Pushing Through

11 Aug

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Some people think writer’s block is a myth and if you just get up and push through it, the block will resolve itself. You respect it and work with it even when you’d rather crawl back into bed give up on your dreams because today, it’s just too damn hard. But powering through isn’t always enough.

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The view isn’t much different from up here.

One of the most whackadoodle imaginings of writer’s block is found in the movie Stranger Than Fiction where Emma Thompson’s is a bestselling writer way past her deadline and struggling with writer’s block. What work she has done is the story of a sad-sack IRS auditor, played by Will Ferrell, who is a real-life man who hears Emma Thompson’s voice narrating his life all the way up to his death. Queen Latifah is brought in to get Emma Thompson back on schedule and as she begins to write again, Will Ferrell’s life continues to unravel.

I don’t have writers block (at the moment) and as far as I know, zero influence over the life of any IRS agent. But I do worry–frequently–about running out of ideas or that I’m merely repeating lines and scenes I’ve already written somewhere else. A glance at my Twitter stream of writers tells me this fear doesn’t go away for most. Universally, there’s seems to be only one solution.

Push through.

There’s so much great information that came out of July’s Romance Writer’s of America National Conference. Tidbits, game plans, statistics, encouragement, magic pills, naked cowboys. Though I didn’t attend this year, I kept a close eye on the social media chatter, often picking up repeated bits of advice that clearly resonated with many. It’s always good to get your double Ds charged with a refresher course even a vicarious one. But it’s also overwhelming and even from a distance can just as easily make you feel as though you’re not doing enough social networking or self-publishing or you don’t have a business plan or a marketing strategy. It’s hard under all that feeling inadequate to remember we really only have the one job: push through to write the best damn book you can. No one but you can do that.

One of the axioms repeatedly passed along was this quote from Nora Roberts from her Q&A at RWA Nationals this year (which I now have on my desktop):

Stop Fucking Around and Write

Some might find that to be a merciless line, one that doesn’t take into account how life happens. But it’s often just the smack upside the head I need. Pushing through to finish writing CATCH ME took an act of active will. It only came to pass by me reminding myself moment by moment of another of La Nora’s famous sayings, one I heard in person, “I can fix shit; I can’t fix nothing.”

 

Sometimes, the writing flows like a newly tapped faucet.

Sometimes, we’re just writing shit so we can fix it later.

And sometimes we get to give things away! Congratulations to commenters Heather L. and rysalkabr! You’ve each won a copy of Victoria Dahl’s Looking for Trouble. Please send me your email addresses at kiersten@kierstenkrum.com and we’ll get those to you! Thanks for leaving a comment on Lady Smut!

Follow Lady Smut. We always push through.

6 Responses to “Pushing Through”

  1. Madeline Iva August 12, 2014 at 7:50 am #

    Some would even argue that voice can’t be taught. (I know my writing instructors argued this). But it’s more than just voice. These authors also dig into a lot of the same core themes over and over again– themes people really like.

    Kristan Higgins always does me in because she often has a central character who just isn’t loved by his/her core family members for whatever reason even though s/he deserves to be. (Sniff!)

    As crucial for Jennie Crusie as the romance is the orphan pet that must be rescued and treasured above all else…

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  2. Madeline Iva August 11, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    I’m totally ready to take Nora’s advice and go pound the keys.

    As for the fear that you’re writing the same thing over and over again — well now, I’ve noticed that some authors have that “one story” in them and some don’t. Is this something you should fear Kiersten? I asked Ann Jacobs at a conference how hard it was to come up with so many different heroes after writing a ba-jillion books like she has. She looked at me utterly befuddled. She writes one hero she said, over and over again. He’s tall, he’s dark, he’s very alpha.

    Readers, for instance, LOVE reading Jennie Crusie, Eloisa James, JR Ward, Kristan Higgins. They are addicted to how they do their certain kind of magic. And just like that package of little debbie’s—you want that same delicious treat when you need your Crusie fix.

    The readers love those writers soooo much for certain things they do, that if a writer were writing something very very different, then she’d need to use a different author name. Because their readers would be outraged that they weren’t getting their usual scrumptiousness.

    So all these writers (as you point out with Nora) are TRYING to write the same-but-different that you’re talking about. And it’s hard to do that.

    So if you CAN do that — if it comes naturally to you — I see it as a blessing. (And by blessing I mean I hear ‘cha-ching!’ in your future.) If you do one thing in your writing over and over again (with variations) — just do that one thing really WELL and find the audience that will go crazy over it. The tricky bit is to do it but slightly different eight to eleven times in a row –but if you can, then you’re cooking with gas.

    I mean, think of even the classic authors — if you’ve read a ton of Dickens, don’t the stories all blur together in your head a little bit after a while?

    Like

    • Kiersten Hallie Krum August 11, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

      I think that’s where the question of “voice” comes into play. Each of the writers you mentioned has a distinctive voice to their writing, which is what drew readers to their books in the first place. So long as they’re getting that same voice in their reading experience, they’re happy. And given that voice cannot be taught, only revealed and discovered, that is often the trickiest part of being a writer: Finding your voice.

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  3. Liz Everly August 11, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    I love Nora as JD Robb the best. And, ohmigoodness, what can you say about the woman’s work ethic? A-mazing! When people ask about my “process” I often describe it as Nora Roberts meets Natalie Goldberg. Does that make sense?
    I think every writer has the fears that you mention, Kiersten. I hope knowing that helps in some some way.

    Like

    • Kiersten Hallie Krum August 11, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      In the 90s & early aughts I was a “buy on release day”. I read the JD Robb books from the very first one when it was first release and gobbled them down. Once I even made the Borders clerk go in the back room to get me the JR Robb new release b/c it wasn’t on the shelves on release day. Turns out, I had the wrong day.)

      After a while, though, her standard archtype repetition stops surprising so I took a break from reader NR books. As for JD Robb, I lost the ability to keep track of who was who and where and what and that after so many installments, the timeline had barely moved 3 years. That strained credulity a bit too much. I think I might have stopped at the 30th book.

      That said, as a writing inspiration, it’s hard to find anyone more compelling than La Nora. I learned a lot, first by reading her, and now by being in a position to hear her speak from time to time. She wrote how, after Nationals, she got home on Monday and was back at her desk on Tuesday morning. Writing is a job as well as a profession and a creative outlet and NR’s example has taught me to view and respect it that way. If I’m investing 40+ hours a week at my day job, I need to have the same work ethic perspective toward my writing job too.

      Though, as in most things, that’s all easier said than done.

      Like

  4. C. Margery Kempe August 11, 2014 at 4:17 am #

    Agree absolutely. I’m not wild about her books, but I think Nora Roberts is an astonishing and amazing woman. The thing I love about deadlines is that they force me to go on when I might be inclined not to do so (and yes, that includes deadlines I’ve imposed on myself). Persist even when it’s all crap, because you need to revise anyway. And then go off and fill you head with something other than words: art, nature, laughter, movies. And get back to it.

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