I was going to write on muses today, but I got…um…off track. Stuck on a tangent, which can be a problem, as you’ll see farther on. Muses and writer’s block go hand in hand, and since I don’t believe in muses, I suppose I have to put writer’s block in the same *don’t believe in it* category. And yet, I’ve experienced both. How can I not believe in them and yet have experienced them? Sometimes it ain’t easy! Here’s my take today on Writer’s Block! *cue scary music*
Poets, fiction writers, non-fiction writer, all claim to get writers block. So IMHO – what is it? Several possibilities of why a writer can’t write, other than some amorphous *just can’t do it today* phenom.
It can be a problem with plot, where you have painted yourself into a corner. I usually call a friend when this happens and suggest tea or lunch. I often call Tamar Myers, a mystery writer pal. Together we sit down and I tell her the plot conflict line then a quick plot progression. And as I do, either she makes suggestions which stimulate my thinking, or I figure it out. Presto-chango, I am back writing. I wasn’t blocked, I was confused.
Another thing I do sometimes is read my story with 2 highlighters and mark all the stuff that works in one color and all the stuff that changes the plot line off and away from the central conflict in another color. Because it’s conflict that make a book really good. The more conflict to resolve, the better the book. I usually see what has taken me away from my central conflict, onto some less important track. As I highlight, I can see where I got lost on a tangent that took me away from the original plot line, writer’s block took me away form muses today. Of course, sometimes the writing is sooooo good, that I can’t toss it and go back to the place where I got off track. At such times I have to remember that writing is a commercial product. Unless I do it for myself alone, I need to keep in mind that this is one-size-fits-most product. It ain’t my baby. It will be rewritten a dozen times according to the specification of others. Perhaps two times for me. Two times for my agent. Three or four times for my editor. This isn’t a living being. It is product. In fact — it’s only paper. And I can cut and paste into a *use later* file, the lovely scenes I wrote but that are stopping the conflict line from going forward, and get back on track.
Sometimes the problem is that I didn’t set up the solution to the plot at the beginning of the story. For me, this is just sloppy writing. I don’t care how many famous writers say they just give a character a problem and let him work it out, for me this can make for confusing and poor writing. My best books come from a problem I envision and the solution to that problem. The writing part is the way it happens for me and the reason why I write!
Other times, when I experience Writer’s Block (that thing that I don’t believe in) is that I am afraid. Maybe I’ve tried something new and I fear that someone will laugh at me. Or I’m afraid that I’ll get halfway through and get stumped (get writer’s block, *snicker*). Or worse, that I’ll succeed, and then that my editor or agent (or, God forbid, both) won’t like it! And that I won’t get it published. Or that some critique will say that I can’t write, when all I’ve ever wanted to do is write.
I can’t help you with your fears. They are yours to do with as you please. Yours – to do with as you please. You own them, they do *not* own you, unless you give control over to them. Fight fear, injure it, slay it, treat it with medication. But always remember that it is yours… Not the other way around.
And sometimes – writer’s block come from simple boredom. I have rewritten this book so many times that I hate it. Hate it! I have started it ten times and frankly have lost interest. Then I can do one of four things: start another book, go to the next most interesting thing that will happen and write that, or kill off a major character to shake things up a lot, or go to the end, write that, then tie it all together. Sometimes this is the best thing to do because I’ve reached a place and just can’t get any more down on paper. The ending looks ten miles away. And the ending is what is really pulling at me. I write that, and it energizes me to work through the blasted middle.
So. I don’t believe in Writer’s Block, yet I have specific ways to deal with it when it appears. Am I strange? Yeah. But I’m a writer, and all writers are a bit strange!
Happy writing, ya’ll!