|Writing can be a lot of fun, but only if you learn|
the strategies that will help you meet your goals.
Seasoned writers will tell you that a little “down time” is necessary from time to time, to let your creative mind work through all the problems encountered while the rational mind was beavering away at your Work-in-Progress. I’ve found it very helpful, when I get stuck or bored or otherwise at an impasse, to take a long, leisurely walk, or get a good night’s sleep, or even play a little Pet Rescue. Often, afterward I find new ideas pop into my head about how to move ahead with my writing project. Not only does the game give me a pleasant break, however; it has also taught me some important things about the writing process.
Having a plan helpsWhen I first started playing Pet Rescue Saga, I paid little attention to what I was doing. This game is a variation of the tried-and-true “match three” sort, with a few extra twists thrown in. On the face of it, it’s pretty easy and mindless. A lot of people think of writing that way — you know what you want to say, so you just right it. Easy-peasy, right?
Not really. When I started with this “mindless” game, I played mindlessly, using the “poke-poke-poke” method. I gave little thought to the goal of any particular level, and didn’t bother to work out a strategy to meet that goal. Not surprisingly, I didn’t make a lot of progress playing this way, any more than I meet my writing goals by doodling on the keyboard. Doodling has its place — particularly when you’re just trying come up with ideas, but writing by the seat of your pants is not likely to get you very far in the long run. For that you need some kind of plan. You need a strategy for achieving your writing goal and for overcoming any obstacles that may get in your way.
Working around the blocks
|You can run into a lot of obstacles if you write without a plan.|
But there are strategies for getting around writer's block.
When that happens, take heart. Maybe what you need is just better planning and creativity to get around your blocks. Much as I can plan ahead and maneuver around blocks in Pet Rescue, when I'm writing and find myself stuck on a particular section, I often get unstuck if I switch to a different section. Or I might spend some time in my writing journal thinking through what’s hanging me up and why — often just by asking “what’s blocking me here?” I can uncover problems that I hadn’t been consciously aware of. Once they are discovered, it is a lot easier to work around them than it is if I just sit at the keyboard staring at the screen, determined to blast through my writer’s block by sheer determination. That strategy doesn’t work any better when I’m writing than it does when I’m playing Pet Rescue Saga.
When you get stuck, regain your perspective by remembering what your overall goal is, and looking for new ways to get there.
Using obstacles to your advantageIn Pet Rescue Saga, as you advance you find that the game keeps presenting new kinds of obstacles. One particularly insidious one that cropped up about the time I passed level 100 was something I call “virus balls.” These are prickly-looking, bilious green things that multiply by transforming nearby blocks into more virus balls. When I first encountered them, I nearly despaired. Each turn there were twice as many virus balls, and that many less of the colored blocks I needed to match in order to create a path to freedom for the pets. How can you possibly win in a situation like that?
|A little creativity can help you|
turn obstacles into advantages.
In this way, I took an apparent obstacle and made it work to my advantage. Believe it or not, writers can do something similar. When you run into apparently insuperable obstacles that keep proliferating and won’t go away no matter how you obsess about them, it might be better to focus on something else for a while. Sometimes just letting go of the obsession allows your creative mind to come up with solutions. In fact, often the “virus balls” that seem to be eating up your writing project may simply be roadblocks thrown up by your own subconscious mind, trying to steer you toward another part of the writing process that needs attention. In Pet Rescue, I sometimes found myself so intent on destroying the virus balls that I forgot that my real goal was to free the pets; once I re-focused on that goal, it became clear to me how the virus balls themselves could help me reach it.
Sometimes, a change is as good as a rest
|If your present writing project gets stale,|
try taking a little side trip into something different.
About two and a half years ago, I began my first big fiction-writing project, a science fiction novel that I hope will be the first of a long series. As much as I enjoyed writing that story, it was a long slow, slog, and the longer I worked at it, the farther away seemed the day when it will be ready for publication. Finally after three and a half full drafts, I wondered if I would ever finish that book, but I didn’t want to be a quitter. I needed something to refresh me and renew my enthusiasm for this mammoth project, so I decided to put it aside for a while and write some short stories, projects that I could finish in a relatively short period of time. I desperately wanted the satisfaction of seeing a project, even a small one, to completion.
So right now I’ve got the first draft of one short story finished (”literary”), another story plotted and planned (mystery), and as a result I find that I’m getting all sorts of exciting new ideas about my science fiction novel and series. It seems I have discovered for myself what the designers of Pet Rescue Saga already knew — that sometimes it’s better to take a side trip rather than abandon the journey altogether. If you find yourself wearying of a long, involved writing task, try doing what I did — work on something else for a while. Don’t quit writing, but put aside the project that’s gone stale and pick up something that will let you breathe new life and enthusiasm into your writing. You won’t be abandoning the long slog, you’ll just be taking a little time “on the island.”
It’s more fun with friends
|Find a writing group, in person or online, for mutual support|
and to keep your writing game fresh.
Writing is, of its nature, a solitary business, but sometimes it can be too solitary. I find that, just like Pet Rescue Saga, my writing journey is more enjoyable, and I make more progress, when I get together with writer friends from time to time. I just joined an online writer’s workshop to connect with mystery writers, and this Tuesday, July 14, I’ll be attending the monthly meeting of the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group. All Catholic writers in the area are welcome. Here are the details of time and place. Maybe I'll see you there.
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