Stop the Madness

Stop the Madness

As I cruise Facebook I see way too many posts from writers suffering from major angst because they cannot meet their chosen, self-inflicted goal of writing 2,000 words a day.  They consider themselves to be failures who will never succeed unless they meet this spurious goal.  Whose idea was this any way?  Stop the madness.

A fixation on this artificial goal might just be what is keeping many from writing–really writing.

Have you ever had a time when you could not remember a name or word?  You agonize over it until you finally give up in frustration, a failure.  Then, when you stop thinking about it, bam, the word or name pops up.


When you are agonizing about remembering, you create a loop which sometimes triggers your stress hormone, cortisol, and or a flight or fight response.  This shuts down your ability to engage in creative thought. 

What if the same thing happens when you sit in front of your computer trying to force meaningful, creative writing?  Might you be stifling your creative abilities?

* * *

In the past, I have never been unable to write whenever I pleased.  I have tons of ideas I could never live long enough to write.

In the spring I had just completed the first novel of a trilogy.  At the Devil’s Own Game.  I have known for a long time what the next novels two will be about.  School let out for the pandemic.  (I teach for a high school and a college.)  I was looking forward to summer for two months of nothing but writing.  However, stress over fears of contacting the virus and being on lockdown upset my plans.  I sat down to write and knew I just was not in the mood.  Finally, I decided not to punish myself for being stressed out.  Instead, I forgave myself and did a deep dive into research.  I spent the summer, online, researching locations, ideas, history, cultural issues, sounds, everything to do with novel two.  Each time I found an interesting fact, I got fired up and was able to begin my outlining procedure.

Having a goal is great but taking it too far might just be harmful.

Do not agonize.  Stop the looping.

Try something different.  Fire up your creativity before you write.  Choosing to foster your creativity will create the ability to write.

* * *

Create a Visual display of your novel.  I use a great and very inexpensive program.  Inspiration 9.  You start with a blank document.  Then, take every idea or new fact you have found in your research, facts that have fired you up, and put them in a bubble.  Use color coding and shapes to differentiate types of facts.   Some bubbles need only display one word that triggers your unconscious mind.  Then, create your plot line and move the bubbles where they might work best.  Do not worry about perfection; you can move the bubbles any time you want.  Track your plot trajectory, up and down as many times as you want.  Once you have a good part of it saved, you might just be ready to write.  Below is a copy of the map I made for my last novel.  On one page, I was able to visualize the whole novel.  In addition, I was able to change it at a whim. 

If you do not have a map, you don’t know where you are going.

Below is an image of the map I used for At the Devil’s Own Game.  Before writing, I would open the file and stare at it, remind myself of where I had been and where I was going.  It offered a gestalt view of time and activity.  When I used a bubble, I would remove the interior color so I would know I had included it.  Later, I was on such a roll I ignored the colors.  The rectangular boxes are the plot line events.  The program offers differentiated forms of mind mapping.  Find one that matches your vision.




There are many other ways to spark creativity.

If you want to go high-tech, try Hemi-Sync.  They are a wing of the Monroe Institute.  Hemi-Sync creates recordings that help both sides of your brain connect and work together by using binaural beats masked with white noise/ music.  Binaural beats only work with earphones.  Each ear/side of the brain gets a wave range, but at slightly different frequencies.  Then, according to Hemi-Sync, your brain attempts to even them out, thus ccreating brain communication.  I get many of my ideas while cruising down the intgerstate when theta waves are in charge.  Theta waves are also produced during REM sleep.  So, theta waveas are my go-to wave frequency.

If you are planning a scene that takes place during a storm, go online and search for recordings of storms and listen with headphones to block out the world.  Place yourself in the scene. Create a mood.  A great place for such recordings is YouTube. 

Music is also a great way of creating a mood.  I am extremely susceptible to sonic entrainment.  Many creative people are. I play music that creates a feeling or mood.  For example: death metal for murder scenes.

If it is a visual issue, go to web sites that sell photographs.  Search for forest pictures when you need to write about a forest.  Find just the right type of forest and stare at it until you see your character there.

Most of all, be positive.  Do not ever say I cannot write, or I am trying to be a writer some day.  Say, “I am a writer.”  “I can write whenever I want.

Free your subconscious and creativity will follow; then words will flow.

Write when you are ready.

I bet you have many other tricks that spark creativity.  Please share them.

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Shaun Thomas-Arnold
1 year ago

Glad to know I’m not the only one that feels like this. I’ve got an outline process that mostly works, but when it feels too demanding my brain just kind of shuts down. With already trying to work past fibro fog, sometimes there’s just no way I can write. Definitely going to try some of these though, thanks!

Alice McVeigh
1 year ago

I’m book marketing – checking out the reviewers – including you – in the excellent Yellow Pages – and read this article here. Couldn’t agree more, esp. about letting yourself off the hook – the whole world is still in SHOCK – about the Fbookers beating themselves up for not churning out thousands of words – and about binaural beats, which help me concentrate better than anything else, whether writing or reading or working on something else!!!