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I still remember the first time I heard the term Writer’s Block. It was on the show Golden Girls, an 80’s sitcom about four mature ladies living as roommates. Blanche Deveraux, a southern belle and very randy senior citizen, had decided to write romance novels. After sitting fruitlessly in front of a typewriter for hours she swept out of her room in her long flowing negligée and declared she had writer’s block. Estelle, the oldest of the bunch, sat on the couch witnessing Blanche floridly describing the difficulty of her situation: the frustration, the waiting, the straining! As Blanche waxes on Estelle slyly compares Blanche’s writers block to constipation.

It was a funny scene.

At the time I thought it must be awful to suffer from writer’s block but I was young and the writing compulsion was only just beginning to surface. I had no conception of what it might actually be like to be a writer. Since then I have gained a little more experience. Certainly I’ve sat in front of a blank page but there was always some avenue to coax a story out of me; some glimmering shard of a first phrase or sentence to build on.

More difficult is when a scene stumps me. Perhaps I don’t know how a character will react or how to make the scene convey what I need it to or maybe I just don’t know what happens next but never do I feel blocked.

If I don’t know what a character will do or say next I can do character exploration exercises or write possible options and revise as necessary. If I’m having trouble making a scene say what it needs to I start by outlining those things so I have a clear picture of what I need and then explore what elements within the scene will meet that need. If I don’t know what happens next I review what happened before and what that will naturally lead to. I may get stuck in a scene but there are always ways to move forward. And if I think that I need some time away from a scene to get it right then I use the time to work on the next scene or another project. And there is always another project.

I might get scene-block or even novel-block but writer’s block? I don’t believe in it.

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I have two To Do lists at any and all times. The first is a general list. For example:

  • unpack boxes
  • clean the cat litter before the cat stages a coup
  • dishes (for previously stated reasons this pretty much never gets crossed off as I tend to lap loads)
  • sort laundry
  • buy cat food, see above
  • write

That last item never really gets crossed off either, it recycles daily and is really only there to remind me that it is the most important item on any list (except the cats food and litter, she gets cranky).

My second list is dedicated to my creative goals. For example:

  • Edit latest flash fiction
  • Write ‘X’ number of words by ‘date’
  • Outline characters for WIP
  • Do Celtx tutorial in preparation for Scriptfrenzy
  • Learn flash
  • Make 10 second flash cartoon
  • Rough draft art for next webcomic installment (unpublished and on hiatus, like so many projects)

I like lists and I like tracking my progress and crossing things off. I have notebooks dedicated to my lists where items from yesterday can be brought to the next page and you can see the progress (or not) of my industriousness like layers in sedimentary rock. I have such a poor memory that I couldn’t really function without them. They keep me on track.

Sometimes though, I use my lists to procrastinate. I especially use that first list to procrastinate on the second.

Which is crazy right? I look at that second list and there is not one thing listed which fails to get me excited. Just sometimes the steps are a little too large and I get daunted or more often I get everything ready and then my self-doubt kicks in. So I wander off and do something else and if that something lets me cross something else off of a list, any list, then I get to feel like I’ve accomplished something. It’s not the same high I would get from a submission-ready final draft of that flash fiction but it’s easier than facing all that fear and self-doubt.

In my defense I usually come back to the second list and get some work done but I’m certainly less productive artistically than I could be. Than I SHOULD be.

Today I procrastinated by making what I thought would be a time intensive fancy dinner that turned out to be quick easy and delicious. I was done and fed in no time and got a lot of little things crossed off my creative to do list. So to celebrate that quick return to my word processor I’d like to share another author recipe.

 

Vichyssoise (Leek Soup)

This soup is more delicious than you.

Ingredients:

  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 4 medium potatoes, diced
  • butter 2-3 tablespoons as desired
  • 3 cups chicken stock (veggie stock for the vegetarians)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups half and half cream (10%)

Optional Extra Ingredients

  • 2-3 tablespoons bacon bits, homemade or store-bought
  • 1 cup of Mushrooms, thinly sliced, I like a blend of crimini and mini bellas (technically these are all the same mushroom at different ages)
  • Chives, chopped

Instructions
Steps involving bacon and mushrooms may be omitted.

  1. Saute chopped leaks and potatoes in a large saucepan (mine is 12 inches with high sides) for several minutes. Until it is nicely aromatic.
  2. Once the smell of leeks and butter are making your mouth water add the broth, salt and pepper, and optional bacon.
  3. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. While simmering broth sauté mushrooms in butter until they develop a nice colour. Do not crowd.
  5. Remove both broth and mushrooms from heat and allow to cool.
  6. Add cream and half of mushrooms to broth and mix.
  7. Puree in blender (fills blender twice)
  8. Serve cold or reheat in pan.
  9. Garnish with chives and mushroom.

Serves 6.

Tips

  1. Don’t forget to reheat the garnish mushroom if serving the soup hot.
  2. Keep in mind if you use bacon bits they might be made with dye to achieve their bright colour. You could see this as a disaster or pretend to be Bridget Jones and serve pink soup!
  3. Omitting the mushrooms and bacon I think this would be a highly adaptable recipe. I intend to try several variations.
  • Add citrus and fruit with the broth (veggie), lemon and cranberries perhaps. Nothing too sweet, it should be light and summary. This could turn out horribly wrong. Either way you’ll probably hear about it.
  • Walnuts and almonds, blended into a paste and then blended into the soup. Definitely served cold. It would be so rich and decadent!
  • Stir in some cooked wild rice to the finished basic recipe to add flavour and texture to the creamy soup.
  • Use 35% cream and blend the soup until it stiffens.  Serve as savory mousse appetizer.  (I really want to try this!)

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I’ve been working on a full update of all of my creative goals but it’s actually a bit daunting to sort it all out. I have so many interests that at times I get bogged down and nothing gets done on any of them. So I’m going to use the goals update to really look at where I want to put my limited personal resources.

In the meantime here’s a shorter update of my most recent accomplishments:

  1. I’ve officially signed up for Scriptfrenzy on the website. I’m looking forward to spending a month just working on dialogue and by extension human interaction.
  2. I wrote and have half edited a flash fiction. The working title is Ape Dreams until I think of something clever. I have a strong belief that flash fictions must have clever titles.
  3. I wrote 5000 words on my Novel!! Woo! The dry spell is over! After two months of opening my novel and looking at it, pecking out a few words and trying to catch that thread I had lost, I’ve finally found my way back into it. Granted I started with a scene that was pretty easy and from the point of view of my favorite character to write at the moment but I’ve got the momentum now to keep going on those harder parts and trickier characters. Such a relief.
  4. I’ve written several synopses for short film scripts I want to write for Scriptfrenzy. Including a longer one that has really caught my attention.

After all the work I’ve put into the Monster-Post-of-My-Many-Goals it’s really good to be able to look at this list and see the things I’ve accomplished rather than all the things I’m not getting done.

The pessimist says the glass is half empty. The optimist says the glass is half full. The scientist says the glass is full, half with water and half with air. I don’t know who coined that last part but I like it. My glass is half full of the things I’ve accomplished and half-full of the things I’m going to do. It’s going to be great!

 

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So far this blog has been primarily used for writing updates because I am working on my skills as a writer. Word count updates have proved a challenge to do in a way that’s interesting. So, though I will continue to do updates about my goals, progress and achievements as a writer, I will also be including some new kinds of posts.

I have a couple of narrative posts lined up. I’ve just moved and I’m experimenting with narrative, especially humorous narrative by recounting stories about the quirks one encounters in a new home. I will also be doing some book reviews both fiction and non-fiction.

Between a hectic school schedule and an unexpected change of residence my word count has been flagging this semester. Plugging away at the novel has gotten harder. I’m hoping by switching it up now and then with fun blog posts and book reviews I’ll be fresher to work on my larger work. I also intend to keep working on poetry as well. Oh so many aspirations!

Of course all of that wonderful planning might go out the window come April since I’ve committed to participating in Scriptfrenzy this year. It’s like Nanowrimo but instead of 50,000 words participants have to write 100 pages of script which should be around 20,000 words. This sounds easier but it’s got to be all dialogue!

I’d call myself crazy but since I got excited about Scriptfrenzy I’ve done some pretty nice outlining for my script, written and polished two and a half future blog posts, hacked away at an old short story (okay that was more of a warm-up to the other stuff) and pulled my novel out after a month without even looking at it.

Things are looking up!

So, to announce my first book review which I hope to post before April begins.

I’m currently reading How Not To Make A Short Film: Secrets from a Sundance Programmer by Roberta Marie Munroe.

It was a birthday present from my best friend who took me to the bookstore and let me pick whatever I wanted. How awesome is that!

There are two reasons I chose this book. One is that it will be really helpful with Scriptfrenzy because it has some excellent chapters on Script Story and Script Structure which I hope will come in handy come April. It is also on my bucket list to make a short film.  So to recap by reviewing this book now I:

  1. Will be doing research to help me write a better script for Scriptfrenzy
  2. Will be learning to analyze non fiction for a review.
  3. Will be producing what I hope to be an interesting new type of entry for this blog.
  4. Will begin to learn film making skills that will help me cross an item off of my bucket list.

Multitasking shall be the key to achieving my goals.

Now back to my novel!

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