Sometimes I’m writing along, writing along, and then wham. Bam. Wall.
It’s not something you can predict. Writer’s block just happens. I can be on a roll and have a NaNoWriMo-esque month only to find myself scratching my head, wondering what happened. It doesn’t happen to me often, but it happened to me this week.
Whenever I used to get writer’s block, I would stop writing for a few weeks. Or months. It happened when I plowed through the end of my first novel and halfway through the second — and again when I plowed through the end of the second and halfway through the third. The difference between those two moments was that I learned how to deal with it.
Stopping writing? Not the right answer.
If you stop, it’s that much harder to start again. Writing is like working out. Sometimes you have to start with baby steps. Just a few pushups, just a few reps, building up to those long workouts. And if you stop for a while, those muscles atrophy.
What I learned in the three and a half years between finishing my first novel and starting my third was that letting those muscles atrophy stymied both my creativity and put my dreams on hold. Writer’s block is a hurdle to be sure, but it’s one you have to refuse to give in to.
If you get burnt out on the big sprints, go back to the little stuff. Try a short story. Write some non-fiction. Write anything. Poems, articles. Change it up. Each time you thumb your nose at your writer’s block even in a little way, you start boring through that wall. Eventually you come to find that somewhere under all that brick, there’s this:
You never know what it could be, the thing that blows that wall to smithereens. For me on Tuesday, it was a tweet from a fellow writer recommending the book Save the Cat! If you haven’t heard of that book, it’s a guide for screenwriters about structure. And it wasn’t the book that blew up my block. It was the title.
What had gotten me stuck was trying to take a character who is dealing with something traumatic and huge and paranormal that she doesn’t understand and show how it begins to wear on her life. How her goals begin to crumble around her. How everything she’s been working toward now sits on a ledge, waiting for gravity to shift it over the side.
In this new draft, I gave her a kitty. It’s sheer coincidence that the name of the book is Save the Cat! It just so happened that my protagonist had something I could use with that. If you want to find out what happens to furry little Piggles, well…stay tuned.
The point is that writer’s block is a straitjacket we put on ourselves. When at first we’re stumped, we have a choice. We can throw up our hands and go play Fruit Ninja, or we can put fingers to keyboard or pen and paper and keep writing. Keep pushing. Keep tunneling for that spark that will blow the block to hell and back — that’s where the magic happens.
Because I think we all know that blowing things up is fun.
When was your last experience with writer’s block? If you’re not a writer, what’s stymied you lately? It could be a project or fitness or even a phone call to family.
I haven’t had to say it yet, but apparently it does need to be said after Tuesday’s post — keep all comments civil and respectful. I encourage discussion and disagreement, but if it’s not respectful, it’s not welcome. This should be a positive environment, and if my family members can get along when they have different religions and political views, we can discuss other things without being rude to one another.
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