Rx For Writer’s Block
Every time I looked at my laptop, a feeling of dread and guilt engulfed me. Something had to give. Fortunately, last August, I joined Ninja Writers Club, a group of freelance writers sharing their experience in nonfiction and fiction writing via Zoom calls. Then, I rewatched the lecture “An Evening With Ray Bradbury 2001,” author of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles and countless classics. I highly recommend you watch this video several times to absorb all the advice he shares.
I’ve been a fan of Ray Bradbury since my middle school English class introduced me to his short story, “All Summer In A Day.” It’s a story about a girl who lived on Venus, where violent storms only let up one day every 7 years. Imagine only being able to go outside once every 7 years. That’s worse than the COVID pandemic.
Blocked? Write Something New.
A series of life events led to a pretty severe case of writer’s block. My husband Brian and I started working on book 3 of The Sundancer Mysteries series, Witch Fire in 2014. Since then, two of the companies he worked for went out of business, and we had to move from Georgia to California and back twice since then. I won’t even elaborate on what the pandemic and fires in California did to derail me.
Then, I watched “An Evening With Ray Bradbury” again. Ray Bradbury reminded me that writing was supposed to be fun. The guilt I had from the delay of Witch Fire wasn’t making it fun to write. No wonder I was struggling.
Writing “How to Write with Your Husband and Not Kill Him: 5 Ways To Stay Happily Married While Writing Together” gave me the creative boost I needed. It helped me remember how much fun I had writing with Brian. I’m happy to report that he and I are on chapter 16 of the 2nd draft and began discussing book cover ideas with our cover artist. We worked around the clock during his Christmas break and have a writing schedule that I’m very optimistic about.
In the meantime, I am writing nonfiction pieces to keep my momentum going and give me variety. Because I’m working on a fiction book, I’m doing a twist on Bradbury’s advice and writing one article a week.
Your Output Will Be Determined By Your Input.
Yes, absolutely read as much as you can within your genre. But you can only write what you know. Ray Bradbury recommends that you read a short story, a poem, and an essay right before you go to bed for 1000 days. The genius of this advice is that what you read will percolate while you sleep. The authors he recommended weren’t only science fiction though. He also included Herman Melville, Shakespeare, and Robert Frost.
The characters in our series The Sundancer Mysteries are gods, goddesses, and other supernatural creatures from a variety of mythologies. Brian’s bachelor’s degree in comparative literature helps him find characters for our books. I use my two associate’s degrees in psychology and social and behavioral sciences to put our characters through the wringer.
While we both read urban fantasy, Brian reads more fantasy novels and I read mystery novels and paranormal romance. We read books and articles about business, art, travel, and cultures.
I’m waiting for my subscription to National Geographic to arrive. Their Special Issue: A Year In Pictures for 2020 is profound. So much happened beyond COVID-19 and the election.
Find Ray Bradbury Stories and Authors He Recommends Without Spending a Fortune.
Depending on where you are living, it may be difficult to get to a library. In California, some libraries have been closed for months or have limited services. Support your local library and see if they have ebooks or other methods of retrieving books.
Besides your local library, Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and Scribd offer a free or inexpensive alternative to spending a small fortune on Amazon. I included links below for my To Be Read list.
Internet Archive is a digital library. Their mission is:
“Universal access to all knowledge.” According to their website they have: “475 billion web pages, 28 million books and text, 14 million audio recordings (including 220,000 live concerts), 6 million videos (including 2 million Television News programs), 3.5 million images, and 580,000 software programs.”
They require you to sign up with an email address. It’s free, but relies on donations to support it.
Project Gutenberg offers more than 60,000 free downloads of Kindle and ePub ebooks. It doesn’t require you to sign up, but doesn’t have as many titles as the Internet Archive does.
When you can’t find what you are looking for at the Internet Archive or Project Gutenberg, Scribd is an excellent alternative. For $9.99 per month, you have access to their collection of ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines. Self-published authors should consider publishing with them if their books aren’t part of Kindle Select.
Writing should be fun. If you are having difficulty getting words on the page, try Ray Bradbury’s advice. Read a short story, a poem and an essay before bed and write a short story a week. Just imagine the changes it will make to you and to your writing.
Bonus: My To Be Read List
Here are a few of the authors mentioned in his lecture. I included ones I intend to read or reread. I’m a huge fan of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
- Nigel Kneale (author of “The Pond”) “Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories” is a collection of short stories edited by Ray Bradbury.
- Roald Dahl (author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda,):
“Over to You: Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying.” (You must sign up for a free account.)
- Washington Irving (author of “Rip Van Winkle”):
“Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and other stories.
- Herman Melville (author of “Moby Dick”)
“Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street”
- John Cheever (author of “The Enormous Radio”):
“Stories by John Cheever”
- Richard Matheson (author of “A Stir of Echoes”):
“Nightmare at 20,000 feet”
If you want a new way to write a description of a scene, read poetry. Poets will teach you the art of metaphors wrapped in beautiful prose.
- Shakespeare (author “Romeo and Juliet”).
“The Tempest SparkNotes” (In case you wanted additional insight.)
- Alexander Pope
“Poems by Alexander Pope”
- Robert Frost (author of “Mending Wall”)
“Poems of Robert Frost”
Ray Bradbury suggests reading essays from multiple fields such as philosophy, zoology, biology, etc.
- Aldous Huxley
“Perennial Philosophy” is a comparative study of mysticism.
- Loren Eiseley — Anthropology
“The Fire Apes” is available on Scribd. (Scribd free for 30 days and only 9.99/month.)
- George Bernard Shaw (he suggested you read everything.)
“George Bernard Shaw: Collected Articles, Lectures, Essays, and Letters: Thoughts and Studies from the Renowned Dramaturge and Author of Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Pygmalion, Arms and The Man, Saint Joan, Caesar and Cleopatra, Androcles And The Lion.” (Scribd free for 30 days and only 9.99/month.)
Juliet is the author of The Sundancer Mysteries series and runs Trust You Can, a blog that shares resources she finds that help her get inspired and create. She writes urban fantasy novels with her husband, Brian, designer for games like Fallout, Minecraft: Story Mode, and Ozaria. They love to try new things and travel the world.