writing

Let me just say this: writer’s block is bullshit. I’m not saying it is like, “it doesn’t exist,” because obviously it does. I’m saying that it’s a bullshit construct in your mind.

And you can kick it square in the baby-making biscuits.

One of the greatest things I’ve learned about myself as a writer, and believe me, you should be learning new things about yourself all the damn time or you’re doing something wrong, is why I have writer’s block.

I’m fortunate to have a writing buddy. She’s my Constant Reader, as I am for her. We work together almost every day, sharing what we’re working on and offering advice and dolphin noises. (The dolphin noises are for when the words are spot on.) One of the best things about having someone like this is that they’ll start to notice your patterns, as you will for them. The pattern of mine she figured out: why I get stuck/blocked.

If I’m not writing/stuck horribly, I’ve either

  • written myself into a narrative corner, deviating from original intent
  • written something OOC
  • fallen in love with an idea for the character or plot, and it’s not right for the story I’m trying to tell

The work comes from having to figure out which of these things is the problem. Wait, no, the work is after I’ve figured that out, because you and I both know what that means: deleting huge chunks of words.

Oh, there’s nothing worse than that hateful block of highlighted text that has to be removed, right? Here’s my secret: I have a giant doc that I put those things in. I add a header to say where it was from, then paste it in, then I close the document. I don’t want to kill my darlings, just lock them in a basement. Hey, you show love your way, I show love my way.

I think for a lot of us the idea of deleting/throwing away/forever erasing something you toiled on is what holds us back a lot of the time. So save it! You could always mine it for a future project, you know?

But back to that block. You’re staring at your screen or notebook, hands tearing at your hair, your stomach in knots and a water ring forming from your third cocktail. (Just me? It’s a drinking solution.) The words have stopped. Maybe even the ideas have stopped. You’re miserable. You’re a failure. You’re Don Music banging your head, crying out to the night, “Oh, I’ll never get it, never!”

the most GPOY of all GPOYs

Behind the scenes, an artist at work. (Me)

Bullshit. That’s an excuse. (I say this same stuff to myself, believe me.) Why did the words stop? It’s not because you don’t know your characters, your plot, or the overall story. It’s maybe because you’ve written something that doesn’t belong.

Set your 25 minute timer (still doing that?) and go back and re-read the last x number of pages. Shut out all distractions and just focus on the story. READ IT OUT LOUD. You should always read back your words out loud, by the way, it’s the best way to catch errors and repeated words. Where did you lose interest? Where did you try to skip ahead? Aha! If you, the creator of this story, don’t want to read all the words, then why would anyone else?

Start there. Cut that paragraph in half. Get rid of all the adverbs. Change one word to dragon and another to weasel. JUST DO SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter what you do, because the simple act of focusing on the place you’re hung up will kickstart your brain.

“But Laura, this failed me. You failed me. Everything is horrible.” Everything? Everything is horrible? Because here are some goats climbing on a dog. Yeah, check yourself with those grand, sweeping statements.  Pfft, with your everything is horrible…

Your words are horrible. I ASSUME. So you can’t stare your words into submission? Fine. That happens to me, too. Find someone willing to listen (or ply them with a fizzy gin cocktail) and tell them about your story. Tell them where you want it to go. Write it up in an email if you have no humans or sympathetic dogs nearby to listen to you. Immerse yourself in a summation of your story and you’ll find that it becomes clear what’s gone wrong.

Yeah, this might mean you have to delete. It might be a lot that you have to delete.  You’ve got some hubris there what needs culling, Hoss. But the nice thing is: you can now go in and add more words and get that story moving forward once again. You just have to act.

Writer’s block is bull. Kick it to the curb and own those words. *the highest of fives*

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