1. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    What's holding you back?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by BayView, May 1, 2016.

    I just noticed how long I've been on this forum - time flies!

    But noticing that made me realize that when I first joined, there were quite a few writers who were just polishing up the last details of their MS and then were going to move on to the next step (self-publishing or seeking an agent or whatever)--and that most of the writers still seem to be at the exact same stage, more than a year and a half later.

    What's going on with that? For the writers who've been here for a while, or for newer arrivals who are spending a lot of time at one step of the process - do you feel like you're stuck, or is it just taking a lot longer than you thought it would? Is there an element of hesitation kind of like when I don't check a lottery ticket right away, because as long as I don't actually check, I won't have to give up hope entirely?

    This is just my idle curiosity, so obviously no one needs to respond if you don't want to. But... I'm definitely curious. I was looking forward to at least using the Amazon "Look Inside" for some of these books, but they don't seem to be coming!
     
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  2. LemonadeLover
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    LemonadeLover Member

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    I haven't been on this forum for a long time and definitely cannot speak for everyone but I can imagine that for some people, and definitely the case for my first few novels, their finished product isn't up to a publishable standard. When I tried publishing my first novel (aged 13, so I think we can all guess the quality of my work), I received a lot of rejection and eventually gave up trying to find an agent. I eventually realised that it wasn't something I'd want to have my name on in years to come, especially when at that age I needed a lot more practise at writing and so didn't want to self publish on anything other than wattpad.
    Now I'm a little older, I've written a few short stories that have been well received by beta readers but I've just never been completely happy with it. Every time I finish, and then edit, and then edit again, and then send to beta readers and then edit again, there just always seems to be more editing that can be done and so although I want to publish and know I should have started looking for an agent, I just never had the confidence to actually do it. A lot of that probably does come from fear of rejection, but also because the more time I spend editing it, the more problems in the manuscript I find.
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you confident that they're definitely problems in the manuscript? I've heard from writers who find themselves kind of trapped in an editing loop where they change things in one direction, then change in a different direction, and aren't really improving, just fidgeting. (Obviously I have no idea about your actual MS - just wondering if it's a possibility.)
     
  4. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sort of. Rewrite hell keeps going on and on. However, I'm still learning, figuring out a process that works for me. I feel like I've had a few rough starts and been waylaid by approaches that didn't work as well as I initially thought they would... a lot of do-overs (I'm on my 8th ATM).
    A lot longer. At one point, I had hopes of pumping out two or three novels a year, but I'm come to realize that if I want a novel to be not just good, but great, it's going to take more time.
    I only get this feeling when it comes to opening email from beta readers. ;)
     
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  5. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    A mixture of laziness and tight time restraints has so far held me back. I am trying to make good use of the time I do have though. I consider my situation sort of a self imposed punishment/sabotage for taking so long to begin writing in my life. I may not have been ready to write back then- but if you wait until you are ready, you will never get anything done
     
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  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is going to sound like snark, but it totally is not: Lack of necessity.

    When I joined the USAF I had to learn a foreign language (Russian) to the point of conversational fluency as a minimum standard to graduate. Had I failed in this endeavor, I would have been "washed out" and since the USAF would have already spent so much money on training me in my failed endeavor (average cost in 1989 was $75,000 per student*) I would have ended up in whatever specialty had the shortest, cheapest training. We used to say, "Learn your verbs or end up a Cement Specialist."

    I graduated Magna Cum Laude.

    The same thing happened to me when I moved to PR. Re-learn Spanish; else, live in a little self-constructed bubble of English.

    I now work as an interpreter and translator for the Federal Courts.

    I know ability is within me when necessity presses its unforgiving thumb upon my neck. Writing for me is an enjoyment, not a necessity. I don't - and won't - make a living from it. I have neither wish nor need for that to happen. I think that's what holds me back, tbh.

    * The DLIFLC interpreter training remains the second most expensive regular training program in the USAF. The most expensive is training pilots.
     
  7. Miller0700
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    Miller0700 Contributing Member

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    A bit of laziness, no spark of energy, and no inspiration most of the time.
     
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  8. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    The answer here is fairly simple. The vast majority of things that need to happen to turn a completed project into a book that is actually released are outside the writers control. Even if you self publish you can do everything right and never be noticed. It's down to luck and (in traditional publishing) other people making decisions.

    I've been here five months almost exactly and in that time nothing has held me back at all. I've written maybe 200k words of fiction, edited my third book into shape and have been submitting as often as I can put together submissions. Like I dare say a lot of writers here what's holding me back is a lack of opportunity, not a lack of effort.
     
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  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I didn't ask "why isn't your book a best seller", or even "why isn't your book published yet". I asked why people haven't gone to the next step, and I think going from polishing to seeking publication is totally within a writer's control.

    It sounds like you're stuck at a later stage than the one I'm referring to.
     
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  10. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    I think that a lot of people here are stuck in the cycle of seeking publication then going back to edit their work when it doesn't get any interest. Failing to sell your book is to most people the same as taking a step back to no longer seeking it's publication. That is one of the major reasons why people end up sitting on a completed manuscript not selling it; not because they don't want to sell it or because they are self-critical; it's because they've tried to sell it before and not gotten anywhere.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've discovered over the years that there's a lot of difference between creating a first draft, and editing it to where I feel it's problem-free and ready to rocket.

    I wrote more or less non-stop for 5 years, in a high state of excitement until the first draft was finished. Then I jumped right into editing after getting feedback from my first tranche of betas. Two of these were particularly skilled ...one is a writer himself with several novels under his belt and the other one is a part-time editor. So I went away with lots of extremely good feedback and made a lot of changes.

    After that, I started tinkering. You know, changing a chapter one day, changing it back the next, tweaking a little here and there. I realised I needed a break, so I took a long one—several years long. When I returned, I could see the thing with fresh eyes, and really got stuck in.

    That's the point where I was able to cut my word count by over a third (despite writing two new bridging chapters and a few new scenes) and really whip it into shape. However, since finishing that third draft, I've lagged a bit.

    I still have one particular chapter that needs a bit of re-envisioning to get the voice right. I had to add some information in there because a few betas were getting the wrong impression of my character's motivation. While I fixed the problem, I ended up creating a more 'telling' note than I wanted. So I need to envision a few more scenes that will depict his motivation in a better way, without stepping back from the story to simply tell the reader what it is. I'm getting there, but it's not something I can force. Re-envisioning something that has been set in stone for a long time isn't easy.

    In the meantime, though, I have formatted the rest of the MS so it's more or less ready for Kindle upload (once I figure out how to do that.) I am working on cover design. (I am an artist, so I hope that will turn out well.) Like @Wreybies, I don't have a deadline, and I'm not trying to become a writer by trade. However, I do want to push the program a bit. Mainly because I have started another story in the meantime, and would like to get cracking on it.

    In my defense, my husband was diagnosed with mouth cancer back last August, and we've had a pretty traumatic 9 months since. There is no way I could sit and work on my novel during that period. My heart just wasn't in it, nor was my brain engaged. However, since he's making an excellent recovery and we're getting back to our new normal, I feel the urge to begin the endgame for real.

    I won't put it out for readership until I feel it's ready. But I do feel it's close.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not in the category that you describe, because I didn't have a novel on the verge when you arrived, nor do I have one on the verge now. But I should have one far closer by now, and I don't. So I'm in a slightly different "held back" category.

    So I've been wondering, lately, what is holding me back. I write--on forums, on my blog, at work, and so on. I must embarassedly admit that when I write those mini examples here, I sometimes admire my own work. :) So why aren't I working actively on one or more of my several novel ideas?

    Or, since I decided a few months ago that I wanted to work on short stories for a while, why aren't I writing them? Or if I decide that the fact that I enjoy writing nonfiction more than fiction, why aren't I doing that? Why do I keep shifting goals instead of writing? Why aren't I creating SOME sort of lasting creation? The roleplaying adventures that I used to write for my roleplaying group, years ago, were more of a lasting work than the stuff I'm writing now.

    It's partly that I have a low tolerance for frustration and boredome and that I tend to flit from hobby to hobby when one hobby gets difficult. But I've found various solutions to that in other hobbies. I've revamped the hobby to neatly separate the easy and hard parts, and make it possible for me to jump from frustration with a hard part to enjoyment with an easy part, rather than just throwing the whole hobby aside.

    Hmm. You notice, I'm writing about my problem with writing. I write about most of my problems, usually to myself. But I don't write about my writing--that is, I don't write about the book. I don't sit down and write:

    "The plot of Tulips and Butter is irritatingly neat and straightforward and at risk of being heartwarming, and I hate heartwarming. (Lou Grant: "You've got spunk. I hate spunk.") Is that something that I need to fix, or would it be no problem for most readers? How can I make it interesting for myself, without stopping dead and waiting for plot inspiration? Maybe..."

    Blah de blah. Maybe I should do that. It feels weird, but why not? Maybe that's part of the issue--maybe I have an idea in my head about what it's like to "write a book" that is less flexible than I realized. If I need to redefine every other hobby to keep myself engaged, why wouldn't I need to redefine writing?

    Then (I climb up on the therapist's couch here) I did notice, and I've written about this in my blog, that much of my Lasting Works writing stopped when my mother died. No, that's not about grieving, it's creepier.

    My mother always wanted to be a writer. She would have been furious, absolutely furious, in a passive-aggressive covert sort of way, if I had had any success in writing. She also would have been furious if I were pretty. Before she died, I made zero effort on my appearance and thought of myself as ugly, but I wrote. After she died, I suddenly--and I mean WHILE DRESSING FOR HER FUNERAL--became capable of seeing myself as looking good. But I stopped writing. It's as if I felt that Mom was entitled to her shot at insulting my writing, and when she didn't have the opportunity, I was obligated to stop writing.

    I clearly see how ridiculous that is. But the drive to do things comes from somewhere other than logic. I'm driven to nice clothes and rhinestones now, and my drive to write lasting work has dried up.
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Really interesting answers.

    Creativity is tricky stuff, obviously!
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's a very interesting take on why you might feel blocked. I can so understand what a niggling effect a parent can have on offspring. It's very hard to shake off, isn't it?

    However, do you actually want to write fiction yourself? You don't have to want to do that. It's not something you should do, it's something you may not actually want to do. You're so good at guiding people, and coming up with the examples. Maybe you need prompts like somebody else's dilemma to get your creative juices flowing. You seem to respond really well to other people's problems and often come up with fantastic examples to illustrate problems perfectly, but you also offer ways through for other writers to take. Maybe that's your talent, rather than thinking up stories? Helping others to write?

    It's a wonderful talent to have. One that many writers don't possess.

    I'd say don't beat yourself up, if you're struggling to start or to finish. You seem active and very un-lazy. So give yourself time. Maybe spend a lot more time thinking up stories, and less time actually sitting at the computer writing. Start with a character in your head, or a situation that intrigues you, and just let your imagination flow. Maybe even something you've experienced, but turn it on its head. In your mind, do something different from what you actually did in real life, and see where it takes you as a piece of fiction. Or instead of a particular person who gave you grief or pleasure, create another one in the same position who is totally different. Give incidents in your life a different ending.

    Give this approach enough time to settle, to become a story you really want to write. Don't just take off with a half-realised idea because it has possibilities. Wait till you KNOW something about your story, before you actually put words in writing. No pressure if it doesn't work. But if it does, it can be a lot of fun, and can lead to a finished product that carries great meaning for you. And I'm sure, coming from you, it would be a high standard.

    And nobody will be judging you at all, until you feel ready to be judged. Don't let other people know you're writing. Just keep it to yourself until you're happy. And remember whatever happens, your mother will not be judging you at all. I know it's hard not to keep looking back over your shoulder, but trust me. She is not there any more. What she would have thought or said doesn't matter, because she didn't get the chance. You are free. Go ahead and do whatever you want, as long as you don't get arrested for it!

    Do you travel on buses? I do, and I know there is almost nothing as good as a long-ish bus ride to free my mind. Somehow the flow of scenery outside the window coupled with the fact that I've got a couple of hours entirely to myself with nothing else to do, my mind really starts to come up with ideas. (Until some numpty starts yapping on their phone two seats away....grr ...that's what iPods are for. Bus defense...)
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2016
  15. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Laziness and the fact I hop between ideas whenever I get stuck. I've decided to commit to one story and not let myself jump. I've I get stuck, I write through it or do some world building.
     
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  16. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    @BV, cruel womans - tearing everyone's eyeballs out for their secrets. You dig that shit, huh. My novel, my great novel when the people are ready for me, sachet you pot noodle, let me say my kettle is boiling for this cheek young adult, heh heh.

    [RAGE]
     
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  17. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I wish I knew.
    I can see some of my creative habits in my father. He starts art projects and doesn't finish them, he gets depressed about his work, and worries about whether or not he can produce what he envisions. Sometimes he will even destroy his creation because of the frustration level. Although I'd say he's more confident when he completes something than I am.

    I don't know if it's learned behavior over the years ( this is how creative people are ) or heredity. My grandfather was very creative but I didn't know him that well.
    Not finishing things has been my biggest pitfall. I start something - another idea comes along and I jump ship. I'm not sure if it's cause I have more confidence in the new idea or that I'm dodging 'failure' by never completing something or what.

    So what's holding me back. Fear? Self Sabotage? The need to get it just right? Not finishing?- probably all of it. I thought I'd have Not Pink self published by now and yet I'm still unsatisfied with a mid section piece and I'm reluctant to just scrap it and rewrite the end fresh. I think if I could just separate the idea that my creativity doesn't need to be judged so harshly or reach a certain level ( especially first draft )-- that classroom ideal of get it right the first time or you'll look like an idiot -- I think I could really get something done. Because I've got the numbers. Looking over what I've written in the past few months I'm shocked at my work count - I could've written three novels by now.
     
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  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've finished my WIP so many times and realised the plot doesn't work each time that I guess a part of me has given up. The idealised vision of my characters and WIP don't work well as a story, but I've lived with these visions for so long that I'm loathed to give them up. In the past I didn't get what my problem was but now I know - it's my lack of plot, and then it took me ages before I realised what a plot was (just a series of events, basically).

    I used to be a pantser but now I can neither plan nor pants, which is just wonderful... :bigfrown: It's not long before I get stuck when I pants because I either meander and then I get bored myself, or else I get stuck because I've written myself into a corner and I don't know what to write next. But when I try planning, I find the process a little dull and besides, the story never comes out according to the plan unless I artificially bend it that way - and the last time I did that, I ended up with a novel that looked like 2 different books.

    I haven't written since forever, it feels. Sometimes I wonder if I should just say screw it and write something, anything, doesn't have to be my WIP, and forget about being a "good" writer.
     
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  19. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Have you considered drugs?

    I did the same exact thing for years. I always wanted to be a writer and every now and again I'd be taken enough with an idea to write it for a day or so. Then I'd never touch it again. My problem my whole life was that I could never focus. I could be sporadically brilliant enough to not need to most of the time but a big long project that took actual work at? Not so much.

    A good healthy drug addiction cleared that right up. It'll give you nice, clear chunks of time during which you can focus on anything you please and just forget that the time is passing. Also it helps you feel super positive about your work. Morphine is named for the god of dreams; what more do you need to hear?
     
  20. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    @LostThePlot was taken upstairs and spanked, actually a new rattan rod delivered six quick, sharp strokes to his backside.

    'Take these shoes, and flush your rotten drugs,' said Daddy, 'you are ruining our lives, bastard.'

    'But Papa, I love to overdose...blah blah, blah...'

    'And leave that Irish thread well alone, you are a bloody menace to peace negotiations, do you hear me, Topsy, I love you.'

    'Fuck you, wanker.'

    'Topsy..'
     
  21. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I could say I'm waiting for my current beta reader to finish. She drives me a little nuts at time, telling me I should dumb down my language, but for the most part she's getting my plot and reacting the right way at the emotional parts. I want all the input she can give me, since she represents a demographic I might possibly want to market to, and she's really good at spotting ghost words and typos I've missed and missed and missed. Trouble is, she's taking ten forevers to finish reading the thing. And while I know she's had to deal with family illness and moving house and writing and publishing her own fiction, there's a nagging voice in me that says, "If your novel were any good, she'd sacrifice husband, children, yea, her own health and her own work, to read straight through and finish your novel!"

    But that's really no excuse for the fact I'm not doing much more than tinker with the text in the meantime. It's needed some tinkering: the new beta reader who didn't work out alerted me to some issues I needed to take care of, even if she put her criticism in a negatively judgemental way.

    But I can't tinker forever. So what's holding me back?

    Partly the technical side. Like @jannert, I'm doing my own cover, because I, too, have a design background and I can't afford to hire it out. But I've got some weird hangup about learning the software. What if I'm a klutz at it and can't master it? And where am I going to get the cover art? What if my camera isn't good enough to take the shots I want? What if I don't have the time and resources to travel to where I need to go to take the shots I want? Etc., etc., etc.

    And maybe mostly, I'm hung up on the prospect of marketing. I hate selling myself and my own work. It makes me want to crawl into a hole and curl up in a quivering ball. But I have to promote it, but I have no idea what or how or to whom to promote it to. My mind is a blank. And with no sense of target readership, I can hit Publish all day long and only be wasting my time.

    So I keep playing around with edits. It's safer.
     
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  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm. @jannert, I think that I want to write fiction. But I do enjoy having written fiction more than I enjoy writing it. But I get so much enjoyment from having written it--even an itty bitty bit--that it seems worth trying to break through that. Not forever--I think that at some point I take a break and maybe pursue a nonfiction project. But for a while.

    I appreciate that you think that I have a talent for the examples and ideas and suggesting things for other writers.

    I've always resisted the idea of doing a lot of planning before writing fiction, but come to think of it, the example of those roleplaying adventures that I used to write goes against that resistance. I planned those. A lot. A whole lot. I knew that my players couldn't be pushed around and would do what they pleased, so I had to plan many different ways to allow them to work themselves to a solution, and build places and characters and motivations around all of those different ways.

    So maybe I should be doing that planning that I resist. It's not as if my minimal-planning scheme is working well for me.

    Re the buses, I remember that I used to be able to enjoyably go through ideas in a similar way when walking through parks or riding a bike on the bike trail. (The locations are specific because in parks or bike trails I didn't often have to come out of myself and pay attention to things like cars and stoplights.)

    Maybe I should try some walking and planning. (I have a great park but no appropriate bike trail.) I've been thinking of combining three of my ideas for novels into one fairly surreal novel that would require a whole lot of thinking.

    So, thanks!
     
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  23. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I couldn't tell if you were being serious or not, but the difficulties ChickenFreak has described pale in comparison with the horrors of drug addiction. I would strongly advise against using dangerous substances to induce creativity.

    My apologies if I have misconstrued a tongue-in-cheek statement, as a healthcare professional I feel ethically bound to clearly state that drugs, especially narcotics, are absolutely not safe to use outside a supervised regimen prescribed by a licensed professional.

    A little wine to loosen up after a day at the office, sure. That's great. Morphine? It's not worth it.
     
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  24. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    My creator and editor are bound together like Jekyll and Hyde. There seems to be no way to part them, even for a little while. I could have a drink but all that does is invite a third guy to the party and no one likes him.
     
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  25. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    All morphine did for me in the hospital was make my face swell up so I couldn't get my glasses on. No altered states, no pretty dreams. Boring. :bigmeh:
     

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