In past posts we’ve explored from preparing for a writing project, confronting the blank page, priming your plot pump, getting past your slumping middle, to wrapping it all up and sending it out the door. But what if you’ve got the will and the way, but you still can’t get your motor started? And what if you’ve got it started, but can’t figure out how to shut it down? Or what if you’re stuck in that sagging middle, and it’s got you so daunted you want to hurl the whole kit-and-kaboodle against the wall? Then maybe it’s time to give both the laptop and the sheet rock a break, because you know what they say: when all else fails–retreat!
No, my dear writers, I’m most certainly not saying you should quit. Five noogies to the head for even considering it! What I’m saying is perhaps you need a change of venue, to step out of your everyday and try a different milieu. Where would you go? Why don’t you try these…
1. Writers Colonies – If you’ve got the wallet for it, writers colonies or residencies are about as close as you can get to literary nirvana. Usually in a picturesque location or town, at a college or camp or hotel, they give you uninterrupted time to write, plot or just stare off into space. Many come with social activities so you can network with fellow writers, some even come with stipends, others you have to qualify for. Check the wonderful website Agent Query for their list of colonies and residencies.
2. Writers Conferences – Every writer should attend at least one a year. I certainly do, have for years, and if you just happen to be in New Jersey in next March , you might want to take a look at Liberty States Fiction Writers’ “Create Something Magical” Conference. It’s for one day, but take the weekend and bookend the schmooze, panels and workshops with some serious writing time. Writers Conferences can range from an afternoon to a week-long series of events, many of them grouped by genre, such as the Romance Writers of America in the summer, or the Backspace Writers Conference in New York this November. Full of workshops, editor/agent appointments, panels, readings, book fairs and the chance to meet some of your favorite authors, if you don’t come out energized and ready to attack the page, then perhaps you’re in the wrong business. Again, here’s another look at Agent Query, and their rundown of upcoming conferences.
3. Book Expo America – BEA is one of the premier industry events if you are any way connected. If you’re a bookseller, agent, editor, librarian, educator, book club member, writers’ organization officer or published author you can’t afford to miss it. Held over three days in May, last year in Chicago, but next year back at the Javits Center in New York City, anyone who is anyone in the industry is there. After one hour trolling this convergence of Every Publisher in the Free World, if you don’t feel like closing down that WIP to get in the game, then stay home on the porch. You ain’t gonna be runnin’ with the big dogs.
4. College Literary Festivals – Held by the English Department at a college or university, these usually weeklong events hold readings and signings for writers and readers alike. If you’re alumni, this is a good way to connect with your old professors who no doubt have a line on the writers attending, so you never know who you can meet. I go back to my alma mater twice a year for their festival held during their MFA residencies, meeting many of the visiting writers. I even had dinner with Francine Prose one night, though being one of twelve at her banquet-seating table, I doubt if our conversation went past pass the salt.
5. Create your own – Batton down the home hatches and take off for the weekend, to a vacationing friend or family member’s house, to a off-season cottage by the lake or ocean, to a campsite up in the mountains, or even a bargain-basement afternoon with the laptop or legal pad at the library or Barnes and Noble cafe. Perhaps even send the kids off with the spouse to the zoo and stretch out on the back porch, a glass of your favorite libation at your side, letting all those ideas in your head bounce off the trees, the alleyway, the horizon. It doesn’t take much, just a firm commitment and the time to percolate, and perchance, of course, to dream.