3 Ways to Bust Through Writer's Block
Interview with Gayle Trent

Writer Quirks - Janet Boyer

Since I’ve put Hugh HoweyChris Brogan, and Jenny Milchman through the writer quirk wringer, I figure it’s about time for me to expose my own bizarre writing quirks (and dispense some dubious writing advice at the end).

UnplugThose of you who follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may have noticed me saying, “I’ll post it when I’m back at my PC” or “Offline for a few days!” or “If you’ve emailed, I’ll get to you when I get back online”.

Friends and fans know exactly what this means, but I’ve not shared my sordid secret publicly until now: in order to get any writing done (not to mention homeschooling, domestic duties and spousal mandated relaxation), I have my husband hide the broadband modem at work. And my old school Kindle.

That’s right: I’m so pathetic, so lacking self-control, that my husband totes the square, black device—as well as my Kindle in it’s purple leather case—to work with him. To hide in his locker at work. Until I tell him to bring them home.

Sometimes, he’s carrying so much with him to work (packages to be mailed, his lunchbox, mp3 player, cell phone, etc.), that he tries to hide it here at home.

Thing is, I’m psychic. Honest to God psychic. As in, I can zero in on the freakin’ thing—even if it’s hidden in the basement, atop the ceiling beams where I can’t see it and need a plastic step stool (that I retrieve from the second floor) to reach it.

Now that our 14-year-old son is taller than his Dad, I can get him to reach up to feel for it! Ha! And, of course, dear husband is amazed that I can find it.

Most days, Ron good humoredly goes along with my antics by taking my stash to work in a plastic shopping bag. Some days, he even insists on it (“that internet is nothing but trouble!”). Once in awhile, though, he gets tired of carrying my shameful, addictive burden with him (“can’t you just self-regulate?”).

Which he knows damn well that I cannot.

I know some of you are shaking your heads right now, and a few are even laughing (you see yourself in this, don’t you?).

But it gets worse.

Kindle holding smallSee, I also have a Kindle Fire. Now, I have hubby hide the regular Kindle at work because the 3G capabilities can still allow for internet access. Kindle Fire, however, is WiFi only. So if the broadband modem isn’t here, I can’t access the internet.

Except, my neighbor two doors down programmed her WiFi password into my Fire last week. So, some days, I’ll stroll down the road (in my PJs, at times) to ask—like the pathetic Ethernet beggar that I am—to use her WiFi. We catch up on neighborhood gossip as I check email and admire her latest horticultural acquisitions (she’s got a major green thumb!). I also get a bonus prize: mad lickings from her adorable Chihuahua (Roxy Girl!). Eventually, I leave.

A few weeks ago, I got the idea that I may just be able to pick up her WiFi from my yard so I don’t have to waltz down there at 10 PM like some kind of addict looking to score her next fix (she works afternoon shift, and doesn’t mind me hanging out on her cozy porch).

Lo and behold, if I get right up next to the fence bordering my property, I can access her WiFi! Fortunately, it works when I’m far away from the road so that onlookers don’t wonder what the hell some lady is doing standing close to her fence in broad daylight, huddled over some kind of device.

Wifi smaller
Silly husband made a sign!

But addicts don’t just operate in the day. Oh no, they lurk and lurch around in the cloak of darkness.

So the last few nights, I go outside in the pitch black, jonesing for my device to pick up her WiFi (instead of trying to log into my WiFi, which is a no-go since the broadband—which is at my husband’s work—needs to complete the connection). In my pajamas. With my crocs on. After a rain.

I almost slip into the edge of our garden-to-be. Getting my footing, trying to use the glow of the Fire screen to navigate my path to the fence, my feet finally find purchase. Until I step in a @#$%*&! gopher hole and almost break my ankle!

I did say I was pathetic, right?

And it’s not like I’m major cyber slut; I’m lucky I visit ten sites on a regular basis!

Le sigh.

Writing by handMy other writing quirk is much tamer: despite having severe tendonitis/CTS in both hands, I must write longhand when it comes to my non-fiction writing (read: 70% of what I write). Reviews and blog posts I can compose just fine on my PC with my handy dandy ergonomic keyboard. I’ve even trained my brain to work on my cozy mystery novel-in-progress via PC.

But not my eBooks or non-fiction books.

Why? Well, I think author Amy Peters sums it up nicely in her book The Writer’s Devotional):

Writing longhand will help you experience your writing in a different way. Your mind will think in a different manner, both because writing longhand is a slower process and also because you won’t have the opportunity to backspace and erase the words you’ve just written. Writing in longhand is a more deliberate act. There is an elegant simplicity to writing longhand: it takes writing back to a primal and pleasing place. As an added incentive, there’s also a sense of instant gratification. The moment you make a mark, it is real. Unlike the sometimes dicey business of storing your writing on a computer’s hard drive, the handwritten page won’t disappear into a mysterious Ethernet void.

 Hell, I’m not even allowed to do dishes because my hands are so wracked by numbness and pain. (After the fifth broken glass, hubby and son took over dish duty. We’ve since switched to almost all plastic glasses, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to point that out! After all, there’s still the Pyrex measuring cup, glass baking pans, porcelain casserole dishes to consider…)

Ha!

So there ya have it. Two crazy writing quirks from yours truly.

Now, about the writing advice.

Gosh, I don’t feel qualified to give much out, since I’ll still muck my way around despite being a traditionally published author x3 and having various other writing “successes”.

SherbetBut as a reader, Amazon.com Hall of Fame Reviewer and despiser of BS, I will say this: the most important piece of writing advice I can give you is to be an original.

Despite appearing as glib advice, it’s not as easy as it looks, especially if your original voice happens to be controversial, polarizing, illuminating and raw. In case you haven’t watched TV lately (I haven’t—been without TV programming for over five years, in fact) or noticed magazine covers in the supermarket, “fakeness” sells.

Think about it: magazine models are photoshopped. Wrinkles, blemishes and discoloration? Magically wiped away. Open the inside of the magazine, and women are told we need makeup to be beautiful, skin cream to look younger, perfume to smell better and designer break-your-damn-neck stilettos to be sexy.

If you’re a man, you need a newer car to exude achievement, the latest electronic device to seem “hip” and a pretty girl on your arm to appear virile.

“Reality” TV? Ain’t nothing real about it.

And what about well-meaning advice from religious leaders, New Age gurus and social media experts saying that we all must “play nice”? Smile at everyone, never be negative, always be complimentary, be happy, vibrate quicker, sing Kumbaya and don’t rock the boat.

In other words, stifle urges coming anywhere near uncomfortable emotions, unvarnished truths or authentic ideas.

So writer’s self-censor—on social media, in their relationships, and, perhaps most damaging, on the page.

The result? Books filled with bland writing, cardboard characters and a “who gives a shit?” plot. Which are the types of books that are, sadly, even published by the Big Four. (It’s Four now, right?)


So there you have it, dear reader. My embarrassing writer quirks. And some advice lobbed your way, to boot.

Are you a writer with some writing quirks? By all means share them here in the comments! Your writing advice is most welcome, as well. 

-- Janet

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