Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nighmare on Creative Street: How Author Debbie Fuller Thomas Tackles Writer's Block

How do we create life from lifeless tissue? The fact that I had to ask for my husband's help to think of a title for this post only confirmed my urgent need to figure this out. (Thanks, honey) Most writers experience dry times when the ideas just won't come. What are the causes and what are the cures? Let's button up our lab coats and pull the third switch!

I brainstormed a list of causes for lack of creativity and came up with: fear of failure, fear of transparency, feeling restricted by guidelines/formulas/word counts, burnout, real or imagined criticism, anxiety over deadlines, worry, feeling overwhelmed and stress about life in general. I'll admit that for me, stress is the worst culprit and maybe yours is listed, too. Maybe recognizing it is the first step toward overcoming.

The good news is that we swim in a rich gene pool. Our Creator gave us the desire to write and it's part of what makes us tick. We don't create alone. Here are some ideas for cures:

  • Read widely. Feeding your mind with interesting and thought-provoking material results in interesting and thought-provoking writing. These new ideas can blossom into a story idea or influence the direction of your WIP.
  • Write at the same time every day. This creates memory triggers that can flip on the power switch.
  • Enjoy beauty. Find a quiet place that you love and take time to meditate. Don't write or think about your WIP. Take your lunch to the cemetery. It's quiet and peaceful, and no one knows you're there but God. Or listen to your favorite music without distractions, or take a scenic detour home from the grocery store and listen on your car stereo. It can help you get perspective.
  • Practice ten or fifteen minutes of free style writing. Write about whatever comes into your mind. It's okay to write with abandon and flourish. That's how I picture the Lord pitching armfuls of stars into the galaxy at creation. Or choose a topic like your favorite childhood vacation or your favorite Christmas. The point is, do not stop to rewrite! No one else will read it but you.
  • Write someplace new. Sometimes the same old ideas sit in my office, fish-eyed and lifeless. Taking my laptop to a different environment helps me get away from them and makes room for new ideas.
  • Read about the lives of famous authors. They, too, suffered from periods of dryness and thought their writing was lifeless at times, and they overcame. You will, too.
  • Get out and do something. If you spend all your time in your office bent over your laptop, you will not gather rich experiences that your characters can share. They don't want to be dull.
  • Ask God to refresh you. Ask fellow authors, family and friends to pray. If God calls us to a ministry, He will equip us for the task.
*This article is originally found on Novel Matters

Debbie Fuller Thomas is a freelance author published in Lord, I Was Happy Shallow, Coping with Cancer, Sacramento Sierra Parent, and Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul. He debut novel was Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon, with Moody Publishers and her latest is Raising Rain. As a former pastor’s wife, she has been involved in children’s and worship ministries at church in northern and southern California for 30 years. She currently manages youth programs for over 250 children at her local parks and recreation district. She is a breast cancer survivor and mother of two adult children. She and her husband, Don, enjoy their “empty nest” in a historic gold rush town in northern California.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Authors everywhere sit anxiously, chewing their pens, brainstorming the perfect hook that will catch their readers at first glance and not let them go until the final page: the first line of their book. Maybe you don't judge a book by its cover, but a reader can tell a lot about a story from simply reading the first sentence. Classics such as George Orwell's 1984 begin with, "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." Or observe how beloved C.S. Lewis captured his readers in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." Here are a few of our favorite first-liners from this year' s fiction:

"That Wednesday two weeks before Thanksgiving was a bad day to find a corpse on campus..." -Rhapsody in Red by Donn Taylor

"There on the damp pine needles Kirsten Young lay on her back, a serene Ophelia in her dusky pond of blood..."-Latter-Day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott

"Our worst spring storm broke on the edge of midnight, a river thrown from the sky..."-I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke
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