AM I EXPERIENCING WRITER’S BLOCK OR FEAR?

AM I EXPERIENCING WRITER’S BLOCK OR FEAR?

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Writers will offer myriad explanations for why we’re not writing, some are very creative explanations (guilty), and we usually attribute a dry spell to writer’s block. While I used to believe writer’s block was a real thing, I no longer feel that way. Here’s my story about writer’s block and a few questions to ask ourselves that may help to get to the heart of the matter.

After completing the fifteenth chapter of my work in progress called THE LAMENTS, I feared I might be coming down with the dreaded writer’s block. What I felt at that time had never happened to me before and I wanted to distance myself from that “curse”. The only way to describe the experience was feeling muddle-headed, a bit lost, but still hopeful. I was at a difficult place in the story, right smack in the middle, which is a tough place. There were two distinct story paths I could follow at the time. I was literally at a fork in the road and wasn’t sure which direction to follow, so I stopped to think for a few days, which is always a good thing. It turned out I didn’t write for a week. Not good for me.

(My next blog post will be about dealing with middle of the story issues).

Now, sometimes writers need renewed inspiration. We’re not robots. Writing a book is a grueling, mentally-challenging endeavor, and the more passionate (obsessed) we are about our story, the more unforgiving and hard we are on ourselves. And, let’s not forget the guilt that sets in when we’re not writing; it’s awful. The stress almost takes on a human form–a dark presence that never leaves us; always hovering over our heads or looking over our shoulders, asking, “Why aren’t you writing?”

We’ve created wonderful and complex characters, we’ve given them life, and we’ve abandoned them, often at a crucial point in their personal stories. We wouldn’t do that to a friend, would we? No, we wouldn’t leave them hanging! Yet, we leave our characters hanging. Why does that happen?

Julia Cameron (a personal hero), the author of the seminal book on creativity, THE ARTIST’S WAY, encourages us to take weekly Author Dates to recharge our creative batteries. My Author Dates have included museum tours, strolling through a city garden, visiting my local flower nursery, sharing coffee with a family member or a good friend, and shopping for creative and fun writing supplies. I did all of the above during that difficult time. I also connected with fellow writers, who could relate to the dry spell I was experiencing. They encouraged and supported me to hang in there; it was only temporary, they said. Well, a week turned into two weeks without writing a damn thing. I was lost. I thought it might be time for a vacation, but I’d just returned from vacation! What was going on?

I then recognized what I was feeling; it was pure, unadulterated fear. So, I put on my counselor hat and asked myself these questions, hoping to ascertain what was really going on.

  • Do I fear failure, judgment, too much exposure, or the fear of succeeding?
  • Am I afraid of sitting with and thinking about the story, the characters, or possible endings because that takes away from valuable writing time?
  • Should I rework my outline?
  • Am I really a writer or a wannabe?
  • Am I experiencing mental clutter, physical disorganization at home, or are there too many distractions in my life at the moment?
  • Am I focusing too much on research and not on writing? (This does not pertain to writers of historical fiction or writers of nonfiction).
  • Am I stressing about putting out a book a year for fear of losing readers or letting down my readers?
  • Am I comparing my writing journey to other writer’s journeys?
  • Is there a truth that needs saying or exploring in my novel, but I’m putting on the brakes for fear of hurting others or exposing myself?
  • Do I believe my second book won’t be as well-received and successful as my first book?
  • Is it true I can’t write today? Thank you to Bryon Katie, the fabulous creator of THE WORK.
  • Am I afraid of acknowledging I’m lost and in need of a good editor’s help?

Each item has one thing in common–fear–and fear can stagnate or stop the writing momentum entirely for any writer at any time…IF you give in to the fear. I answered yes to many of those questions and I took action. I acknowledged my fear and sat at the writing chair once again.

Yes, I’m putting it back on us and placing us back in our writing chair–where we belong. Readers need you. I need a writing community, and we all need more good books. Sure, there are harried and frustrating days when I don’t meet my hoped-for word count goal, and there will be frustrating days when I know my writing certainly isn’t my best. But I give myself credit and a pat on the back for showing up at the writing desk–that’s key.

Do what you have to do to get back to your story, no matter what.

Thank you for your visit. I hope this blog post helps, and don’t give up!

Eleanor

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and it was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses.

A writer, artist, and poet, Eleanor is currently working on her second historical novel, The Laments, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. When Eleanor is not writing, she tends to her garden, travels, dreams of traveling, and tells herself she will walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time before her hips give out. Eleanor is the mother of two amazing adult children and currently lives in her adopted state of West Virginia.

BUY THE BOOK:

https://amzn.to/2WjgXuC

A Decent Woman Flat (1)

 

 

 

Author Interview with Graciela Limon

I love offering author interviews at The Writing Life, and I especially enjoy sharing great writers with my readers. Today I’m very pleased  to introduce you to Graciela Limón.

Graciela Limón is a Latina writer, educator and activist. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a native of Los Angeles. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish Literature from Marymount College Los Angeles, a Master of Arts Degree in the same field from the University of the Americas Mexico City, followed by a PhD in Latin American Literature from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Prior to retirement, Limón was a professor of U.S. Hispanic Literature, as well as Chair of the Department of Chicana/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California.  She is now Professor Emeritus of that University.

Graciela Limón (1)Graciela has written critical work on Mexican, Latin American and Caribbean Literature.  However, she now concentrates her writing efforts on creative fiction that is germane to her areas of interest:  feminism, social justice and cultural identity.  Her body of work includes In Search of Bernabé that won The Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award (1994). Limón also published The Memories of Ana Calderón (1994), Song of the Hummingbird (1996) and The Day of the Moon (1999).   Erased Faces, which was awarded the 2002 Gustavus Myers Book Award, was published in 2001, Left Alive was released in 2005, The River Flows North, 2009, followed by The Madness of Mamá Carlota, 2012. Her latest publication is The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy, 2015.

Much of Graciela’s work has been widely anthologized. She was honored with the prestigious Luis Leal Literary Award (University of California at Santa Barbara), 2009. Her Publishers are Arte Público Press (University of Houston) and Café Con Leche (Koehler Book Publishers). www.gracielalimon.com

ximena

Welcome Graciela! What is your book’s genre/category?

The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy is historical fiction.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy is the story of a woman told from age eight years to its end when she is fifty-two years old.  It’s a tale that begins with a crime and ends with its punishment, all during the first half of the 20th Century.  In between those two critical moments of Ximena’s story, her life intersects with the Revolution in Mexico, followed by the terrible times that bring world epidemic, deportations, and the American Prohibition and Depression that happen simultaneously with the unbridled life in Juárez, Mexico.  Throughout those years, Ximena Godoy grows, loves, achieves, stumbles, grieves and finds her identity only to succumb to the insurmountable flaws that are part of her nature.

How did you come up with the title?

I chose the name Ximena (with an X instead of J or H) because I find the name intriguing.  After that I chose the other parts of the title because I feel it reflects the life of my character.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

Stories that deal with strong, determined independent women always captivate my interest.  When that story deals with a woman who shatters the Latina “mold”, meaning that she is unconventional and untraditional, then I have all the reasons I need to write a book.  This is why I wrote The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I think that my favorite part of writing is when I come to the crafting of my characters.  Choosing their names is a particularly interesting and fascinating part for me.  I go through cycles of names, changing, combining, and even inventing names that I hope in the end reflect the nature and reality of each character.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I find the danger of falling into crafting stereotypes the greatest challenge of writing.  I find that it’s dangerous because my head is swarming with what are really stereotypes.  I don’t know if others suffer from this, but it could be that we are flooded by an abundance of stereotypes:  in film, on TV, on the Internet.  So when I begin to create a character with her story, I have to be super careful to beware of simply producing cookie-cutter, flat, predictable characters.  This is hard and challenging.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

There are many.  Among Mexican novelists is Juan Rulfo.  In the English language I especially admire John Steinbeck, and biographers such as Antonia Fraser and Hilary Mantel.  There are also so many mystery writers that I admire, but I’ll mention only Agatha Christie.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

John Steinbeck and Juan Rulfo.

Favorite place to write?

I need solitude to write, so if I have that luxury, then that place is a favorite.  As a pattern, I find that solitude in my home.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

People may be surprised to know that I’m extremely introverted.  I say this may surprise those who know me because they see a person (me) who interacts freely, enjoys other people and is talkative and relaxed in a group.  What people don’t know is that I need to be solitary afterwards in order re-energize.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Since I’ve been lucky enough to have nine novels published (including my latest), there are few surprises that come to me with the publishing process.  However, I will say that the experience of getting negative, even brutal criticism (which still happens) is something I will never be able to get used to.  The difference now is that I expect those barbs and try to prepare myself.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

The best thing I did with this latest novel is having signed on with Leticia Gómez (literary agent/publisher), and John Koehler (publisher).  Being with them has opened up an entirely new view of the publishing process.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

I advise having a lot of patience especially when those rejections start rolling in.  Above all, I advise a new writer to have unshakable faith and confidence in her/his work.  Never doubt that your work is meritorious.

Website?   

www.gracielalimon.com

Where can we find your book?

www.cafeconlechebooks.com

http://www.authorcentral.amazon.com

What’s next for you?

I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. This is what is now rolling around in my head.  The story line could depict a murder or a series of murders that happen in the distant past, such as in viceregal Mexico, in a convent, with the Inquisition snooping around. Of course, there will have to be a detective to solve the crime.  What do you think?

I think the story line rolling around in your head would be a great read, Graciela!

Thanks so much for visiting us at The Writing Life, and much success with The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy!

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon