Breaking The Blockage: A Talk About Creative Clogs

InterviewsLast week we opened the topic of Writer’s Block– or, as Amber termed it, the ‘Creative Clog’. Today we continue our discussion about the Big, Bad Block and what it means to the Words, Pauses, Noises team. Amber Koski asked the rest of the WPN team to answer a few questions about how we get over our own blocks, with some advice (from us as well as some which has allowed us to break our own blockages) thrown in. Over-caffeinated and stressed out from our deadline looming ever closer, I think that I’ll let the interview do the talking for me today. Enjoy!

Ashley Nicholson, Boyana Petrovich and Jasmine answer questions from Amber Koski.

Some people believe that talking about an unfinished work can block you up. What do you tell people who ask about your work-in-progress? 

ashleyAshley: For me, talking about my current work doesn’t always lead to inspiration. When people question things I felt so very sure about ten minutes ago, I feel like my entire creative thread unravels faster than I can pull it back together. Instead, I bring up the weather or make an excuse to leave.

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Jasmine: I just tell them I have written nothing and have writer’s block…

 

 

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: I feel like talking about my writing can bring new ideas and expose any plot holes. When I get to the stage where I can tell someone what I’m writing about and it doesn’t make me want to die, I feel like I’ve achieved something. I appreciate the challenge of sorting things out in my head so that they make sense to someone in the outside world.

What have writers you admire said about writer’s block that has helped you?

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: I’m not sure who said it, but don’t consider writer’s block as something negative but as something positive. It means that you have something important to say, but your fear is holding you back. Once you break through that barrier of fear, something great will appear on the page.

ashleyAshley: To loosely paraphrase Neil Gaiman: ‘after a while we expect to be able to write something brilliant on a first draft. It really doesn’t work that way.’ We have to battle with our expectations of perfection on the first try. I think our work is better for a little suffering.

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: Hanif Kureishi said that writer’s block is good, it means that you are resisting saying something you really need to say and that is hopefully worth saying. It resonated with me.

 

If someone came to you with writer’s block, how would you try to inspire and coax them out of it?

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: Leave your work alone for a little bit. Go do something pleasant but pointless like playing Fruit Ninja or Spider Solitaire. If, after a while, you’d still rather be doing that than writing, perhaps it’s time to start working on a different project.

 

ashleyAshley: Write whatever comes to your mind, even if it’s how hungry you are or what you need to do later. Perhaps your own hunger prompts your character to enter a diner and meet a turning point.

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: Start a new project or walk away from writing completely- do something else that you like and try and find other forums that can spark some inspiration. I also think it is important to be encouraging and maybe share some of your own battles with writer’s block.

 

What would you tell your agent if your manuscript was due in three months and you had 30,000 words left, and you are mid-writer’s coma?  

ashleyAshley: Absolutely nothing. I’d smile, nod, and quietly freak out. Perhaps not so quietly when far enough away…

 

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: I would be honest and talk about it with my agent. You never know, they might just be able to help you or at least push you at the right direction, but I guess that depends on what kind of relationship you have with your agent.

 

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: Bring the deadline a month sooner. I like challenges.

 

 

Any other things about writing you want to share with the World Wide Web? 

ashleyAshley: Writing, for me, is a very introverted thing. I find it hard to be creative with too many people in my space because it’s easy to become distracted. People keep telling me that being a complete hermit isn’t healthy, though, so I go to coffee shops or my uni library to edit.

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: I believe fear is what blocks an artist. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not finishing, of failure and of success. There is only one cure for fear- love. Be nice to yourself, don’t judge yourself and try and find ways that helps you beat that fear.

 

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: There are so many things that come to mind, but for some reason all begin with “I wish…” Not sure the internet would want to know about those.

 

 

Well, we have come to the end of our Writer’s Block sessions, but tune in next week to see what other creative things our MA’s have gotten up to over the summer!

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Writer’s Block: An Interactive Journey of the Joys (and Woes) of Writing

InterviewsToday is an interactive Sunday!

There’s an idiom every writer dreads, even if they can’t admit it: writer’s block. What Macbeth is to actors, writer’s block is to authors. We can be a superstitious lot and sometimes it seems that just uttering the words can stop your creativity before your fingers meet keys. As the Words, Pauses, Noises team work fervently on their dissertations, the urge to run away grows as the time to complete the work shrinks. To help us get a jump on any blockage, we got together to think proactively on the subject. There’s nothing like discussing writer’s block to help you realise how real, and irrational, it can be.

The Words, Pauses, Noises team: Ashley Nicholson, Amber Koski, Boyana Petrovich, and Jasmine

WPN decided that in order to help ourselves work around the issue of writer’s block, we needed to go a little further outside of the box. It was certainly a learning experience for the team, and a way for us to concentrate on something besides our dissertations. There was one point we all agreed on: when blocked, go to another project.

Click on this link to go to our interactive presentation.

As September nears the Words, Pauses, Noises team grow steadily more caffeinated and conflicted, but as you can see, we’ve given ourselves some good advice to run with. This blog is dedicated not only to showing you our creative work but to help all writers overcome those fears we face during creation itself. As with any art, it’s all subjective, it’s all about taste, it’s all about what’s inside you and… the list goes on. As with any artist, we thrive on commentary and conversation, so let us know when you like something, or if you hate it. We’d love to see hear what you think.

Click back next week for the next installment of this series, Writer’s Block: Block Busting.

Recommended Summer Reading: A Booklist from Jonathan Barnes

InterviewsSummer is here at last! Words, Pauses, Noises suggests that the best way to spend a lazy summer afternoon is with a good book. One of our students, Jasmine, asked Kingston University’s writer-in-residence Jonathan Barnes for his recommendations on books to read this summer. He gave us a great list of some of his favourites as well as those he’ll be reading over the holidays. So, pull out those deck chairs, grab a cool drink, and get outside for some sunshine with a good book!

Jonathan Barnes’ Summer Reading Recommendations

I have been reading a lot for review lately so it will be an enjoyable break over the summer to experience some fiction purely for pleasure. However, books that I’ve read and written about lately which I would also recommend include Julian “no relation” Barnes’ memoir Levels of Life – heart-breaking in its candour; unflinching in its depiction of an almost unbearable grief – and Patrick McGrath’s deft, stylish Constance. McGrath is one of our most underrated novelists – I’ve been a fan ever since the early works: his short story collection, Blood and Water, his first novel, The Grotesque – and his latest, about a brittle, troubled young woman in 1960s Manhattan, is as elegant and subtly potent as I’d expected. I’ve also written a short piece on the new edition of J B Priestley’s 1927 classic, Benighted (filmed twice as The Old Dark House) which remains, almost a century after it was written, chillingly effective. His description of some primal evil which might lie behind even the most tawdry of domestic horrors is unforgettable: “his mind… found an opposing presence, an enemy… a density of evil, something gigantic, ancient but enduring… it was working everywhere, in the mirk of rain outside, here in the rotting corners, and without end, in the black between the stars”.

When going away for the summer, my suitcase often strains towards the upper limit of the baggage allowance due to the volume of books that I’ve crammed into it. This year, I’ll be bringing (for review) the late Iain Banks’ last novel, The Quarry. For research purposes I’ll have with me Arthur Conan Doyle’s Tales of Unease and that strange, ghost-written nineteenth-century text Awful Disclosures, composed, supposedly, by the wronged nun “Maria Monk”. For sheer fun I’ll be taking two books that I’ve never read but which have been on my list for a while: Julian Maclaren-Ross’ novel Of Love and Hunger and F Scott Fitzgerald’s Collected Short Stories. I’ll also have with me – and for this, I make no apology whatever – Stephen King’s splendid-looking new novella, Joyland.

Next Sunday, join Words, Pauses, Noises for more original content to help make summer a little bit sunnier.