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'07 Authors Insider Tips

by Louisa Burton
Formatting Your Manuscript
Scams / Choosing an Agent
Pitching Your Novel...
From The Call to Published...

Hard Business
From Greg Herren
Who Is Telling This Story?
It’s Work, Not A Hobby
Where Ideas Come From

Sexy on the Page
With Shanna Germain
Plotting Erotic Fiction
Seducing Your Muse
Creating Characters...
Description, Action & Dialogue
Fucking on Paper
Ten No-Nos of Erotic Fiction
Climactic Moments: First Draft
Critique Groups
Revising Your Erotic Story
Finding the Perfect Markets...
Just Submit Already
Rejections and Acceptances

Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Verb Tense Confusion
Coming Up with Story Ideas
Attend a Writers’ Conference
The Fundamentals of POV
Should I Sign That?
Etiquette for Authors
Erotica is Serious Work
No Body Writes for Free...
Shameless Self Promotions
The Myth of Writer's Block

The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
The Time is Write
The Beautiful People
A Book by Any Other...
Synopsis: the Necessary Evil
Erotica or Porn?
Feedback Whine

2007 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
What's it like being a writer?
An Apology to Salespeople

Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
About Secrets
The Perfect Fuck
About Choices
The Age of Consent
The Kingmaker
Kids and Sex
The Price of Beauty
The G.O.P.
All Worked Up About Hate
Real Men

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Good Sex: A Physics Lesson
Meet Frankenstein
Thoughts on the Orgasm Gap
The Very Bloody Marys
The Doomsday Erection
Online Threesome Porn

Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica
with Amie M. Evans

A Monster of Mythic Proportions:
Writer's Block

Amie M. EvansThe very words—writer's block—send a chill down the spines of many authors and conjure up a nightmare of an impotency of creative juices, a loss of artistic prowess, and a vision of looming literary death. Writer's block is commonly used to refer to a period of time in which an author, despite attempts at writing, cannot produce usable text because of an inability to be creative. Writer's use the words writer's block to refer to a condition/ illness/ state of being that they are suffering from or which has besieged them and, thus, has caused them to be unable to write or has prevented them from writing. American Heritage defines it as: A usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing.

But, fear of writer's block has taken on a life of its own—a life of mythic proportions, I might add—within writing circles and the imaginations of many authors. Writers say they are suffering from writer's block as if it were an illness that they have contracted. Other authors, fearful that they to will contract the disease, do not discuss or question its origins. It is such a terrifying thing, much like sea monsters to medieval sailors, that when it is evoked, rarely does anyone question its actual existence least it befalls them and captures them in its razor sharp claws.

Fear not, for I am here to dispel the myth of writer's block and free each of you from its mythical powers.

Destroying the Myth of Writer's Block

Writer's block, much like medieval sea monsters, is a myth. A powerful myth, yes; but a myth nonetheless. Its purpose, much like the sea monster's, is to explain a natural event that mere humans fear because they have no control over it. By explaining the natural event, be it a shipwreck or an ebb in creativity, the desire to contain and the need to control the force is, at the very least, pacified. It is given a name. It becomes a being in its own right with the ability to act, to take actions against others—action that can be avoided by the writer (or the sailor) with a charm or ritual—instead of a part of an unpredictable and uncontrollable natural rhythm.

Writer's Block as Illness
Too often writers hide behind writer's block as an artistic illness to explain their unproductively. Too often writers evoke writer's block when the reality is they are not doing the work demanded by the writing process. Ouch! It is true; the mantra of writer's block is often used by what I refer to as lazy writers. In this case, the solution is simple. Shut up and get to work. Start a new project, focus, set your priorities and make the tough choices. Are you really a writer or are you pretending to be one?

Writer's Block as Monster
But just as often, writer's block is used to label, incorrectly, the natural ebb in the creative process in which case, writer's block is a trap that captures and ensnares many writers and stops them in their tracks. It holds and limits their creativity, encasing it in a shell and serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy and a potentially endless cycle—I'm blocked, I cannot write, so I don't write so I'm blocked. In this case, the belief in writer's block sucks all of the writer's energy into focusing on why they can't write, anxiety builds, stress happens, and the writer finds herself truly unable to write.

What is Writer's Block?

If writer's block isn't an illness that befalls authors and it isn't a monster that attacks us, what is it? Writer's block is, in my opinion, a catch-all name for a normal cycle— simply the natural rhythm—of the creative process. All artistes experience it. Writers, being wordsmiths, have given it a name and writers, being story tellers, have created a vast mythology of its causes and cures and in so doing have generated an unhealthy fear of legendary proportions surrounding writer's block. The truth is, writing, like any artistic endeavor, flows and ebbs. There are periods of high productivity followed by periods of low productivity. What is commonly called writer's block is simply the ebb of artistic energy.

Understanding the Ebbs and Flows of the Creative Process

The purpose of the flow is easy to understand and always welcome. Words drip out of your pen faster than you can scrawl them onto the page, ideas spring from no where, and you write and write and write. The purpose of the ebb, however, is misunderstood and thus feared. The ebb's function is to allow you, the writer, to process, explore, and gain perspective on your subject. By stopping the flow of creativity, it forces you to create distance between you and the subject matter you are working on and allows your perspective to grow. And as such is critical to the writing process if you allow the ebb to do its job instead of focusing on how to end it, over come it, or conquer it. It is a natural part and, in fact, very necessary and vital to the creative process, if writers acknowledge it for what it is and dispel the power of the myth.

Words are Powerful: Exploring the Creative Process

Words have power. You already know this as a writer. Let's stop empowering the myth of writer's block and start naming the actual process we are experiencing.

I'm Not Blocked; I'm in an ebb
If you are writing you don't have writer's block. You may not like what you are producing, your muse may not be speaking clearly to you, you may be uninspired, or working on a difficult topic or some material you may not even realize is emotionally packed for you. But if you are writing, you do not have writer's block. Gestation may be required before you are able to write what needs to be written. You may need to write through the material and do a series of heavy edits on it to bring it up to your "normal" standards. But if you are writing—no matter how hard or long it takes—regardless of your "normal" level of productivity—you do not have writer's block.

I've had periods were the prose flow from my pen in almost perfect order and need little editing. Likewise, I've had periods were I have to edit my work five or six times before I consider it a first draft. I've written pages of prose that I thought were breath taking only to read them two days or weeks later and deem them a mess and the reverse is true also. I've inked out a paragraph that I regard as trash to discover it was actually gold.

Ebbs are normally greater—longer and harder to deal with—for newer writers. The more seasoned a writer, the more likely they will be able to "force" or command their creativity to work during the natural ebbs. But even well-seasoned writers have ebbs in their creative flow. It is a natural rhythm of creativity.

Embrace the ebb, respect its role in the creative process and do the real work to get through it. Don't fight it or fret about it. Instead, examine what is causing it. Is the subject matter you are working on emotionally charged? Difficult? Complex? Do you need to reflect? Do research? Think through the story/characters/plot? Do you just need to step away form it for a bit?

Things That Prevent Us From Writing

1. Make a list of the things that prevent you from writing. Here's a start:
Physical illness
Lack of time
Low energy
Fear—of failure and, for some, of success
Over extending ourselves
Poor goal setting
Poor project management

2. Now make a list of things that sap your creativity. Here's a start:
Physical illness
Lack of time
Low energy
Fear—of failure and, for some, of success
Over extending ourselves
Poor goal setting
Poor project management

3. Compare the two lists you created. How many of the items are the same?

Dealing With Ebbs

  1. Writing is a job, treat it as such: Show up everyday—mind, body, spirit—ready to work. Take it seriously because it matters to you. Be professional with yourself. Respect the process of writing.
  2. Write every day: I cannot stress this enough. Every day. Even if it is only for 30 minutes. Ideally, you should have three to five two+ hour sessions a week. I know we do not live in an ideal world, so set up however many two+ hour sessions you can a week, but make sure you spend at least 30 minutes writing every day.
  3. Keep a writer's notebook: A writer's notebook is not a journal. It is a notebook in which you write character, story, and plot ideas; tape news clipping, photos, and matchbooks that inspire a story idea for you. Do brief outlines or record events, sentences, and words. When you need a story idea, page through the notebook until something strikes you.
  4. Respect your characters and the stories they have to tell: Sometimes authors want to force a story to go where it doesn't want to. This may cause a premature ebb. Listen to your characters and your story and follow them. Allow them to lead you.
  5. Don't throw away any writing: Save in a separate document (call it rejects or trash or pull outs) paragraphs, names, sentences, pages of text that you edit form your project. You may print it and include it in your writer's notebook for use as inspiration or as a jumping off point sometime in the future. This will also help make you a better self editor because you know nothing is gone forever and you will be able to edit your own work with a stronger hand.
  6. Set realistic goals: Over achieving is wonderful, but your goals need to be realistic or you will always fail to meet them. For more on setting realistic goals see "Five Year Writing Plan" and "Setting Up Your Plan" in the 2006 archives on this website.
  7. Set up systems: Systems should increase your productivity not hamper it. Systems are very personal and their effectiveness varies from person to person. Systems should never be a distraction from writing but instead should help to improve your productivity.
  8. Set up a writing plan: For my take on a writing plan see "Five Year Writing Plan" and "Setting Up Your Plan" in the 2006 archives on this website.
  9. Don't over extend yourself: This is true on all fronts. If you are over extended you will have chronic low energy. Your muse requires energy. Learn to say no—to friends, lovers, TV, projects, at home, and at work. Sacrifices have to be made. Priorities set and kept. You, unfortunately, cannot do it all.
  10. Organize your self— your life, your writing, your spaces: Living and working in a mess is counter productive to creativity. Organize your life, your space, and your writing. It may take time, but it will provide peace of mind, increase your productivity, and reduce stress.
  11. Find a mentor: A more experienced writer to help you develop your craft and guide you.
  12. Create a peer group: Writing is a solitary act. Join a writing group (online or live) that allows you to bounce ideas off others, be inspired, talk about craft issues, share problems, and bitch about writing. Make sure it is a safe group.
  13. Be a mentor: Mentor someone who is just starting out or who has less experience than you do. Mentoring can be very rewarding and recharge your creative muse.
  14. Celebrate successes: A success can be anything you want it to be. A page of text, a chapter, selling a story, a draft version of whatever you are working on. Celebrate successes. Rewards can be anything you want them to be—a cookie, a movie, an hour of TV, a new pair of shoes, a walk in the park.
  15. Learn from failures: My mother would say there is no such thing as a failure. Every experience you have adds knowledge and value to your life and is an opportunity to learn something new. After all, learning something new is what life is about.
  16. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone: While setting realistic goals is the key to success, pushing yourself past your comfort zone is the key to growth. Growth is critical to your creative development. Challenge yourself. Tackle a topic you avoid, write outside your normal genre. Do something risky and different from what you normally do.
  17. Nourish your muse: Take a writing class. Experiment with a different art form (painting or music, for example) to enhance your creative juices.
  18. Start a new project: Sometimes starting a new project can kick start your muse. Be careful to not become just a starter and not a finisher.
  19. Finish an old project: We all have half completed projects. Sometimes returning to them can be inspiring. Often, we need time to process and returning to an old project with fresh eyes can be inspiring.

NEXT TIME: Be a Finisher, Not Just a Starter: Erotic Short Story Writers Working on Erotic Novels

Amie M. Evans
December 2007

More of Amie M. Evans' Two Girls Kissing in ERWA 2007 Archive.

"Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica" © 2007 Amie M. Evans. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Amie M. Evans is a widely published creative nonfiction and literary erotica writer, experienced workshop provider, and a retired burlesque and high-femme drag performer. She is on the board of directors for Saints and Sinners GLBT literary festival and graduated Magna cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Literature and is currently working on her MLA at Harvard.
Read Amie M. Evans' full bio at the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.

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'07 Book Reviews


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She's on Top
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