Workshop Transcript

Breaking Writers' Block

with Adrianne Fitzpatrick




*** kia_ has set the topic on channel #Kidlit to Breaking Writers Block/Getting Ideas Workshop In Progress

Suzy-Q: Karma come sit up front with Gail and myself

Suzy-Q: I have lemons and silly string.

kia_: I brought confetti

Suzy-Q hands out gourmet Caramel apples for everyone.


kia_: Okay, folks...this Workshop is about to begin. Please hold all personal chatter until the hour is up. Adrianne, would you please introduce yourself and then go ahead and begin?

Adrianne: thank you kia

Adrianne putting on official hat now

Suzy-Q: clap, clap, clap

kia_ hands the microphone to Adrianne and frowns at the audience who is still whispering...

Adrianne: It's great to see people here

Adrianne: For those of you who don't know me - is that anyone??? - I live in Australia and work as writer/editor/teacher

Adrianne: I chose the topic of Writers block because it's something that is discussed and thrashed around so often with mixed opinions and very high emotions

Adrianne: what I intend doing today is making this a fairly interactive workshop

Adrianne: so I won't be talking (typing) at you but getting you involved as well

Adrianne: so firstly, have you ever suffered from writers block?

Adrianne waits patiently for interaction ...

Suzy-Q: yes!!!!

Sally1: Oh yes, these days

Adrianne: anyone else?

KarmaW: Yes...

kia_: A few times...not often

Gail: I just let it go, let my mind work on it, and when the ideas hit, I sit down at the computer.

Adrianne: what does it feel like?

Suzy-Q whispers to Dori, we saved you a seat....

kia_: Frustrating

KarmaW: It feels like a weight is on my heart.

KarmaW: sinking me to a wordless void.

kia_: I get irritable when I can't write

Adrianne: when does it happen?

Suzy-Q: My mind fills with every things but what I want it to.

KarmaW: Whenever I really feel like I NEED to write.

KarmaW: No WANT to write.


Adrianne: Karma, is there any particular stage of a project that it happens?

KarmaW: Rewrite.

Adrianne: ok.

KarmaW: Not just nitpicky rewrite, extensive rewrites.

Sally1: When I'm going thru a lot of emotional upheaval.

Adrianne: how about others?

Gail: Before I write. No ideas come.


Adrianne: how often do you all write?

Suzy-Q: When I feel I should or have to write

KarmaW: that comes in stages...

Gail: When the mood strikes.

KarmaW: Right now, six hours a day.

kia_: I write every some aspect of my writing

KarmaW: Sometimes I only write email for weeks. :-)

Suzy-Q: so firstly, have you ever suffered from writers block?

Sally1: every day, hopefully.

Gail: I do a great deal of writing in my head first.

kia_: Of course, the kinds of stories I write take forever to do...I have spent as long as six months searching for TWO words for one of my stories.

kia_: So a lot of my "writing time" is just thinking, researching, etc time.

Adrianne: kia, I suspect that's your writing style though, rather than writers block

GAndre: Right's been weeks since I've written anything new.


Adrianne: When you are going through writers block, what are the thoughts going through your head?


Sally1: I'm tempted to give it up.

kia_: These ideas I have are STUPID

kia_: (that's the thoughts going through my head while trying to come up with a story idea)

Suzy-Q: every thing from are the bills paid to what do I make for supper. Any thing but writing.

Gail: Everything but what I want to write. It is like waking up in the night and not being able to shut your mind off when you want to go back to sleep.

GAndre: I feel stupid for thinking that I could ever be a "real" writer

KarmaW: I feel like smashing the keyboard.


Adrianne: ok, good

Adrianne: I want you to do something ...

Adrianne: every time you get stuck, listen to those messages or those other intrustions, and write them down

kia_: What, adrianne?

kia_: Write what down?

Adrianne: write *about* them if you have to

Suzy-Q: write down my bills?

Suzy-Q: yuck

kia_: I write OUT my bills. And then mail them

Adrianne: Suzy-Q - what's the underlying message behind the bills needing to be paid?

kia_: So we should write down our thoughts about our frustrations at not having ideas?

Suzy-Q: I don't have enough money to be spending time writing.

Adrianne: ok, that's what you're going to write about!

Dori: underlying message? That it's just another demand made of me and my time


Adrianne: writers' block can come from many, many different sources

Adrianne: and unless you deal with the source, you won't overcome it

kia_: Can you name some of those sources, Adrianne?

kia_: Maybe if we know the NAMES of them, they won't seem so insurmountable

Adrianne: Sure thing, kia <g>


Adrianne: the very first one is fear

Adrianne: it's a common source at any stage of your writing career

Adrianne: it may be fear that you don't write well enough, that you'll never get published, that no one will want to read your work

zap1: no one? :-(

Adrianne: fear of failure ... and sometimes fear of success

kia_: I know THAT one WELL

KarmaW: That's one thing I'm not scared of...success.

kia_: I used to be terrified of Success.

kia_: Thought it wasn't supposed to be for me. That I wasn't good enough to be successful.

Sally1: I'd like the chance to fear success!

Adrianne: yes, identify what that fear is and work with it

KarmaW: Failure? YOU BET.

Adrianne: that's why I said to write down those messages you get when you want to write ...

KarmaW: I'm terrified of seeing success as publication.

KarmaW: Because there are so many variables to getting published.

Adrianne: you're right, Karma, publication is only *one* measure of success

Adrianne: it is by no means the only one

kia_: I think being successful as a writer is just writing the best YOU can and knowing it. IF you get published, then that is icing on the cake.


Adrianne: find your own fears and banish them with an individual affirmation

Adrianne: if it's 'I can't write well enough', write an affirmation ... I am a writer


Dori: How does that lead into writing a story, Adrienne?

Adrianne: writing the affirmation, you mean, dori?

Dori: yes

kia_: Once you have identified the fear, it frees you to get past it? To become creative again?

Adrianne: by negating the critic who sits on our shoulder, we are more able to get through the fear block

KarmaW: But it's hard as a writer not to want the frosting. Heck, it's hard as a baker...

Adrianne: nothing wrong with having goals - or wanting the frosting, karma <g> ....

Adrianne: just don't use it as the *only* measure of success

KarmaW: There is when you're on a diet! :-)

Dori: I wouldn't be writing if it weren't for the frosting


Adrianne: but dori, does *not* being published mean that you aren't capable of writing?

Dori: No, Adrienne. But the frosting is the driving factor... the goal, as you put it

Adrianne: we're talking at the moment about ability and the fears that stop us from writing

KarmaW: That's what I mean.... It's when I get wrapped up in the goal that my block comes.

Dori: i have those, too


Adrianne: How do we measure our ability as a writer? Publication is one of them, but certainly not the only measure

KarmaW: I spent the whole day writing, then started feeling I would never make it. It wasn't worth it...

KarmaW: Words fled.

KarmaW: Then I got a great crit from a friend, and thought, "well, she likes my work. She thinks I can make it."

KarmaW: Words returned.

Adrianne: Karma, when you get that panicky feeling, recall the encouraging words you've received ... print them up and hang them near your computer

kia_: Lack of inspiration, Karma. That's what you had.


Dori: I always define my blocks as 'lack of inspiration"

Adrianne: ok, Dori, that's another form of writers block - different to the fear factor

GAndre: That's more my problem...not so much fear...but just nothing that lack.


Adrianne: fear that the story isn't going right is yet another form of writers block

zap1: I have that one.

kia_: I have that on one of my stories, now, Adrianne!

Adrianne: often we'll get half way through a story and think 'what a waste of time'

GAndre: I was doing some rewriting today...and it felt so wooden. Totally uninspired!

Adrianne: it may be that you need to spend time writing a different part of your story (move to a different chapter)



Adrianne: overediting may be another form of writers block - covering the fear of failure

zap1: guilty


Adrianne: ok, let me recap ...

Adrianne: we have writers block caused by fear, lack of inspiration and getting stuck in the middle


KarmaW: I have that....


KarmaW: Especially when I listen to to many different critiques.

KarmaW: It's this thing of wanting to please everyone.

Adrianne: critiquing is another issue altogether

Adrianne: go to my website for an article on critqiuing

Adrianne: how to survive and how to give one



kia_: And over-editing, Adrianne?

Gail: Or a critique comes in, and you can't figure out what the problem really is.

Adrianne: over-editing tends to indicate perfectionism, kia - fear of


Adrianne: ok, so you've dealt with the negative messages, you've written your affirmations and the ideas are flowing thick and

Adrianne: you get the first 1000 words down and you get stuck

Adrianne: why?

kia_: You are bored with your story?

Adrianne: boredom may be one factor

KarmaW: Boredom, yes!

Adrianne: if you're sick of it, put it away and work on something else for a little while then come back to it


Adrianne: firstly, make sure you aren't dredging up the fear factor again


Adrianne: then, is it a problem with the story?


kia_: Maybe it isn't a good enough story to finish?

Dori: or not having a firm idea of where the story is going when you started?


Adrianne: what techniques can you use to unstick a stuck story?

Gail: Ask WHAT IF?

KarmaW: Rewrite.

Adrianne: "what if?" is a good one too, Gail


Adrianne: the other one is to ask 'why?'

kia_: I LOVE using What If!

kia_: That is my BEST way to get "unstuck."

Adrianne: what if is great for generating plot ideas


Adrianne: "why" is great for understanding the motivation of your characters



Adrianne: sometimes the stuckness comes from not really knowing your characters

KarmaW: Very true.

Adrianne: one technique I use is to interview my character

KarmaW: Good one Adrianne.

Adrianne: I ask questions I'd like answers to - often the answers won't actually appear in the story but I have a better understanding of the character and the setting

KarmaW: I do that.

kia_: To get to know my YA characters, I cut out pictures of them from magazines & catalogs

KarmaW: I asked my character what was the most embarrassing moment of her life...

kia_: and then filled out extensive character sheets on them

Adrianne: good one, Karma!

KarmaW: aNd recieved the best answer, and a pivotal plot scene.

kia_: Oh, I like that, karma!

Adrianne: yes, that's a great one to use


kia_: I have used a "Word Can," too.

Adrianne: word can?

kia_: I wrote down dozens of words at random. Nouns, verbs, people, places, etc

KarmaW: In this YA, (my first) I finally "know" my characters, and the words and scenes flow like water.

kia_: And then stir them all up in a big can and pull out 10 at random

Adrianne: great trick, kia

Dori: I often wish I could pull a story idea out of a mixed can!

kia_: I wrote some great stories from my "can"


Adrianne: other techniques: get some exercise

KarmaW: Excersise?

KarmaW: yewwww

KarmaW: :)

kia_: exercise? Like in WALKING?

Adrianne: take yourself away from your writing <g>

Adrianne: yes just like that <g>

KarmaW: I eat.

KarmaW: :)

kia_: Like in ....MOVING AROUND? Auuuuugh!

Gail: I walk the neighbor's dogs every day I can make myself.

Dori: I take myself away from writing too much!

KarmaW: I cook.

kia_: (I'm coming to your house, karma. You are my kind of writer!)

KarmaW: Nothing like kneading dough to bring about a revelation.

KarmaW: Nothing like eating chinese to bring you to another world.

Adrianne: yes, karma, that sort of thing is great because it allows your creative side a chance to create

kia_: THAT works VERY well for me, Adrianne.

Suzy-Q: I chat on the internet

Sally1: I swim laps and get a lot of thinking done then.

GAndre: Actually, I prefer to exercise AFTER I write, helps me wind down.


Adrianne: take your pen and paper and write in a different environment - a park, the library, a coffee shop

kia_: I have written in the hot the park...on vacations...I got some of my BEST story ideas on vacations.

Adrianne: take a bath, pamper yourself

KarmaW: I can only brainstorm in other locations.

Adrianne: don't be hard on yourself

KarmaW: If I try to write, it doesn't work.

Dori: That would all work fine for me if I were stuck in a particular part of a story. But not when I'm stuck for an IDEA

KarmaW: I need my trusty computer and spell check!

Adrianne: brainstorming with other writers or even friends can help too

kia_: I find that one of the BEST ways for me is to take a "nothing" story idea and brainstorm it with other writers

Gail: That's what I do. Let it cook in the back of my brain.

kia_: Or even just brainstorm FOR ideas. I got two GREAT ideas right here in the chat room


Adrianne: Ok, here's something else I want you to do ....

Adrianne: close your eyes and think of your childhood


Adrianne: what age do you instinctively 'feel'?

Miriam: 16

Dori: 8

Sally1: 4th grade

kia_: 8

Dori: 16?

KarmaW: 6h grade.


Adrianne: ok, I want you to make a list of things that child would love to do/or did

Adrianne: when you feel blocked, pick something from that list and do it

Sally1: I watch and listen to kids on the playground,etc.

kia_: Now?

Adrianne: it's an ongoing exercise, kia

Miriam: nice idea


Adrianne: when you feel blocked and you are getting negative self-talk, it's usually directed at or from your child self

Adrianne: so do something good for your inner child

kia_: Hmmm. Now that is an interesting statement, Adrianne.\

KarmaW: Go roller skating, and kiss a boy.

Adrianne: LOL, Karma

KarmaW: That's what I wanted in 6th grade.


Adrianne: Ok, so that basically covers fear and getting stuck in a story


Adrianne: what about when the well of ideas is dry?

Adrianne: keep an ideas file

Dori: That's me... the dry well...

kia_: THAT is a problem I've been staring at lately, Adrianne. I'm supposed to come up with two story ideas for my instructor at the ICL course, and I don't have them.

Adrianne: try writing something different

Dori: like?

Adrianne: if you normally write YA novels, try a PB

Adrianne: try non-fiction

Adrianne: stretch yourself and your comfort zone



Dori: I guess I do have a fear after all. Fear of never again getting a good story idea!

Adrianne: sometimes we run out of ideas because we need a change

Adrianne: dori, you have great story ideas!

KarmaW: Yes, dori, you do!

Dori: But after each story I write, I feel i"ll NEVER write another one again


KarmaW: I am going to do non-fiction PB, and I'm TERRIFIED.

KarmaW: But I tried the idea as a fiction pb, which I'm comfortable with, and the story won't come...

KarmaW: because it's nonfiction.

kia_: So write it as fiction and let it be nonfiction

Adrianne: then perhaps it needs rewriting with a different focus, Karma

KarmaW: I need to write it nonfiction..

Adrianne: yours is not an ideas problem but a presentation issue

KarmaW: but it's so far oout of my comfort zone I'm terrified.

Adrianne: Karma, you're getting a negative message there - write it down and write its contrasting affirmation

KarmaW: Yet, I KNOW if written well it will be published.

Adrianne: You just did it!<g>

Dori: Karma! You did it!

kia_: Write it in your comfort zone, karma. Don't write it to sell. Just write what WANTS to be written. THEN you can mold it later into a shape that will sell.

KarmaW: So, I WILL write it.


Adrianne: if you have tried new styles and types of writing and you're still blocked, have a good look at your life

KarmaW: The story isn't there in fiction, it's nonfiction, but I'm still scared.

Dori: Ha! Too busy, I'm afraid

Adrianne: what happens around us can drain all our energy so that there's none left for being 'creative'

kia_: Boy! Is that ever the truth.

kia_: Especially PEOPLE around us.

Adrianne: When I was going through a messy divorce and major counselling, day to day survival was all I could focus on

KarmaW: Scary.

Adrianne: there was no room for writing except as catharthis

Adrianne: don't beat up on yourself for that

Sally1: I know what you mean,

Dori: Whenever I was pregnant, I couldn't be creative... my body was creating on its own!

kia_: So, what you are saying is that sometimes in your life, it's okay to not write for a while?

Adrianne: deal with those things - relationships or illness or job stress ...

Adrianne: all those thigns can draw away all our creative forces

Dori: You are sooo right, Adrienne

Adrianne: deal with those in such as way that you can once more devote time and energy to your writing

Dori: I'm going to quit my job!!!

Adrianne: Dori, you've proven that you are a writer ... that means it's not an ability issue for you

Dori: it's not?

GAndre: Maybe that's what I need to with my stress first, without feeling guilty about not writing.


Adrianne: no, you're proven you can write ... so look at the other issues in your life

Adrianne: if need be, write about those issues

Adrianne: see where that takes you

Dori: I can't see how that will get me any closer to writing a children's story?

Adrianne: don't ever let anyone tell you that writers block is sheer laziness

kia_: Hmmm. So sometimes we aren't trying to write about what NEEDS to be written...and that's why we get stumped/stopped/blocked?


Adrianne: Dori, maybe you are ready to make a change in your writing direction

Adrianne: or maybe you just need to let go for a while and write for *you*

Dori: maybe, Adrienne

kia_: Ah! Be SELFISH. I like that one.

KarmaW: I do what Adrianne suggests, and write great short stories for adults..

KarmaW: THEN I'm free to write for kids again.

Adrianne: there is no magic cure for writers block - it takes hard work

Adrianne: you'll just get around one issue and another one will appear

KarmaW: Sometimes though, issues must be put to paper.


Adrianne: some people find writing easy and panic when it gets hard

KarmaW: People climb mountains and have fun...but they still sweat.

kia_: Hmmm. It's almost ALWAYS hard for me, Adrianne.

Adrianne: yes, it's work - if we are professionals, it's work

Adrianne: but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy our work

kia_: But I LOVE the hard work of it. The challange.

Dori: I've experienced both. Easy stories and difficult stories

kia_: challenge

Adrianne: it's a different style, kia

KarmaW: The easy stories usually turn into hard ones..

KT4YE: If you LOVE it, isn't it fun?

Adrianne: if you found something came really easily, you might turn around and say 'there has to be something wrong with this - it was too easy'

KarmaW: It comes out so easy, then I have to narrow it down to one POV. <Point of View>

kia_: yes, but it is still hard work, Karma. It's just FUN hard work.


Adrianne: Then, Karma, learn how to use multiple points of view

Dori: There you go, karma

KarmaW: I try, and everyone says, "Narrow it down to one POV."

KT4YE: Karma, EVERYONE isn't necessarily always right

KarmaW: :)

Adrianne: that's why I say 'learn' - there is an art to multiples

Adrianne: when used properly, it can be very effective

KT4YE: Speaking only from the perspective of adult fiction, you'll be hard pressed to find many best sellers with only one POV

KarmaW: :)

KarmaW: I'm talking PB's. <picture books>

KarmaW: And you're hard pressed to find multiples there.


Adrianne: another technique to help beat writers block is to write a synopsis of your story

Adrianne: by 'telling' the story you may find you're able to get through the next level

kia_: For me, writing a synopsis is worse than writing a whole book, Adrianne!

Adrianne: LOL, kia, but it works for some people <g>


Dori: Don't you think, Adrienne, that everyone kind of has to find their own, personal 'ax' to chop through writer's block?

Adrianne: yes Dori - absolutely

Adrianne: all we can do today is offer up some tools - you'll use what works for you and discard the rest

Dori: I once read that writers block is like the 'exhale' after the 'inhaling' of writing.

Adrianne: a great tool that I've found is the book 'The Artist's Way' by Julia Cameron


kia_: <Five more minutes for this workshop, folks. Get your questions ready....>

Adrianne: fire away <g>


KT4YE: Sometimes when I'm blocked, I'll go to a whole different chapter, write it and come back to where I was stuck

Dori: A trip to the library or book store is helpful... reading all those published books...

Adrianne: yes, that's another great technique - move right away from the stuck section

Gail: Some folks know where they are going, and write an outline. Others just let it write itself, and throw out 50-90% of what they write. Lots of different strategies.

Adrianne: especially reading something that addresses the issue you're struggling with

kia_: Eavesdropping is good, too.

kia_: Listening to other people can get great ideas from Eavesdropping.

Dori: KIA!

kia_: Hey! You CAN, dori.

Adrianne: I'm with you there, kia <g>

Suzy-Q: I find idea's in the chat rooms and not always writers rooms

Adrianne: Suzy-Q - this is a *children's* writers room you know!

Suzy-Q: I get idea's from peoples nicks like "Skydancer"


kia_: I just found a fun way to come up with story ideas.

kia_: Story Cubes

Dori: what's that, kia?

kia_: You draw a cross onto a paper and divide it into six parts. Two boxes on the bottom, one for each "arm of the cross," one in the center and one on the top.

kia_: Put a character name in each box, then cut the cube out and tape it together.

kia_: make another with places on it and a third with plot problems.

kia_: Then, you roll the three cubes and make up a story with the character, place and problem that come up on the tops of the cubes.

kia_: Gets the ideas flowing

Adrianne: that's a great idea, kia ... I like that one


Adrianne: Personally I very rarely know my ending until I get there

Dori: and I always know my ending before I start...

KT4YE: Adrianne, for me, if I don't know where I'm going, I'm certain to get there!

Adrianne: yes, KT4YE, often people who discover the end before they get there get sick of the story and fail to finish it


Adrianne: any other questions or comments?


Dori: Thanks, Adrienne. You gave us a lot to think about

Adrianne: thank you, Dori ... I hope it's helped a little

Gail: Great, Adrianne...clap, clap, clap, clap.

Dori: I've got all my "assignments' written down;, Abbey

Adrianne: if anyone wants more 'assignments' <g>, just let me know

Sally1: Thank you.

kia_: Thank you Adrianne! This was very informative and Super Helpful!

GAndre: Thank you Adrianne!

Dori: Applause! Applause!

kia_ throws confetti and uses ALL her silly string!

KT4YE: Bill stands on chair and whistles

Adrianne: thanks <g>

Suzy-Q: clap, hurray!!!!!!!!

Dori: Oops! Careful, Bill. You almost fell!

kia_: Ouch! Hurt my ears, Bill. Too loud!

Suzy-Q douses Abbey with silly string

KarmaW: Bill, calm down.

Adrianne slips on all the silly string ... help!

kia_: No more broken bones, Adrianne!

Dori: Dialling 911 for Abbey

Suzy-Q helps Abbey up.. being careful of her sore foot

kia_: Where is Adnil? She's a nurse...

Adrianne: thanks everyone, this has been a lot of fun

Dori: Sorry, Abbey. Ambulance won't drive to Australia

Gail: Thanks!

KarmaW: You taught us a LOT.

kia_: Send lyra's cruise ship!

KarmaW: Margot says you need a flying doctor.

Adrianne: ok, Dori, I'll just put up with the *pain* then <sigh>

Dori: I enjoyed it a lot, Abbey. Thanks so much

KT4YE: Abbey, thanks loads for taking your time <whistles again>

kia_: Good workshop, Abbey.

Dori: It's always great to pick someone's brain... scritch...scritch...

kia_: Oh...just to let you all know.

Adrianne: LOL, dori

kia_: Next week is zap's workshop on Critique Groups

KarmaW: I don't need to know about those...

Dori: And don't forget to read the article on crits at Abbey's pages

Gail: Great.

KarmaW: I have the BEST.

Adrianne: I'll try to come to that one and see if there's any need for me to do one on dealing with critiquing itself

Adrianne: or if zap covers it all

kia_: And I have been talking to the gal that runs the WriteShop chat room and she is arranging for an ALL DAY seminar with the WHITE HOUSE (President Clinton and VP Gore)

kia_: In September. They want some of us from here to help moderate the seminar.

Gail: Bill is going to do a workshop?

Dori: Do they write children's books?

kia_: She talked to the White House today, Karma.

Gail: What will the topic be? I don't understand!

kia_: I'm not quite sure myself, Gail.

kia_: What Janet told me was that they wanted to get some BIG name authors to ask questions of the White House people and they wanted US to moderate the chat sessions. (Be in charge.)

kia_: Thank you SO much, Adrianne. I should have this up by Sunday

Dori: Oh, that was good, Gail

Dori: Thanks again, Abbey

Adrianne: thanks all

KarmaW: Bye Adrianne, and thanks

Adrianne: bye

KarmaW: thanks.

Adrianne waves as she hobbles out the door

*** Signoff: Adrianne (Leaving)

KarmaW: Poor adrianne and that foot.

kia_: Yes. For those that didn't hear, Adrianne fell and broke her foot yesterday...and STILL came tonight!

KarmaW: What a trooper.

Dori: Yikes! Poor Abbey!

kia_: Bless her.

KarmaW: And she did so good.

KarmaW: What a fun workshop.

kia_: Yep. Was probably in a lot of pain, too.


*** End of Workshop Notes ***


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