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Harnessing Your Inner Frustration-Ostrich

Ever felt frustrated by your writing? Crafting a book is a tricky process. Occasionally, an obstacle will appear that sends you into a kind of small frenzy known as Frustration. Whether the root cause of this feeling is conflicting feedback, a difficult scene, plain old writer's block, or something else entirely, you're banging your head on the keyboard from dusk 'til dawn.

There seems to be no way to take control of this inner frustation. It's like this massive, feathery, out-of-control ostrich! You can't possibly harness and ride an ostrich into the golden lands of writerly success, can you? No. It's not feasible.

BUT WAIT.


It can be done.

How? The creative brain's usual response to frustration is to shut down. After all, you can't write coherently when you're banging your forehead on a keyboard. By definition, it seems, a frustrated brain is a rather unproductive one. But it doesn't have to be that way!

Here are three steps to help harness that crazy frustration-ostrich and make it do what you want.

Step 1. Breathe. Often, when we get so wrapped up in a problem that we can't think straight, we forget that frustration is just a part - a worthwhile and temporary part - of the process. That feeling has come for a reason beyond torturing you. The best thing to do is to breathe in, breathe out, and accept that the occasional (or more than occasional) outbreak of teeth-gnashing is inevitable. We all experience it, and in the end, it makes for a better book.

Remember, you could be throwing up your hands - but you're not. You're determined to work through this. Yay, you!

Step 2. Get some reins on it. Now that you've accepted the wildness of your frustration-ostrich, it's time to see what you can do to take control of it. Do this by attacking its life source, AKA the upsetting obstacle in question. Some methods include:

Create a thought map. What, exactly, comprises the obstacle causing you to *headdesk*? Dive into its anatomy by drawing it out on a piece of paper. Include possible solutions - lots of lots of them, no matter how silly or unrealistic they may seem. Getting yourself into the "let's fix this" mindset can only bring good results.

Hold a discussion with a friend. An outside source can offer solutions that you couldn't have thought of on your own. Plus, they'll raise your spirits and help you keep your forehead away from the keyboard.

Take a break. It's possible that you may be trying too hard, pushing yourself too much - and that's what's leading your frustration. So step back and return to the obstacle later with a calmer, more restful ostrich.

Step 3. Ride that baby to the finish line! Frustration is just another expression of passion. Your feelings may have controlled you at first, but now, it's your turn to take the reins. Use your newfound control over that crazy ostrich to travel where you need to go. In other words, take your energy and your determination and funnel it all into your writing goal.

Before you know it, you'll be in the golden lands - and even if it takes time, you won't have to deal with a giant wild bird messing up all your efforts.

My theory: we all have a first-class ostrich-rider inside of us. Frustration ain't got nothing on you. So go forth... and write! What are your techniques for taking control?
Emilia Plater

Emilia is a YA author who avoids studying, food that isn't covered in cheese, and waking up before 10:30AM whenever possible. A bundle of confusions.

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15 comments:

  1. OSTRICHES
    http://www.kirstenhubbard.com/2010/06/curse-of-desert-ostrich-romance.html

    more than anything, pausing and writing out where my frustration lies & what I need to do works best. I don't know why it takes me so long to do so most times.

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  2. This is the best analogy ever.

    When I get frustrated, I definitely find the "breathe" step most important. There was a particular minor plot point in my WIP that I avoided fixing for weeks because I felt like whatever I did to fix it was going to create massive chaos elsewhere, and obviously, that was frustrating.
    But when I got some distance from that part, and then went back to think it over one day, I realized that it was actually extremely easily fixed and had an effect on absolutely nothing except the one scene.

    So yeah. Taking a few deep breaths and not letting yourself work the problem into something epic when it isn't definitely helps!

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  3. "Take a break" works well for me. Last night I was struggling with something, gave up, went to bed... and got up ten minutes later to write down the answer.

    I may have also told my husband, "My brain is such a bastard," seeing as it woke us both at 3am.

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  4. The thing that you mentioned on here that has helped me more than once is "hold a discussion with a friend."

    This has seriously helped me, particularly because it is much easier for someone not close to the story to listen to the basic run-down and offer thoughts that *should* seem obvious, but they simply aren't.

    Also, it just may be my new goal in life to ride an ostrich.

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  5. I take a break. Turn on some music. Dance around. Get yelled at by my roommates because they don't like my taste in music. Sit back down when the idea hits me mid-shower.

    Love the pictures, by the way. So awesome =)

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  6. Excellent post--- I try to push through it and then I leave a big note to fix it later. I leave a lot of big problems for FUTURE ERINN to fix.

    FUTURE ERINN get's left with a lot of extra crap that PAST ERINN was too stupid or lazy to fix.

    FUTURE ERINN HATES PAST ERINN

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  7. Oh frustration. My brain really does shut down if I get too frustrated. I tend to take a break, but that doesn't always work for when I come back. So if my writing makes me frustrated, especially with plot and continuity, I talk about it.

    I have 1 friend in particular whom I turn to a lot. I'll talk to her through aim, and even though I do most of the talking, it helps me think everything out, and the occasional comments help too.

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  8. This is exactly where I am at the minute with one of my wips - frustrated because I'm floundering with my novel and I don't know how to set back on course. I shall have to give these steps a try.

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  9. Wonderful. Just ridiculously wonderful. Wow...speechless, And again, wonderful.

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  10. I am so learning how to ride an ostrich now. Both real and figurative.

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  11. This is really great advice. I think the most important thing is to ride it through to the finish line. It's true that frustration is part of the journey of writing a book. I've taken breaks and gotten advice from friends with my current WIP when I've had frustrating moments. Now I just need to keep writing and finish it. :)

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  12. Thanks for the great advice! It is so important to remember that frustration is just a stop along the way, not an end point.

    Plus, LOVE the ostrich riding. I have wanted to try ever since I saw the old Disney version of Swiss Family Robinson. Classic.

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  13. Another awesome and amusing post by Emilia. What a shocker. :D

    Thought maps are great!

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  14. I want an ostrich now. Will you buy me one? :D

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Item Reviewed: Harnessing Your Inner Frustration-Ostrich Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Emilia Plater