Back in the old days when writers wrote things out in longhand then either typed these pages up themselves or paid out good money to have someone else do it for them, it must have felt like they couldn’t change a single word without causing a great deal of anguish.
Enter the computer. No more need for Wite-Out® or scissors and Scotch® tape. We could cut and paste and re-type to our hearts’ content. Hooray! Life is good!
So why do we still have so-called Writer’s Block? What is so frightening about writing when we can always change everything so easily?
I can think of two scenarios: (1) we’re afraid of What Others Might Think, or (2) we’re afraid of What Others Might Think.
I will qualify that last statement by adding “consciously” to one scenario and “subconsciously” to the other. Does that feel about right?
I’m working on a six-book historical novel series. The history is there; all I need to do is throw my already-created characters into it to see what happens. So what stops me sometimes? Besides Real Life (busy with choir or shopping or socializing), I mean?
My Muse throws ideas at me constantly. I awaken in the middle of the night with story ideas and I e-mail these to myself. I awaken some mornings with a mind full of story ideas and rush to my supply of Post-It®s, scribble on them and stick them all over my desk. I come up with delicious murders and killings while on certain bus routes at rush hour/non-rush hour. Talking with colleagues gives me brilliant ideas most of the time. (I hope this latter source is mutual.)
So why don’t I use them all? Why do I wander from coffee maker to computer desk to window to coffee maker to computer desk to window …?
- Yabut. I see that used all the time.
- Yabut. It’s not in her character to do that.
- Yabut. That would sound like I just threw it in there. It has nothing to do with the story. I can’t tie it in.
- Yabut. This ain’t Sci-Fi, the genre is Historical Fiction. I can’t use a light sabre. And no, I can’t have a ghost show up with information, either. The genre is Historical Fiction, not Supernatural.
- Yabut. They don’t even know each other, right? And in order to get them to meet, I’d have to change 99% of what I’ve already decided has to happen. Next book, maybe. Yes. I’ll introduce them in the next book.
- Yabut. Now I have three or more fantastic story ideas that will all fit together but I have to back up and figure out how to lay out the pattern for these wonderful story threads (bread crumbs). (Happened to me in the current Book 2 about two months ago. Have you ever been so happy all you could do is dance for three weeks?)
This is not Writer’s Block. This is writing. Yes it is
I don’t think I’m the only writer who constantly has something on the back burner in his/her head. I have ideas tucked away in the oven and the stove drawer, too. On top of the microwave … Much to my dismay, sometimes, as I’d like to get them all out and onto paper so I can have room for more.
Is this Writer’s Block, too? No. This is being polygamous without a commitment. Tsk. Tsk. Naughty, naughty.
We need to choose one story/book/article and be faithful to it until the end. When we get to the inevitable end of it where we almost always find it difficult to bid it adieu, it is quite acceptable [read, recommended] to start an affair with another story/book/article as this will entice us to hurry and finish the original so we can play with the new one. This is human nature no matter how hard we try to suppress it.
Exception. There are always exceptions to everything. Don’t you love it? When we are trying to figure out the pattern of where the bread crumbs must go in a piece, we may dance with other stories/books/articles but like my mother always said: “Be sure to go home with the same person who brought you.”
This is why it’s so much fun being a writer. We can do the most unimaginable forbidden delicious things in our heads without getting into any trouble at all in Real Life — and absolutely without guilt.
Summation of Writer’s Block Advice
- plug your ears to the voices of friends, family, and your self-deprecating self
- hunch over the keyboard so no one can see what you are writing
- love the one you’re with until it’s time to say goodbye
Next Post — I Don’t Know How to Start
Sherrill Wark is the author of Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them: http://www.amazon.com/Really-Stupid-Writing-Mistakes-Avoid/dp/1479308226
… and Death in l’Acadie: a Kesk8a story (fiction): http://www.amazon.com/Death-lAcadie-Kesk8a-Sherrill-Wark/dp/1511501154/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8