Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Writer’s Block (Part 7 of 16)

"I don't have anything to say," a would-be writer told me at a conference. "I want to write, but there's nothing there." That certainly made her different from the hundreds of people who truly have nothing to say but want to tell the whole world.

After she admitted she came to the conference to learn to open up, I said, "Obviously you must have something or you wouldn't waste your time and money."

"I feel paralyzed when I try to write," she said. She went on to say, "I'm 42 years old, married with two children, and I never went to college and have no credentials. Who wants to read anything I have to say?"

We talked for several minutes and I don't know if I helped, but I told her that she had lived 42 years. Life experiences count—in fact, in many cases, they count more than the diplomas we hang on our walls.

Writer's block in the form of fear tells us that we have nothing to say. If we stand up to that false charge, we can become writers.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Writer’s Block (Part 6 of 16)

All of us have a censorious voice in our heads. It's a form of self-protection and warns us when we're ready to do something foolish or against our values. But sometimes that censoring nag is too finely tuned and prevents us from being open with people.

That voice whispers, "If anyone else knows you think such thoughts, they'd shun you forever." Or the voice I fight says, "This is so simplistic. Everybody knows that. You're insulting them."

I've learned not to listen to that inner critic, but many do.

The protective voice inside your head
may be too protective.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writer’s Block (Part 5 of 16)

One of the most serious causes of writer's block is fear. And it comes to us in a myriad of forms. I want to point out a few of those forms I've observed.

Perhaps the most obvious is the fear that the writing isn't any good. We may not tell anyone and may defend our writing, but deep, deep inside, we sense our writing isn't good. The worse we feel our writing level, the more difficult it is for us to create words on the screen.

"If I writing something and people read it," my friend Rog Barnes once
said, "everyone will realize how bad I am."

"Or they might discover how good you are," I said, "and you are."

That happened in the late 1980s. To my knowledge, Rog has never published. He has surrendered to an irrational fear.

Serious writers face their fears.
Even if they think they're not good, they continue to write.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Writer’s Block (Part 4 of 16)

I'm not a perfectionist, but those who are seem to struggle with their writing. They simply can't let it go and keep trying to make their writing better.

Fairly early in my career, I saw that tendency to hold on and to continue to rewrite even though I couldn't see anything that would improve my writing. In a month or a year I could probably do this better, I reasoned, but not now. That's when I made a commitment to myself. When I worked on a manuscript (and in those days was part of an editing group) and couldn't find anything more to change, I sent it out. I had to say to myself, repeatedly in the early days, "This is the best I can do at this stage of my development."

Even if my manuscript isn't perfect,
when it's the best I can do, I know it's ready to send out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Writer’s Block (Part 3 of 16)

I've spoken with others about their struggles with writer's block, especially after they've been able to move on. Sometimes the best cure is to relax and not write. They're under stress and being under stress means feelings of anxiety and perhaps fear.

I write books and that's how I make my living. I've learned that I can hit the pedal and hold it on top speed for several months. But I also know that I can't sustain that indefinitely—and I don't want to try. In 2010, for example, I produced six books and had them done before the beginning of November. I stopped working and scheduled almost no speaking engagements until February. That may seem like a long time, but I felt emotionally depleted and wanted to rethink what I was doing and where I wanted to go. That is, I avoided writer's block by pushing it aside for a period so I could read, think, and look at life with renewed vision.

The cure for stress is to stop.
One way to stop writer's block is to see it as stress—
and stop.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Writer’s Block (Part 2 of 16)

Here are two important things I want to say about this condition.

1. Writer's block isn't laziness. It's not procrastination. In fact, I think of it as writer's resistance, which makes it an opportunity to take action.

2. Writer's block sometimes means we're striving for impossible or unrealistic goals. If we focus on our manuscripts not being good enough, that alone can prevent our moving forward.

We don't have to accept writer's block
as a terminal illness.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Writer’s Block (Part 1 of 16)

Don’t accept writer’s block.

My definition of writer's block is the temporary or chronic inability to produce new work. It's common and it's not a passive condition. For some, it's a temporary problem and they soon move past it. For others, writer's block is extreme and they're unable to write for years and some abandon any attempts. They view their "new" writing as inferior, which may not be true.

Some brilliant person said that writer's block is a loud scream from the unconscious that tells us something is wrong. I often tell people that I once had writer's block and it was the most awful, terrible, horrible hour of my life. My point is that we don't have to suffer from writer's block. We can stop it.

Here's a question to ask ourselves:
What is going on inside me that prevents me from writing?

Friday, June 3, 2011

How to Study Magazine Article Markets Online

(By Susan Titus Osborn)

As a magazine editor for eight years, I rejected articles for two main reasons.

1. They were not targeted to my publication.

2. They didn’t follow the guidelines.

Here are helpful ways to break into the online magazine market (or ezines).

http://www.christianbooks.com/ sells magazines as well as books. It lists 121 Christian magazines. I’m not suggesting that you purchase the magazines, but use the site as a starting point. Make a list of the magazines that would be appropriate to the article you are writing and then look at the individual websites.

Another excellent site is http://www.world-newspapers.com/christian.html/. This site also lists general-interest magazines and lumps many religions into the “religion magazine” category. It also divides the magazines according to denomination.

The Lookout (http://www.lookoutmag.com/write/) is a 16-page, weekly and online magazine with a circulation of 52,000. It uses 40 percent unsolicited, freelance material, and they assign the rest. It's nondenominational, conservative, and non-charismatic. Two-thirds of the readers are women, and 90 percent of the readership is over 50 years old. It publishes according to a theme list, which you may obtain by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). The editor also wants manuscripts sent through the mail with an SASE.

Although they are print magazines, Sunday school take-home papers are often the easiest to sell because they publish 52 issues a year for adults and for children. Many are freelance written, so they always need material. They often use theme lists, as do many magazines, so study the website for each publication to which you desire to send an article or story.

Many publications will want your manuscripts sent electronically. Study your markets carefully and follow their guidelines precisely. There are also a number of online magazines. Some pay, some don’t, but they are an excellent way to build your publishing credits.

Do your research, study your markets, and carefully polish your articles. These are the ingredients to becoming a successful freelance writer.

Susan Titus Osborn, author or co-author of 30 books, is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. Contact her at susanosb@aol.com or http://www.Christiancommunicator.com/.