Jen Nipps, Writer

BOP Your Way Past Writer’s Block – Part 3

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(Note: This is the third of a three-part series. You can see part 1 here and part 2 here.)

3.    Put it into practice.
Doing these two things will not help your writer’s block if you do them only once. They have to become a regular habit. Traditional wisdom says if you do something 14 days or 14 times, it becomes a habit. Make doodling and playing a habit.

Find people you trust to help you stay accountable to yourself and your new habits until they become so ingrained for you that missing them feels like missing a meal or another vital part of your life.

These aren’t original to me. Julia Cameron discusses them in detail in The Artist’s Way. She calls the notebook exercise “Morning Pages” and says they are to be done in the morning before doing anything else. She doesn’t make allowances for easing into them.

Additionally, she calls the organized play an “Artist Date” where only the inner and outer artist are involved and no one else goes along because they could cause interruptions or be a distraction. Sometimes it’s good to go somewhere alone and just be in order to recharge. At other times, it feels dull without someone with similar goals there as well. In my opinion, that’s your own judgment call. The only requirement is that it works for you regardless of what anyone else says about it and regardless of what rules they would impose on it.

Too many times we tend to discount something because it’s too simple. Many of us do that with these three, seemingly simple, things. If we don’t discount them, they can become valuable tools allowing us to BOP our way through any blocks we find in our path. And eventually our “Good Fairy” will reward us with increased productivity and confidence to submit our work instead of punishing us as she did with poor Little Bunny Foo Foo.


Written by Jen Nipps

August 5, 2011 at 8:14 am

BOP Your Way Past Writer’s Block – Part 2

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(Note: This is part 2 of a three-part series. Part 1 can be seen here.)

2.    Organize play.
It sounds like an oxymoron. Who organizes play? Imagine someone standing out on a playground as the kids come out for recess.

“Johnny, you’re supposed to be in a different sandbox. Mary, you’re swinging on the third swing from the left on the second swing set. Brian, you’re on the merry-go-round until the end of recess. It might make you sick, but that’s okay. That’s where you’re supposed to stay.”

It doesn’t make sense.

In all seriousness, yes, play can be organized. And it will look nothing like that. Basically, you schedule a time to play. Write it on your calendar, put it in your weekly planner, or schedule it in your PDA or your computer calendar.

Treat it like a real appointment. You know your dental checkup or getting a flu shot is necessary to your physical health. Allowing yourself time and space to really play is just as essential to your creative health. (It’s a lot more fun, though.) And, yes, writing is creative.

When the time comes, do something you want to do. Don’t do what you think you need to or should do. Go window shopping for the fun of it. Go to an arts & crafts store. Go to a playground and truly play. Browse in a fabric store just for the eye candy and riots of color.

Go by yourself. Take someone along, as long as they’re also going for the fun of it, only to play and for no other reason. If they’re not supportive or if they have a different agenda in mind, leave them home and go alone.

There’s nothing wrong with going somewhere to just be and going with you, yourself, and you.

(Look for part 3 on Friday)

Written by Jen Nipps

August 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

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BOP Your Way Past Writer’s Block – Part 1

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(Note: This is the first in a 3-part series about overcoming writer’s block or any obstacle to your creativity.)

Advice for writers comes from varied and sometimes surprising sources. Take nursery rhymes, for example. Particularly, consider Little Bunny Foo Foo.

“Little Bunny Foo Foo,
Hopping through the forest
Scooping up the field mice
And boppin’ ’em on the head.”

If you’re not familiar with the nursery rhyme, the Good Fairy gave Little Bunny Foo Foo three chances to improve his behavior or she would turn him into a goon. Ultimately, she did.

We writers need to change our behavior as well. We need to know we can bop our way past writer’s blocks without such punishment. Here are three tips for doing just that:

1.    Break out the pen and paper.
Yes, we live in the Information Age where everyone uses a computer more often than not. We even carry them in our pockets under the guise of music players and smart phones. Forget about them. Get a physical notebook and pen. It doesn’t matter if you use a 3-ring binder or a spiral notebook or if you write with blue, black, green, yellow, or purple ink.

Get a notebook and a pen, find a place to sit down, and set a timer for at least fifteen minutes. It would be better if you can do it for 30, but we’ll start with 15. In those 30 minutes, you should be able to fill 3 8.5×12 sheets of paper: front and back of one page and front of another (or back, depending on how you work).

As soon as you start the timer, put your pen to paper and do not stop moving the pen across the page until the timer goes off. You don’t have to write if you can’t think of anything to say, but you do have to keep the pen moving. Doodle. Draw. Scribble. Eventually, you will start to write something. And that something might just help you move past your block and the problem you’ve been having.

In fact, consider your blocks as building blocks toddlers littering a toddler’s playroom. Draw a representation of those blocks in your notebook while your hand is moving across the page during this block of time. If the toys were scattered everywhere, how might they be rearranged to make something decorative if not functional?

In the same way you imagine those toy blocks being moved around, rearrange your blocks too. Play “What if?” You don’t write fiction, you say. It doesn’t matter. Many writers have found “what if” to generate effective jump-starts for articles and other nonfiction projects. Nita Beshear, a writer in southeast Oklahoma, did. She took her passions for quilts and writing and thought, “What if I wrote a book of devotions about quilts?” She wrote Devoted to Quilting, published by Devoted Books in 2010.

(Part 2)

Settling in for Another Round

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Happy Memorial Day to you all.

I’m set up in the Culinary Suite at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow once again. This is my home for the next two weeks. (Yes, I wish it could be longer, but be that as it may…)

As always, I have lofty goals and high expectations for myself. I’m working on another round of edits for NAVAJO ROSE (requested by an editor at one of my preferred publishers) and a book of devotions centered around crocheting (similar to Devoted to Creating).

There are, of course, other things I could and might work on, but these two are the top priority. We will see if my time here will allow me to get them done to the point where I can finish them soon after I get home or not.

I fully expect to.

Happy Writing.

Written by Jen Nipps

May 30, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Thoughts from a Contest Judge

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contest judgesIn February and March, I was honored to serve as a judge for the OWFI writing contest. Specifically, I judged the Nostalgic Prose category. I overheard a few comments that I would like to address. I figured this would be the best way to do it.

Why didn’t I get any comments?
If you entered Nostalgic Prose, you did get some comments. In addition to individual comments, I included a letter detailing common mistakes. I understand why some judges would not give comments, though.

It’s time-consuming. We’re volunteering to do the judging. (Personally, I like it because I get to see some of what people I consider to be my colleagues are doing. The contest is blind, so I have no idea who wrote what, though I guess at some of them.) Some judges feel like it takes enough time to read and rate the entires and don’t have time to give additional comments.

How can a manuscript score 99 points out of 100 and not place?
Ideally judging is an objective process. The guidelines that are provided aim to keep it objective. However, in my experience, doing this could result in a 12-way tie for first place and an 8-way tie for second place.

The judging guidelines mainly focus on mechanics and readability. Going on those criteria alone, scores were in the high 90s. I had to get subjective then.

Which one did I like the best? Which ones resonated with me the most? That’s the one that got first place. I went down the line this way until I had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places and several honorable mentions.

That’s how I had honestly more than one that scored 99 points out of 100 and didn’t place.

I just want to quit writing after that judge’s comments.
(This was not said about me, as far as I know.)

I only have one thing to say about this:

DON’T QUIT!!!!!!!

At the end of the general letter I sent to those who entered the Nostalgic Prose category, I put, “Regardless what I or anyone else says, keep writing.”

That’s pretty much what it boils down to regardless if you write for publication, write to enter contests, or write for yourself. All are valid reasons for writing. I’ve done them all. A writer writes. If you are a writer, if your heart says you are and your midset proves you are, YOU ARE A WRITER!

I’ve heard people say that you’re not a writer until you have x# of rejections, until you’ve published a book, until you have 3 articles in print, or until this, that or the other. Do you know what I say to that?


If you think you’re a writer, then You. Are. A. Writer. regardless of what anyone else says.

If the rejection or judge’s comments bother you, do what I’ve started doing. Either rip it up or put it through a shredder. It’s surprisingly cathartic and lets you physically move it out of the way so you can start again, whether on revising the submitted manuscript or writing something completely new.

There you have it. These aren’t all what I thought of, but it’s a start. I might use more of them as future blog posts.

Remember, above all, keep writing.

Written by Jen Nipps

May 12, 2011 at 10:21 am

Posted in revisions, writing

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Evolution of a Pattern

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I know, my drawing skills aren’t all that great. But you get the idea.

I’m writing out a crochet pattern. Ordinarily, you would think writing is writing. However, writing patterns is a whole different ballgame. I know what I want (a butterfly shawl), but I haven’t been able to find it. So I’m making it myself.

The simple drawing is to keep in mind the ultimate outcome. (Yes, hopefully it will be more balanced than this.) I’ve started writing out the pattern. It will be done in parts and then sewn/crocheted together.

I don’t know if the wings will be done individually or done in sets to minimize the sewing. That will actually depend on what I can figure out about it.

As I get it worked out, I’ll post progress notes and sometimes pictures. I’ll get this figured out and you’ll see the evolution of a pattern.

Written by Jen Nipps

April 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Picture Time

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I love the way rays shine through the clouds. I try to get pictures of it from time to time, but I rarely succeed. This time, I did.

Written by Jen Nipps

March 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Posted in photography