A session with John Yarrow
Writer’s Block . . . Hmmm …. What should I write?
Every author gets asked, “Do you get writer’s block?”
Have you ever not been able to write? Where you just sit there and watch the gray matter in your skull spin in futility. Do your characters just lay down and take the day off? Do you get ticked off after a half hour of staring at the screen that has a blank page? Writer’s block is the bane of all writers, right? It’s ended careers or stopped careers from launching. It’d be like a pilot going blind. So sad.
It’s usually new writers who have tried their hand at writing and gave up for greener pastures who ask me that question. They want to know how I escape the dreaded “writer’s block” while they could not. Sometimes, the person is just inquisitive. They respect your abilities and are looking for ways to jumpstart a conversation. I respect that.
And now that you’re this far into the blog, you’re probably wondering the same thing but for a far different reason, curiosity.
The simple truth is “no” I do not get writer’s block. To be fair, I sometimes get writer’s procrastination, but that is different in my mind. Now I sense through my vast experience of writing with brilliance or baffling with BS that you have that distinct look of “I don’t believe that.” I can assure you, I’m not telling tales (Well, I write science fiction, but I digress). Don’t give up on me just yet. Skepticism is like kryptonite to authors. It means you’ve been thrown out of the reality of the story because you no longer believe what you’re reading. Not a good look for authors, meaning you just stopped reading my writing. Shoot! Don’t do that! I am telling the truth. How can I convince you? Hmmm… Should I dazzle or BS. Maybe I’ll just tell it like it is.
I don’t get writer’s block because I prepare. Enough said. That was easy. Oh, wait. That’s BS you say? Not really, but I agree. I need to explain myself like a writer who isn’t having writer’s block. For me, I have several techniques to get me into the “write” frame of mind. Seriously, it comes down to a few simple methods that work for me.
First, when I’m writing a story, that story lives in my mind all the time. The characters are battling for attention. I’m thinking about what their world looks like. The plot thickens and then changes and then solidifies as the characters take me this way and that. A writing friend of mine wrote a nice little story about characters coming to terms with the fact they were just characters in the writer’s mind. I wake up in the middle of the night when I dream about the story just so I can write stuff down. Recently, I woke up and wrote the whole outline of my novella. When I showed it to my publisher, his comment was “I didn’t see that coming.” I’m not sure if that was good or bad, but I’m undeterred as I am plowing through that story right now.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a day job, a wife, several kids, a dog, and a cat that take up most of my waking hours. However, when I get that brief time alone, I let the hounds loose, so to speak. Why is this important? I don’t show up at the keyboard unprepared. I have ideas bursting to get out. The characters are competing for my attention. If you plop down at the keyboard and expect stuff to magically appear, you are very gifted or deluding yourself. Step one is to embrace your story in your mind and be ready to sit down when you have time to write and let it out!
Second, get into a rhythm. Or it might be called a pattern or even a schedule. Train yourself. For me, I write “new” material on Saturday and Sunday mornings. That’s my time. My mind, my characters, even my family know I’m in the zone during those precious hours. I start every session by reviewing/editing the last writing. That helps to pull me into the story. From there, I become a referee and hammer on the keyboard.
For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not militant about it. There are times when I can’t write. If we’re traveling or visiting family, etc. I don’t insist I write that weekend, but mostly, I look forward to my time to be creative.
Lastly, I’m sure you’ve heard of Pavlov’s dog. Yeah, I treat myself like that. I write in the same place, my office. Well, usually, I have written at the beach house and on writing retreats. But I like being at the same keyboard, the same chair, and with the same music. This brings me to my next point. I also have a muse, Dave Matthews on Pandora. When I listen to his music, my mind just goes to that place. The door opens, and the characters come out to play. I’m in my happy place. I enjoy writing, creating a world no one’s seen before. What’s my reward after I’ve written for a few hours? For the rest of the day, my story leaves me alone for the most part. Until something else pops into my mind.
I use these methods. It helps keep me sane too. I like to tell stories, which is really a key part of all this. Otherwise, I’d have writer’s block! And then I would have never written Future’s Dark Past or the sequel. Check it out.
About the Author…
JOHN YARROW, a lifelong Texan, dreams as big as he writes. LEANNE YARROW is her husband's collaborative partner. Their fascination with what could be imbues the couple's storytelling with fast-paced, futuristic worlds in which witty compelling characters struggle for an enduring humanity. John's background includes degrees in English, Education, and a MS in Cognitive Systems. He honed his skills in The Creation Factory Writer's Workshop, adapted a novella for National Public Radio, and published articles in educational and technology journals. Leanne draws from her careers in education and program development to help bring fresh insights, incredible imagery, and clarifying details to their work.