that I couldn't do it.  Also, I have really learned the value of a good outline, and that I am an outliner to my core.  Again, even though the outline was overstressed in school I somehow MISSED THAT FUCKING CLUE as to how to actually get stuff done.

Eh, what can you do?  Life is about learning, there's just no other way to do it.

And now for some inspiration.  I found this interesting Goodreads post: Keep Writing! Authors Share Their Best Advice on Overcoming Writer’s Block.  I love these:

Writing is a job. Some days you don't feel like doing your job. But there is no "teacher's block" or "dentist's block." I can't figure out why we have created this mysterious phrase .. only for writers .. which only means "don't feel like doing this right now." - Lois Lowry

The trick is to identify what is holding you back, and address that issue separately. Usually, 90% of the time, it is fear — and usually (again 90% of the time) it is fear that your work isn't good enough. Whenever I encounter that fear, my response is: "Who cares?" I'm not in charge of whether or not my work is great, or how people will like it. I am only in charge of the process. I came here to be a writer, and so I write. Set your kitchen timer for 30 minutes a day, and write something. It doesn't have to be good. It doesn't even have to be finished. It just has to BE. - Elizabeth Gilbert

ARGH! There's no such thing. Seriously: THERE. IS. NO. SUCH. THING. You know what there is? There's a bunch of problems, creative and otherwise, that can stop you writing. They are not block. They are important skills. For example: very often, around the middle of a book, I grind to a halt. I can go no further, everything I write is catastrophically stupid. I tend to get very upset about that, and I'm unmentionably annoying to be around for a few days. My wife generally has to remind me how to fix the problem.
The way you fix it is you go back to the beginning and you get rid of all the junk, broken stuff you put in back before you understood what the hell the book was actually about, the stuff that is now preventing you from doing the really amazing things that will make the book special. You have to re-envision the whole thing, understand what you meant but could not at the time express. Sometimes that means cutting heavily, sometimes it means changing great swathes, sometimes it's a question of reading that crucial passage that carries your book in potential and taping it up over your desk.
Calling that moment "writer's block" is slandering yourself. It's not a block, it's the process. Don't demonise it! Beg for it! It's what stops you from writing lousy prose, saggy plots, unsatisfying endings. LOVE YOUR CRITICAL FACULTY.
Alternatively: at any time in the course of a book, I may find I cannot write it, bash away at it, hate myself, and then realise it's because I haven't done my chores. I haven't paid the credit card bill or whatever.
Understand: your ability to write is bound up with who you are and with your moods. It is tied to whether you are happy, sad, tense, relaxed, blah. It is you. So when something is wrong with your inkflow, that means either that you've goofed creatively or that you're not fixing something broken elsewhere in your world.
Love your mutant power. Do not try to force it to do something. Learn to listen. - Nick Harkaway

And now I have to get off the internet for the night :)

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“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.”
~Octavia E. Butler, from Bloodchild and Other Stories

Butler is one of my favorite SciFi writers.  She writes female characters that are amazing: always of color, almost always queer in some way (bisexual, or polyamorous and living in alternative relationships, or shape-shifters who push the boundaries of what it means to be male or female), always complex with an arc for growth, always the main character.  Her words are often simple and bare, but she has a way of cutting through to the very meat of a character or situation that is extremely powerful.  She can be very dark at times, but there is always something - some strength or hope for the future - that I can connect with to carry me through the struggle.  I always finish her books and mull over the characters and world for days after.

She is an inspiration to me, and even though my style is different I always hope my writing is as powerful as hers.  In the process of looking for the source of this quote, I found out that each of the short stories in the collection listed above have essays by Butler after them.  I'm very excited to read them and see what else she has to say.
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I've just finished the book Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider, and found it to be wonderfully inspirational.  I also thought that a lot of her beliefs on writing belonging to everyone, and how to encourage the beginner to write, have a ton in common with fandom - but that's a post for another time.  Right now, I want to highlight one of the many things I marked as inspirational:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening which is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist.
~Martha Graham, p. 60 of Writing Alone

This reminded me of the Hummus Essay, aka: Slash Fiction Is Like a Banquet ("the hummus essay") by Arduinna:
Slash fiction is like a banquet. It's wonderful. A big, pot-luck banquet. There's everything from appetizers to mashed potatoes to curries to stews to green-bean casserole to peanut-butter sandwiches (apologies to the UK fen who just cringed ) to fifteen different kinds of pasta to cookies to cheesecake to soup to bread to couscous to smoked salmon to black forest cake to tuna salad to BLTs to.... you name it. Wonderful food. Some of the dishes are just basic, hearty comfort-food; others are exotic and heavily spiced; others are spiced so delicately you can't even tell why you're reacting to it the way you are, you just know it's wonderful; others are sweet and smooth and hit that sugar craving perfectly. People who come to this banquet are welcome to just wander around the table and eat, or to bring their own favorite dish (i.e., write a story and put it on the "table" for others to enjoy).

I've always loved that description of fannish writing - there is room for all kinds of storytelling, and kinks, and characters, and story types.  There is room for me, who may not write exactly like XYZ BNF because I am not XYZ BNF.  But I don't have to be her to write wonderfully.  I don't have to sound like anyone else in the world except like the best version of myself that I can possibly manage.  This is true for fanfic, and I believe it is also true for original fic.  This is a heartening belief.
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"Creativity comes from trust.  Trust your instincts.  And never hope more than you work."
~Rita Mae Brown

Wings photo tumblr_my7sms2UJX1t3mdruo1_500_zps021cfb3d.jpg

I found this quote in a magazine with a lovely picture of a girl wearing wings.  In the process of finding a similar picture to use that I liked, I found this and thought it was appropriate.  Pic came from wonderwall-daisies at this post.
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This may become a recurring thing with me.

[personal profile] thefourthvine  recently put up a meta post that struck a chord with me.  She is endlessly entertaining and smart and on-point about lots of things, but this post was about writing - it was also a rant about people being assholes on the internet, because people suck, so I'm pulling out the positive bits in case you want to skip the rant:

Sturgeon's law is right, but it misses the point. Ninety percent of everything has to be shit. That's how you get the 10% that's good.

Your favorite writers, fan fiction, published fiction, published fan fiction, whatever -- they didn't start out writing that way. There was a time when they wrote unspeakably awful crap. Writing unspeakably awful crap is how you learn to write only moderately awful crap, and then eventually maybe decent stuff, and then, if you're lucky, actually good things. There are not two classes of people, those who are good writers and those who are bad writers, so that all you have to do to have only great stuff is scare away all the bad writers. There are people who used to write bad stuff, and there are people who are currently writing bad stuff, and there's a lot of crossover between the two. Some of the second category will one day be the first category. (Also, tomorrow some of the first category will move back to the second. No one hits it out of ballpark every time.) If you want to read new good stuff tomorrow, encourage the people writing bad stuff today. (And also maybe help them get betas. Betas are great.)

And, no, those people don't have to hide their work away until it gets better. They can share it with anyone who wants to read it. If they want to post it, they should. Wanting to is reason enough. (Although if you want another reason -- posting is how community happens. Which is how things like betas happen. People who share their work get better faster.)

Underlined emphasis mine because I need to remember both of those points.  And that post linked to Not your usual "morality in art" debate by [personal profile] staranise :

It's just a fact of life that teaching or trying to find art that satisfies you is going to be full of setbacks and frustration, so if you want to do those things, you have to deal with it.

And for artists and students and everyone else the truth is, You have no moral obligation to please everyone. You do not have to make everyone like you to be a good person. You are allowed to meet your own needs at the cost of meeting someone else's.

Which is another thing I need to remember: while I feel the need to honor my craft by doing the best work I can, I also write for me.  The body of work I put out is my experience.  It reflects the characters and stories that interest me at the time, my thought processes at the time, and sometimes the things that I wrestle with mentally and emotionally that I put into fanfic because fic is yet another outlet for understanding myself.  While I do seek positive feedback (otherwise I'd never publish it), I need to remember that creating the work for myself in the first place is reason enough to exist, and let it be reward enough to me.  In the words of Joss Whedon:

I  write to give myself strength.   I  write to be the characters that I  am not.   I write to explore all the things I'm afraid of.

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Here is something that I find inspirational when I have doubts about my ability to write anything worth reading.  Also, when I get the "meh, I just don't feel like fighting with it today" ambivalence.  I must do it anyway, and do a lot of it, if I expect to get anywhere at all.  I thought I might share it in case it inspires anyone else.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.


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