Of Writer’s Block, Hypergraphia, and Super Seekrit Projects. AKA, Barb’s Turning 50 Check-In

Now that the Chocolate Box Spring Blog Hop is drawing to an end, I thought it’d be a great time to check in on the year of turning fifty. After all, the year is one-third over.

NEW EXPERIENCES: Now that warm weather is here, I’m looking forward to having some more new experiences.  My latest “new” activity is Yoga.  For years I resisted, but finally signed up for a community course last month.  I could kick myself for being so stubborn. It also makes me wonder what else I’ve been stubborn about that merits rethinking.

PRODUCTIVITY: My productivity interview series was such a success, I expanded the interviews into an article for THE ROMANCE WRITERS REPORT. “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Writers” will be in the June issue.  I interviewed several more successful authors, including NY Times bestsellers Shirley Jump and Selena Blake, and up and coming star Cara McKenna.  The plan is to post those interviews after the article appears in print.

Meanwhile,  I’ve become obsessed with the concept of writer’s block.  It started because I had to write a workshop for the New England Chapter of RWA.  In doing my research, I discovered a book, THE MIDNIGHT DISEASE by Alice Flaherty, and concept called Hypergraphia.  Hypergraphia is a compulsive need to put words on paper – good, coherent, or otherwise.  It’s the antithesis of writer’s block, which is, in its truest form, the completely inability to communicate your thoughts.  Both conditions, according to Dr. Flaherty (and she should know, she’s a neurologist) are brain issues.

That makes me wonder if writers’ brains and the ability to be prolific doesn’t fall under some kind of spectrum with some authors, like Nora Roberts and Stephen King – and even some of the authors I interviewed – falling closer to the hypergraphia end.  I’m not sure if Dr. Flaherty would agree, but I imagine something like this :

prolific scale

What I’m coming to realize through my completely unscientific, totally pulled out of thin air, theory is that some writers are naturally more prolific when it comes to output.  To compare what someone like a Maisey Yates or a Donna Alward, does on a daily basis, is futile.  The goal is to push yourself to the maximum output you’re capable of, whether that’s 5000 words a day or 1000 words a day.  (Notice, by the way, I stuck myself closer to the “completely blocked” side.)

SUPER-SEEKRIT PROJECT: My other obsession lately has been the infamous Super-Seekrit project.  Earlier in the year, I had thoughts of breaking out of the category world. The “SSP” was going to be my first attempt at a single title romance.  I even booked time into my contracted schedule to work on it – with the lovely Flo’s blessing.

Sadly, the idea didn’t work.  I’m not discouraged, however.  Taking a rather Zen attitude (because now that I’m almost 50, I’m trying to become more Zen), I realize that not every story idea works.  Some sound better in your head.  Plus, breaking out doesn’t happen overnight.  The experiment showed me I still have some elements of craft that I need to master.

That doesn’t mean I’m giving up.  On the contrary.  Soon as I finish a special project for Harlequin (more on that next week, btw), I’m going to double down on world building and learning external conflict.  Granted, the Super-Seekrit Project won’t get written before July 4 as I originally planned, and will have to become more of a secondary project, but it will get done.  I look at this as another practice in patience.

Slow and steady wins the race, right?


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