On Writing Well: Getting Over Writer’s Block

Every writer, especially one who has recently finished a long piece of work, confesses to felling a kind of creative exhaustion. A pretty significant fraction of writers also go on to describe what may be only be named writer’s block, where they are unable to get words on a page.

Very often, writer’s block creates a sense of unhappiness and hardship on the part of the writer, who believes that they will never again be able to write. Yet, when questioned closely, writer’s block is described by many, not just as an inability to gets words on the page, but instead as a deep dissatisfaction with the words and ideas themselves. After having completed a longer work, writers are often very harsh on the new drafts and are exceedingly critical of the fledgling works. Unfairly compared to the completed work, the unedited first draft does often look paltry in comparison, and the ideas seem childish when juxtaposed with the finished manuscript.

As someone who has struggled a few times with this sense of dissatisfaction I can offer my top tips to work our way out of writer’s block:

Don’t be too hard on yourself: writing is hard, and your brain, especially after working on a long piece of work, is tired. Don’t compare your current writing to your completed work, to awards you may have won, or praise that your admirers offered. Sometimes success can be the greatest barrier to our creativity. Remember that this work is only a start, that you will have lots of time later to make it polished. For now, be nice to yourself, and don’t judge your work.

Give yourself some time: sometimes taking a break can be just what your writing needs. If, for whatever reason, your brain is not wanting to deal with words and language, then give it a break – cook, go for long walks, exercise, knit –  and give yourself a bit of time before writing becomes fun and interesting again.

Read poetry: this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get out of the writer’s block rut. Read poetry that you love – Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost. Pick a poet you admire and read his or her work  everyday.  I promise that this will get your creativity flowing again.

Write letters and emails: Even the most exhausted writers can find it in themselves to write to friends and family. Look in your address book, see if there are folks you’ve neglected for a while, and write to them. It’s an easy step to get words to connect to each other in a non-pressured environment, and you will find yourself wanting to write more after your letter is finished. That would be a good time to start the new Hub, article, or short story.

Separating Business and Personal Lives Online

Many online writers use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to promote their writing, but doing so is not as simple as you might expect.

If you combine business and pleasure online, you run the risk of alienating your audiences.  By sharing personal information with people who are only interested in your writing, you run the risk of boring them or seeming unprofessional. By sharing purely professional updates on social media channels that include your friends, you run the risk of appearing like a self-promotional spammer.

We’ve packed this podcast (Separating Personal from Business Accounts) full of tips on using Facebook and Twitter in such a way that will please your professional and personal followers alike. In addition to reducing the number of people who block your posts or un-friend you, our advice will help you share information with those who care about it most.

If there is an online writing issue you would like us to cover in a future podcast, tell us about it by sending an email to podcast (at) HubPages (dot) com!

An Interview with HubPages Moderator & Poet Camille Harris

Camille Harris joined the HubPages moderation team earlier this year, and as we were in the process of planning the HubPatron of the Arts contest, we discovered that she enjoys writing poetry. Naturally, we invited her to be the official HubPages staff judge on the poetry panel of the contest. We’re very glad she accepted!

We took some time to chat with Camille about her background, her poetry, and her approach to judging in the HubPatron of the Arts contest. We hope you enjoy this insider peek at one of HubPages newest and coolest team members!

HubPages: You are a relatively new addition to the HubPages team, so for those Hubbers who are not yet familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Camille Harris: I’m an East Coast-West Coast transplant, that is, I was born in Oakland, migrated to Maryland, and moved back to “the Town” in 2007. I’m a psychology junkie and am currently working towards being qualified enough to enter a Ph.D program in Clinical Child Psychology. Oh, and I LOVE tea.

As of this interview, you have written three Hubs on HubPages, one of which is a poem called Indelible. What inspired you to write it?

I was actually looking at a tattoo of mine and thought about my motivations for getting it. The tattoo is a large garden on the inside of my forearm, which is a tribute of sorts to my late cousin. I’ve found that the most meaningful tattoos tend to be the ones that mark a painful time in our lives, and so “Indelible” was born.

Do you write much poetry? What sorts of poetry do you like?

I don’t write as much poetry as I’d like to, but I’d say I write at least one poem a month. I like poetry that makes the reader feel where the author is coming from. I want to be gripped by the words and understand the author’s emotional state.

As a judge on the poetry panel of the HubPatron of the Arts Contest, what will you be looking for in entries?

I’ll be looking for depth in the poems, which can be accomplished in very few words. I want to see that deliberate word usage that really grabs the reader.

What advice could you give to aspiring poets on HubPages?

Don’t worry about rhyming 🙂

[Thanks, Camille!]

For more information about the HubPatron of the Arts Contest, visit the official contest page.

Nothing on the Other Side

There is something utterly fascinating about doors, be they serving as entrances to spaceships or covers of old, dusty wardrobes.  Paradigmsearch explores the fun plot device offered by the humble door- along with much, much more- in this excellent Hub!

For those who like listening to stories as much as they like reading them, here’s the recorded version:  Sometimes when I open the door there is nothing on the other side. Enjoy!

If you are interested in contributing to the Fascinating Fiction podcast series- either by submitting some of your own stories, or suggesting a short fictional Hub that you wrote or enjoyed, we would love to hear from you! Send us an email at podcastg (at) HubPages (dot) com.

An Interview with Drax: HubPages’ (Official!) Poet

Right as we were planning our upcoming November contest, we heard from Drax, one of the most well-known poets on HubPages.  He suggested to Paul Edmondson that we have a poetry contest, and a couple of conversations later, we had put together plans for a poetry, prose, and photos contest!

In addition to giving us some ideas for the HubPatron of the Arts contest, Drax has agreed to be an official judge on the competition’s poetry panel and also to share more about his poetry on HubPages in the following interview. Read on to discover more about this impressive Hubber and his involvement with November’s special event!

HubPages: You wrote in to Paul Edmondson about having a poetry contest on HubPages and were the primary inspiration behind the HubPatron of the Arts contest. What encouraged you to write in and suggest the competition?

Drax: I saw the competition for the plumbers and thought f**k, there has to be more to life and creativity than plumbing supplies, I read some fantastic poetry on Hubpages and know / feel all the poets are there carrying their cross silently in the wings, waiting…. waiting…

You’re known as the Unofficial HubPages Poet on HubPages. How did your gain that title? As Unofficial HubPages Poet, what do you see as your responsibilities?

Unofficial? Debatable… as this Hub says: Official Hub Poet

Well, in those early days, this was my very first Hub (written 08/15/06) and in struggling for a name I thought why not, hence Official Hub Poet 🙂

I’ve been waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and give me the official paperwork!!  As unofficial poet my responsibilities are light: turn up occasionally. Ideally I would like to be writing more poetry about Hubpages and things I see there since it is a big canvas just like external life was. 🙂

How would you best describe your poetry?

The good, the bad, and the ugly. I remember reading that Stanley Kunitz used to make up to a 100 edits to get a poem exactly as he wanted it and I would love to have that luxury, to polish and polish, however life always seems to intrude and so they turn into the paper plane variety. I write them and throw them, hoping…

Occasionally I do write a poem I am very happy with. It is either a result letting it boil for a while and coming back and editing and removing words to give the reader room to think… or a poem that just comes from nowhere and all I have to do is write it down.

What inspires your work?

It is hard to explain. I always know when something in my day has a different shape; it could be an event or some words or an image and from that comes the initial words. These few words are often enough to write a full poem from later on, as long as they are recorded as they come into consciousness, otherwise the whole concept is lost. This often happens at 4 in the morning and I know now from experience it is better to just get up and write and worry about the lost sleep later.

As a judge on the poetry panel of the HubPatron of the Arts contest, what will you be looking for in the entries you’re judging?

Something that makes me stop, something that resonates and reverberates in my day. The subject matter is not crucial… it is that central concept… the line or even a few words that makes you stop and think, to feel empathy with what the poet is trying to say or to draw attention to….

Yeah, yeah, I know we should all be locked up 🙂

What advice would you give to aspiring HubPages poets?

It is never too late to become what you might have been. If you have the ability to write it is beholden on you to do that and not waste your time sliding up and down the capitalist ladders or trying to deal compassionately with the snakes.

[Thanks, Drax!]

For more information on the HubPatron of the Arts contest, visit the official contest page.


The End of the World: Choices, Choices!

You’re going to die. We’re all going to die.  It’s inevitable.  The real question is: HOW are we all going to die?? As it happens, there are quite a few options.

Join us as we explore the most likely disasters that may bring about the end of the earth, as profiled in an excellent article by habee on HubPages.com.  Habee went beyond the usual suspects (asteroids, nuclear holocaust, etc…) to explore some very real, very serious threats.

If you don’t have time to listen to the podcast (and even if you do), stop by habee’s original Hub (How Will the World End? When Will the World End?) for an overview of the most menacing suspects- complete with bonus videos going into greater detail.

How do you think the end of the world will come about? Send your predictions in an email to podcast (at) HubPages (dot) com!  We always love to hear from you, and are also on the lookout for suggestions on future podcasts, so send those our way as well!

On Writing Well: How to meet other writers

Writing, more than any other profession, is incredibly lonely and isolating. We spend our time holed up in rooms, alone with our words. We work on several drafts, each of them subtly different from the other, and then are hurt when our friends ask whether our books will ever be done. Sometimes, only other writers understand us. Yet, where do we find these soul-mates? Unlike other jobs, writers don’t go to writer’s offices or work together in a single place. But, more than any other employee, writers need the closeness and camaraderie of like-minded colleagues.
In the four years that I have been writing fiction, I have found several writer-friends in a bunch of places. They are:

Library events: Does your local public library host events for the community? A poetry night maybe, or a book group, or discussions of popular fiction? If so, you can be certain that other writers will gravitate to these events, especially if they are held regularly. I’ve often been engrossed in a discussion of poetry and then found that another listener in the neighboring chair is equally engaged. I often try to find a way to start up a conversation – if there’s someone indoors on a weekday, listening to discussions about books, chances are that they are a writer.

Book-clubs: The situation is quite similar with book clubs, too. I’ve never been to a book club that was not attended by at least one aspiring writer, and very often, that writer is the founder of the club. So if you are able to set aside one evening every month, you may well find that between discussing books and writing, you are slowly getting to be friends with another writer like yourself.

Literary readings: Have you ever met a non-writer who attends book readings? Perhaps you have, but they are few and far between. Literary readings tend to be as much about the craft of fiction, and the story behind the book, as about the book itself, and are very well attended by writers – both very successful authors and aspiring scribes. So attend as many of these as you can – who knows you may not only make a writing buddy, but even find a writing mentor.

Writing classes: This is by far the best place to meet other writers. Each member of your class or lecture will be another writer, and you can network and socialize before and after the class. If you really serious about building an in-person writing network, this is your surest bet. Check out your local community college or bookshop for writing classes, and find the writing buddies you’ve long been searching for.

Social Media 101 for Online Writers

Are you interested in sharing your writing and personal brand with others? Chances are people are telling you to use social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

These channels can be excellent platforms to help you promote your personal brand and writing, but there is a wrong way to go about using them.  Listen in to this week’s Online Writing Insider podcast (Social Media 101 for Online Writers) to get the lowdown on responsible sharing behavior (hint: it involves sharing only on sites you’re already active on, limiting sharing to only those articles and links you think would interest your followers and friends, and not sharing only your own work).

We hope our tips help you to develop a better online reputation!

If there is an online writing issue that you would like us to cover in a future podcast? Tell us about it by sending an email to podcast (at) HubPages (dot) com.

An Interview with Alastar Packer

As the HubPatron of the Arts contest approaches, we want to introduce you to the special Hubbers who will be serving as judges on the poetry, creative writing, and photo gallery panels.

Alastar Packer is one of the contest’s five creative writing judges.  Check out our exchange as we discuss what attracts him to creative writing, the difference between fiction and nonfiction, and what Hubbers should do to improve their chances of winning the HubPatron of the Arts contest.

HubPages: You say in your bio that you mostly write non-fiction, but enjoy reading (and occasionally) writing fiction. What is it about fiction that attracts you?

Alaster Packer: The unlimited subject matter. You can go places with fiction you can’t always go in non-fiction. The writer can use creative license to take the story to heights they may be limited by with non-fiction. One may also incorporate reality and real scenarios into the stories.

Given that so many biographies and reality-based shows are actually quite fictional, and that so many fictional books, shows, and movies are based on real events, what would you say is the primary difference between nonfiction and fiction?

The perception of the reader, led by the writer, and how they present the work.

What drives you to write?

A love and knowledge of certain subjects that brings a feeling of usefulness and satisfaction when shared with others and their responses back to the subject/work.

As a judge on the fiction panel of the HubPatron of the Arts contest, what will you be looking for in entries?

As a judge on fiction quality will be focused on and the basics of writing must be in place. The piece should be free of typos, the rules of grammar followed with sentence structure. Anything in the category called art must be of the highest caliber. That is not to limit the writer from using vernacular if the setting calls for it though. That adds to the reality of a good tale.

What advice would you give to aspiring fiction writers on HubPages?

Aspiring writers should write on subjects that have not already been saturated. Even if its a romance story for example, put in something different.

[Thanks, Alastar Packer!]

For more information on the HubPatron of the Arts contest, visit the official contest page.

Theodore Shade

Though known primarily for his Emerland Wells Cafe series on HubPages (which has already been featured in the Fascinating Fiction podcast series), mckbirdbks also writes the occasional stand-alone short story.  One of these is Theodore Shade- a somewhat dark vignette that builds up an impressive amount of tension.  Have a listen!

If you don’t have time to download or stream the podcast (or even if you do!) be sure to check out the original Hub. It’s a good one.

If you have any suggestions for future Fascinating Fiction podcasts, or if you would be interested in contributing some recordings of your own, send us an email! You can reach us by emailing podcast (at) HubPages (dot) com.