Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Do Writers Need A Boot Camp To Regain Mojo?

While checking out a newly opened college bookstore run by Barnes & Noble, I came across a seductively packaged item, Writer’s Boot Camp.

It was a box decorated to look like a school notebook and it promised to provide a “30-day crash course to writing fitness.”  It was created by Rachel Federman, a self-profesed writer and musican residing in Manhattan.  The mother of two with a Master of Arts in English Literature from Fordham has written such books as Girl Drinks, Gross-o-pedian, and Test Your Dog’s IQ.

The box simply contains a small-sized workbook long on blank pages and whitespace, short on text.  It also provides a few dozen flash cards that provide writing prompts to get the ideas flowing for the writer who may feel stuck, uninspired or simply not sure where to begin.

The idea of such a kit is interesting.  Writers, on one hand, can find inspiration and motivation to write from any random experience.  They can find ideas in overhearing a conversation or from a news story.  They can be moved by a book, film, play or song. They can just walk outside and observe the world and start writing.  But even with all of that available to writers, sometimes they need a push or a bit of guidance.  Sometimes they just need to clear their heads of competing stimulation.  So can a manufactured kit like this get writers into a fresh groove?

The mere existence of the kit got my juices flowing enough to feel compelled to clack out this blog post, so I guess it works!

The flash cards that prompted writing sessions with varying time lengths that ranged from 5 to 60 minutes sounded like a self-help book or a suggested diary entry – “What did you want to be when you grew up?  Did you become it?  Why or why not?” – to exercises that force the writer to create within a certain parameter – “Write a scene from the first-person point of view using as your first line:  'These are not normal people.'”

These almost feel like practice prompts for improvisational comedians, where they are given certain facts or elements and are then forced to craft a story around them.

The good thing about these homework assignments is they get the writer to write again. Sometimes that alone is all that needs to happen for the writer to get an a roll.  On the other land, these systematic question-and-answer spirits may smother the writer’s creativity and, personalized style.  Writers mustn’t feel they need to conform to any standard in order for them to meet, exceed, or alter such a standard. Maybe the writer needn’t apply brain cells to write a narrative that doesn’t naturally speak to him or her.  Do we want writers to “write about a person who doesn’t show up in mirrors” or do we want then to really pen their emotions, thoughts and experience on any topic that touches the heart deeply?

Perhaps the workbook is the more useful item in the kit.  It points out the dozens of potential challenges for a writer to allocate productive writing time and offers helpful solutions.  He acknowledges the usual suspects, including:

  • Carving out enough time to write.
  • Setting goals and monitoring progress.
  • Being energized, focused, and motivated to write when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Needing to rest, relax, and even detox from life.
  • Staying healthy – mentally and physically.
  • Finding a space to settle into without disruption.
  • Evading social media and Internet distractions.
  • Finding your writing rhythm and flow.

Life’s another course for the writer – so many people, things, and situations to work around and navigate past.  Writers love their craft but they often are up against certain limits with their environment, career, family, and life.  Many writers are told at an early age to follow their passion but to pursue it more as a second job or hobby.  But writers, in order to really break through, at some point need to make it their priority.  Writing grounds them and gives them purpose.

Unfortunately, writers can sabotage themselves, seeking out chaos even when it’s not enveloping them as if they can only perform under stress and conflict.  Even though we want to write more than anything, we seem to find ways to create drama or get distracted from the very task we seek to execute.

The author suggests writers go through a 28-day boot camp where they are determined to write at least 20 minutes a day and to get back on track.  She even suggests writers reward themselves with treats, hikes, movies, or a day at the beach, so that writers feel a sense of accomplishment.

The key to writing is to write.  Writers must hold themselves accountable to find time to write.  She writes:

"Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, text, email, the internet in general – these are your enemies.  They steal time.  If you need a break, it’s far better to know that you’re wasting time.  Read a tabloid magazine.  Watch TV.  Take a bath or a walk.  Make a sweater.  Chat on the phone.  With all these pastimes, at least you can acknowledge the time off.  Enjoy yourself.  You’ll hopefully return refreshed and restored.

"That is infinitely better than the hour toggling back and forth to some article your friend posted about bad parenting or pictures of your parents’ vacation in Key West.

"The biggest danger to a writer is the time you can’t account for; the minutes that slip away into texting and clicking on links when you don’t have a sense that you’re relaxed.  You don’t even think you’re wasting time.  You have your Word document open as you drift along for hours on a sea of useless information.

"You think you were working.

"You were not....

"In the days where the distractions are limitless and only a click say, the need for warrior-like focus is that much greater.  Where as in the past, you could be distracted by reading a book or taking a phone call, those pursuits were more deliberate and more visible.  It would be obvious if you were reading a book rather than writing.  But now, you might innocently look up the word “corona” (in terms of astronomy, not the beer, rather the layer around the sun) which leads you to a story about a woman in Corona who found an iguana in her bathtub.  That could go somewhere!  Okay, then jot it down on your notepad or file it away in an “Ideas” document and get the hell back to the task at hand.

"The best thing to do is use a software block or to disconnect from your airport.  Reward yourself after a good, solid amount of time."

Do you need a writing boot camp?  If it helps you, go for it.  But what you really need is to make a commitment, honor it, and then build on your accomplishments.  The world’s full of challenges, distractions, and entertainment – find your moment to write and tune the rest out.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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