Saturday, November 08, 2008

Weekend Wind-Down - Finding the Words

Here's Anna Adams with a wonderful post for those of us struggling to find the right words...or just any words at all...wind down with your favourite drink, some chocolate, and read on...

Where’d the Words Go?

I’ve been writing blind. I don’t mean I’m a pantser. I mean I didn’t know what I was doing. I assume I’ll be working without a process. My so-called process rarely works for more than one book, but in the past year, I lost all my instincts. You know? Instincts? That quiet certainty that you will publish, despite all the odds, that your stories are waiting in a well of imagination and creativity that you don’t understand, but you believe in? The “this is what comes next” that leads you from “Chapter One” to “The End.”

That all deserted me. I’m not sure why. That’s not true--I know most of the reasons--but who besides me wants to hear them? My reasons are my own, and if this has happened to you, yours will be about your life.

If it has happened to you, I have some advice. It’s easy, and yet, you’ll never find any tip harder to follow. It sounds flip, and you’ve heard it before. It’s the advice we all give each other, whether we’ve had a rejection or a success so fantastic we somehow block ourselves with the firm belief we can’t repeat it. Here it comes. You’re already forming the words. That’s right....

Keep writing.

Mind you, I tried the tried and true for--about a year--and I’ve written. Some drivel, some keepable stuff. Some really lousy conflicts that were solved by the inevitable conversation. (I can’t lie to myself. I know when I’m not riddled with brilliance.) But despite this constant writing, I couldn’t seem to remember how to do what I’ve been doing all my life. I couldn’t put a story together.

I could play computer games, wander out to a coffee shop and write blah-blah-blah and then delete it and try again. I could even watch a long-canceled soap on AOL Video on my laptop--because that’s some creative procrastination!

Finally, I went on a retreat to the beach. I’d planned it for a long time with two friends I met at a larger retreat last year. As the date for our beachside writing gala neared, I began to panic. The economy’s floundering--I may never make a living again with no writing skills. I felt guilty about taking what could become an expensive vacation without my family, but I’d promised my friends--colleagues, and that meant I’d promised my third of the fees. So, off I went, hoping I’d keep my nose to the grindstone.

And I did. When I left my home, I couldn’t have rented a work ethic with a pile of nice, reliable gold, but by the time I left the beach I was producing well over a thousand words a day. Don’t be fooled. If I manage to keep even one of those words, I’ll consider myself a genius. If I find a conflict in those pages, I’ll be belting out show tunes from our terrifyingly peaked roof.

But I’m writing again. Because I kept writing.

If you have to take a beach retreat, I say do it. If you can go to the brightest, darkest, most silent, or nosiest corner of your house or your favorite coffee shop, or a gym, try that too.

My instincts are trickling back because I didn’t give up. Still no process, but I need those words more than I need a process. It turns out the only thing that can really frighten a writer is not being able to depend on finding the words. I hope you’re all finding your words today.

Anna's latest release is the Superromance, HER REASON TO STAY. You can visit her webpage at


  1. Oh Anna, I so understand - and sympathise. Been there, done that - didn't bother with the tee shirt because it wsa so ugly!

    And you're right the only answer - the one and only answer, whether we like it or not - is keep writing. Writing when it hurts to squeeze another word out, writing when you'd rather be sitting in the cold lashing rain with a patch of stinging nettles under your bare legs . . .

    I wish I could have come with you on your beach retreat - I think I wold have loved that. Maybe one day.

    But congratulations on getting some of those words back. I hope they continue and the trickle turns into a flow - we could all do with some of that.

    And never give up!


  2. Hi, Kate,

    Thanks so much for the empathy! I can definitely tell you've been there. Cold, lashing rain and stinging nettles covers the situation!

    I wish you could have come on the beach retreat, too. We worked in perfect silence until we just ran out of stuff to write each day--often taking a break for dinner and then back to work for an hour or two at night. I can do anything when the sea is singing in the background. My beloved doesn't get the beach at all, but time at the ocean is imperative to me! I've been tricking myself with a little ocean in the headphones.

    Thanks for the good wishes re: the trickle turning into a flow. I've kept up the pace. Still don't know how many of these words will be sticking around, but I'm loving having some to choose from.

    I wish I'd added your advice--never give up!--to the blog post because it goes hand in hand with "keep writing." And both have to become a reassuring mantra when we're going through one of these hard writing times.

    Thanks for coming by,


  3. Hey Anna,

    I really feel for you. This must be one of those years for most of us. I too haven't been able to put anything on paper this year. I kept saying it was because I was so busy; school, moving twice, loosing my job, three surgeries (me and hubby), and a few things for GRW. I know this is a lot, but I used to use my writing as a way to recharge.

    I will definitely take your advise (and Kates) and just write (even if it is crap...).

    I wish you all the best. I LOVE your books. They make me feel good and I can't imagine not reading more. Keep working at it because there are tons of people like me waiting for your next one to be published!!!


  4. Tami,

    I had no idea so much was going on with you. We clearly need a chat!

    And while I do think you need to keep writing, I also think when bad things happen, you have to give yourself time to heal. I'm not sure how you manage to turn on a computer after all you've been through.

    Thanks so much for your kindness about my books. Nothing makes me feel better than hearing that my books make you feel good. That's the sweetest compliment of all!

    You take good care. Writing is important, but, as I'm sure you already know, being healthy is key for being able to do good work.

    Hugs to you and yours,