Welcome Sherry Lewis!

Welcome to fall in the garden. Well almost fall anyway. Time for for me to check in with the resident gardener, who is so not me.

Gardening Tip of the week:
If you've got a rock garden get rid of it, it will never grow!

Please welcome Sherry Lewis back to the garden!
Sherry Lewis is the national bestselling author of more than 30 books in the romance and mystery genres, along with several non-fiction books on the craft of writing. Her most recent release, Dead on Arrival is available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon. A proud mother and doting
grandmother, she makes her home along Florida’s Emerald Coast with the two least cuddly cats on the planet. Her writing workshops have been popular for more than two decades, and her books are sold around the world. She is listed on Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll.

Thanks for having me here, Mary. It’s always fun to spend time in the garden with you and your readers. I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit today about one of the biggest problems facing writers and other creative types, and that’s being blocked.

Of course, since I’m a writer, when I think of being blocked, I think of it as “writer’s block,” which is a term we hear frequently. Some people believe it’s a real thing, and some don’t. Or, if they think it’s a real thing, they also think it’s something you can easily move past.

Years ago, in the early days of my career, I would have told you the same thing. That was back when I thought this whole writing/creative thing was a question of mind over matter. For many years, I foolishly (and I guess egotistically) thought I could write through anything. I was convinced that if I just focused hard enough and willed myself to push through with enough willpower, I could always come out on top.

 And then life threw me a curve ball, and I found out just how wrong I was.


If you participate in some artistic endeavor long enough, whether writing books, writing a blog, making YouTube videos, painting, writing music, etc., you will experience blocks. I wish I could tell you otherwise, but it’s a given. Blocks appear in all shapes and sizes, and they come at us from a variety of different angles. Sometimes we’re blocked for a few days. Sometimes we’re blocked for much longer.

When you’re feeling blocked, being told you’re just not trying hard enough to get past it can be disheartening and make the block even worse. You’re already struggling, thankyouverymuch. You don’t need other people telling you that your struggles aren’t real.

Sometimes, of course, the blocks might be man-made and relatively easy to work our way past. At
times we might feel blocked because we’re perfectionists and we just won’t let ourselves move on until what we’ve already created is perfect. (Of course, there’s really no such thing as “perfect,” but there’s nothing wrong with a creative person wanting to do their best—as long as if doesn’t stop them from working at all.) Sometimes we may feel blocked because we’re moving in the wrong direction with a particular piece of work, or because something deep inside knows you’re not being honest. As writers, it’s important that we tell our characters’ truths, and when we fail to do that, the muse can, and often does, stop showing up for work. We have to be in touch with our own truths, as well, which is often difficult when your art, your music, or your writing becomes work. The pressure to make a living can stop a creative person cold.

Sometimes we get blocked because we’re afraid of failure. (If I don’t write, I can’t submit, and then I can’t be rejected.) Or because we’re afraid of success. (I want to sell this book more than anything in the world, but what will happen then? Can I write another one? Or am I a one-book wonder?) Many of us can freeze in our tracks over the fear that we’ll expose ourselves as frauds. I’ve found myself facing this particular one at various points during my career, and it came as a total shock to learn that almost all writers—even the super-successful ones—admit to struggling with this “secret” fear.

Often, the muse will stop speaking to us because we’re pushing too hard, trying to meet deadlines—our own or those established by a publisher. There’s a lot of pressure on writers these days to churn out books and self-publish them fast, fast, fast… But maybe that’s not the way you write best. You know it. The muse knows it, but you want to do everything “right,” and so you cave into the pressure.

Maybe you’ve scheduled your books too close together, so you haven’t given yourself time to breathe between manuscripts. Maybe blogging every day isn’t right for you. Maybe once a week would work better. All work and no play can make a creative person feel stifled It can leave us feeling as if we’re writing or creating the same thing again and again rather than doing something new and interesting and truly creative.

Sometimes the block might spring up because life has gotten in the way. It takes a certain amount of quiet reflection for me to write clearly and succinctly, to slide deep enough into a character’s skin to feel what he’s feeling and think what he’s thinking. I’m not creative in other ways, like painting or writing music, but I’m sure those creative endeavors work the same way. Maybe your creative outlet is knitting, or crocheting, or cross-stitch, or crafting, but life simply won’t let you get to it.

There will be times when you can make adjustments to life and times when you can’t, and when you can’t and the creative inspiration won’t come, the last thing you need is someone standing beside you telling you that your inability to focus, to think, to create, is a failure on your part.

Sometimes a major life event will knock us for such a loop, it will take months, or even years, to bounce back. (Bounce is entirely the wrong word here. It’s more like a long, slow, painful crawl, but the point is that you can recover with time.) The death of a loved one, a serious illness, an unexpected (or even a planned) move. Losing a job or starting a job. Having another baby or learning you can’t have one. It would be wonderful if we could just keep plugging along, shrugging off the junk life throws at us, but often those things will bring life as we know it to a screeching halt for a while.

No matter where the stumbling blocks come from, they’re real, and they’re debilitating, they’re frightening and they’re frustrating. And working your way through them, over them, around them, and back from them can take some effort. But just because a block is real and ugly and threatening your attempts to finish a project or start a project, or that block is taking a huge swipe at your career, there is a way around almost anything the world can throw at us. I believe that as firmly as I believe in the blocks themselves.

I’ve experienced many kinds of blocks over the course of my career—the most debilitating when my younger daughter attempted suicide a few years ago. My career—which had been sailing along quite nicely to that point—took an abrupt nose-dive when my ability to write disappeared for a while. I honestly believed I would never write again because the voices in my head went utterly quiet—and for a writer, that’s a frightening thing. I couldn’t read. Couldn’t write. Didn’t even want to write for a very long time. But little by little, the desire began to blossom again, and little by little, I’ve worked my way back to a regular writing schedule. Because of my experiences, I very much want to help other writers who find themselves blocked—whether by just one scene, by some major life event, or by anything in between. Is getting around a creative stumbling block a question of mind over matter? Sometimes. Sometimes we can make an adjustment or two and sail on by as if nothing ever stopped us. But sometimes it takes a lot of self-care and patience to get ourselves working again.

This is such a big topic, it’s impossible to do it justice in a single blog post, so if anyone is interested in learning more, please join me in October for an online workshop about blocks of every kind and the tactics I’ve learned over the years for getting past them. Registration for the workshop also entitles you to a critique of 10 pages from a work-in-progress. To learn more, visit my author website (www.sherrylewisbooks.com) or my website for writers (www.dancingoncoals.com) and click on the Workshops for Writers tab.

Comments

Melissa Keir said…
Writer's block is very tough. I feel for everyone when they go through it. I found that writing long hand was better for me to free things up because I didn't edit when I wrote that way.

Love the cover... all the best!
Jo Jones said…
Thanks for a great blog, Sherry. Blocks certainly do come in many forms, some of which aren't always easy to recognize. I'm happy to hear there are resources, like your workshop, to help us gain insight into working past them.
Anonymous said…
Hi, Sherry.
Loved taking your class in April. I just solved a minor block using a confrontation with a character. With a little meditation, I sat the nasty queen down to find out what she wanted. Was surprised that it wasn't just revenge. Seems she created the job to bring some peace, and just wants to preserve her creation. Wow. Hero just got in the way. ..... Anyhow, it was scary when I couldn't figure out how to solve the conflict. And now I am buzzing along to the happy ending.
Thanks for being you. You have so much wisdom, and share so graciously.
Nancy Granducci

PS. Your comments on pen names and grandchildren really spoke to me, and my 20 of them.
magremota@comcast.net
Sherry Lewis said…
Great suggestion! Thanks!
Sherry Lewis said…
Thanks, Jo. One of my favorite things about the writing Community is the way writers are willing to help each other. It's great, especially since other writers are the only people who really understand the challenges.
Sherry Lewis said…
Oh thank you, Nancy! I am so glad you found the workshop helpful and so happy to hear that you worked through a block and you're moving forward. That just made my day!
Every class I've taken from Sherry has been filled with useful information. She is so wise and her information on overcoming blocks is priceless. Thank you, Sherry for sharing your experience.
Mary Martinez said…
Thanks everyone for dropping in, I am fortunate to have Sherry visiting the garden. Her classes are awesome and I'd recommend them to everyone!
Mary
Judy Baker said…
Hi Sherry, loved your post. It hit home for me. When life gets in the way, I too feel blocked big time. It helps to know I'm not alone.
Sherry Lewis said…
Thank you so much Sandy!
Sherry Lewis said…
Thanks for having me, Mary. It's always fun could be a guest here on your blog.
Sherry Lewis said…
You're definitely not alone, Judy. It happens to every writer. I think just talking about it helps reduce its power.
stanalei said…
Apologies for the late comment, but I wanted to let you know, Sherry, how timely this post has been for me. My many thanks to you and Mary for sharing this. And best of luck on the new release. Please stay safe!

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