I claimed I was going to do a post about writing today, but I had trouble deciding on a topic, so I procrastinated until now. And even now I’m still not sure what this post is about, but as I type this, some ideas are forming because, well, butt in chair, fingers on keyboard kind of puts you in the hot seat, and then you either get up and walk away, or you make the magic happen.
Which is writing–and being a writer–in a nutshell. (Probably a largish shell, like a walnut, with twisty spaces and maybe a few walnut crumbs inside.) It’s really easy to say, “Eh, well, I don’t know what happens in the next scene, so… Ooh, look, the kitchen needs cleaning and there’s yarn shopping I could be doing because several hundred skeins just isn’t enough!” And yeah, sometimes I sit down and I really don’t know what happens next and my brain just isn’t on the right track and I can’t find the right word thread to get me going on a scene. And I sit there until my eyes get blurry and there are STRESS chemicals raging in my chest and I have to stop and do something else for awhile. But I try not to let that be the norm, and I always try to come back to it as soon as I’m feeling better.
I guess you could call that writer’s block (or writer’s wrage), though I’m never sure what people mean by “writer’s block” because it could mean a couple of things, ranging from not knowing what scene comes next to not knowing what book to write next or even knowing what happens but the words for it are being elusive. So basically writer’s block could mean technical problems with the book, or it could mean a lack of enthusiasm from the writer.
And you know what?
I have these problems all the time.
I’ll tell you lack of enthusiasm is definitely the hardest to deal with, because the reasoning behind it is usually hard to diagnose. Fear and stress can dry up your creativity like nobody’s business. Or sometimes it turns out to be some kind of health problem like not having enough vitamin D or not getting enough exercise. And sure, if you know you’re having creative problems because you’re not getting enough exercise, then the answer is pretty straight forward. But sometimes you don’t know why you hate your book or why you love reading your book but hate working on it.
But the lack of enthusiasm problem can also come up because writers sometimes feel like they need “filler” scenes. And this can creep up on you, especially if you find yourself going, “AGH, I really don’t want to write this boring scene that I hate, but I NEED it for the story.” Forcing yourself to slog through scenes you don’t like can make you, you know, not want to work on them. And the truth is? No matter how much you think you *need* that boring filler scene, if it’s boring, then you don’t need it. It’s like saying you need ugly weeds in your garden so your flowers can feel extra pretty.
So cut it and figure out something else that can go there. Don’t waste your garden space on weeds, because you’re going to need all the flowers you can get. And if you really don’t want to cut it? Add something that makes you love it. If you’re like, “It’s really important that the scullery maid washes all these dishes in this scene because that’s how she cuts her hand and gets it infected and loses it later on, and we HAVE to see it happen, so it has to stay!” then add something to it that makes it cool. Like while the scullery maid is washing these boring old dishes, someone comes in and says, “Hey, the prince you’re not-so-secretly in love with is getting married to your worst enemy! Oops, didn’t mean to startle you and make you drop a dish and cut yourself on it.” Now this boring old scene has stuff that makes you squee inside and go, “OMG, I can’t wait for that to happen!” It could be anything, really, as long as it gives you that scene-crush feeling.
You should have a scene-crush on every scene! Isn’t that awesome? Isn’t it awesome and liberating and exciting that every single scene in the book should have something that makes you drool with anticipation? It can sound overwhelming at first, but it also means you have permission to have fun with every scene in your book. That doesn’t mean they’re all going to be easy to write, but it does mean you can look forward to them all.
And… this post is getting kind of long, and I’ve only addressed one type of writer’s block, so I will continue it in another post.