Thursday, September 17, 2009

Writer's Block -- Can this writer be saved?

Writer’s block may well be the most common complaint of authors next to dangling plots and misbehaving characters. What is this malady that befalls so many of us and why does it strike at the most inopportune time?

I have a theory.

You are feeling sluggish. You need a fresh approach. You have lost focus of the story.

Am I getting warm?

It’s becoming apparent to me that the real thing is not a block, it is a lack of motivation. We really have to force ourselves to write when this situation occurs. Ideas for a story may abound everywhere but if you have embarked on a journey to elaborate on that nugget, that germ of an idea, you may face not writer’s block but stumbling blocks.

Let me give you a new thing to consider if you are finding yourself chewing on your pencil end rather than pressing forward with the lead end.

Primitive man needed a way to stay warm during the winter. He grew tired of freezing his hands and feet in the snow with no help for the frozenness of it. Likewise, writers need a way to keep the fires of creativity burning. They have no control over what makes their brain freeze and not release the words that they need to keep from dying during the creation phase of a book.

SO! If you liken writing to freezing in the tundra, then you will get this analogy.

You need flint and stone.

Yes, you heard me. Take the nugget of your idea, and strike it repeatedly against something hard. Watch for the sparks to issue forth, and then work like mad to feed it with kindling to get the fire burning.

It’s as simple as writing out the idea and then testing it.

i.e. A woman is lost in the woods.
Test: why? Test: alone? Test? On purpose?

And from there you can flow. If you are stuck in the middle of a story your flint and stone could be damaging someone, or hurting them, or killing them off to create conflict. Usually you will not flag at the end of a story. At least you shouldn’t if you have clear understanding of who did what and why and how that has turned the story in a different direction.

The best cure for writer’s block is action. Get busy. Enabling your lack of creativity is like enabling an alcoholic to have reasons to drink. Getting home from work and lounging on the couch is a sure-fire muse killer. Don’t do it. Take it from one couch potato to another. Make writing as much a part of your life as taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, cooking meals, and feeding the family pets. Sit down at the computer and reread the last thing you wrote, come up with the ideas necessary to write the next scene. If you will just get started, I promise you will turn out a word count that you will be proud of.


Marta Stephens said...

Oh man, do I hear you!!

I think for me it's also needting to deal with everything outside the writing world. Sometimes life is overwhelming and stress can kill any creative thought I have. I find that once I have everything else sorted out, my writing begins to flow again.

(great analogy!)

s.w. vaughn said...

Yes, excellent analogy! And great advice for dealing with writer's block.

I like to strike my idea repeatedly against my desk. It does kind of complicate things sometimes, since my idea's in my head... ;-)

I think most writer's block is definitely a lack of enthusiasm and action, like you say here.

I've had true writer's block exactly once. It lasted about two months, and it was hell. I tried to write. Sat down every day to write. And eventually, after sitting there writing either nothing or what basically amounted to gibberish, I'd be in tears because there was nothing there. Every day.

That called for a complete break away from writing and anything to do with it. Healing was a slow process, but I eventually came back.

That's my (sob) story and I'm stickin' to it. :-)

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that writer's block is merely a loss of motivation. What causes this loss is beyond me. I began mulling through yet another block, just yesterday. I just don't feel like doing anything at all. I've sat at the computer and stared at it for the last hour, thinking what should I do now.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Kim, super article! And I agree with you. My usual process is to reread the chapter I wrote the day before to get me in the "zone" and to reload the movie that's playing in my head. Even if I don't know what happens next, my characters lead me there and it's so much fun to see where they go sometimes. LOL. Thanks for posting this!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

You are so right, Kim. If I didn't know better, I'd have thought you were writing about me. And the solution is so easy. I just need to ask myself some basic questions. Thanks Kim!