Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Slight Case of Writer's Block - RM Greenaway

Given free rein, today I will talk about grave stuff, like resolutions, failure, consequences, contracts, and other flimflam.

I'm thinking about all this because of I seem to have run into a wall of ennui, and whenever that bright bulb of inspiration begins to flicker and dim I get a little anxious, since writing is no longer a minor dalliance in my life. It's a major dalliance, and the signed contract somewhere in my office says so: hammer out the next one -- by deadline -- or else.

Or else what? What's the worst that could happen if my muse puked and died? I would break my contract, that's what, be blacklisted in the publishing world, and forsake my one driving ambition in life.

Better think it through and get past this slight case of writer's block.

Partly it's because I've just finished the fourth in the series -- pending edits -- and am starting on the next one, and while that's a thrill, it's also daunting. For one thing, I'm still under the spell of the just-finished book -- you know, that frivolous cousin of post-partum depression that comes after typing The End. Also I'm worried about having to set the stage all over again, and do my best to explain backstory without being tiresome, create new three-dimensional characters, figure my way through the plot twists while remaining credible, entertaining, suspenseful, and all without losing flare.

I fear the words won't come, let alone flare.

But then I remind myself that disasters are possible but unlikely. Just like on road trips, those oncoming trucks never skid in the slush, as I expect, lose control on the curve and knock me into the stratosphere. Or this blog emerges, though I've sat down on the eve of posting with only the seed of an idea and plenty of rampant negativity. Against the odds, one word follows another (with lots of backspacing) and it somehow gets written.

Same with the novels. One word at a time, and it'll bloom miraculously into a 99,000-word manuscript -- on deadline, and not only that, it'll be the best thing I've ever written. At least it'll feel that way for a while.

Shasta, photo by Chaz Greenaway
Here are some things to try when words fail, when "Chapter 3" glares on the screen followed by nothing else, and you're tangled in doubts (see picture):
1)   Share. Talk with a writing buddy. You may worry (as I do) that ideas die when exposed to light, but that's not true. Ideas aren't fungi. They're daisies. They need light! Anyway, I did with some reluctance share my novel plan with my writing buddy Judy a few days ago, and nothing bad happened. On the contrary, she provided some insightful big-picture suggestions that got me back to the keyboard with renewed vim.

2)  Refresh. Take a break. Read a good book, go for a walk (you may just need oxygen), snap a photograph, listen to music. Just don't get carried away and forget the point of all this refreshment.

3)  Surrender. If all else fails, blame the muse and binge watch Netflix - but just for tonight.

Or... forget all of the above and trust that inspiration will return when it damn well feels like it. I've been at this long enough to believe it will for me, as it will for you.

That's all! Post done. Thanks for reading! Now onto Chapter 3.... 


Paul D. Marks said...

As you said, RM, just take it "One word at a time." Though, also as you say, sometimes you just need a break. Thomas Edison famously said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent persperation." I think that applies to writing as well.

RJ Harlick said...

We've all been there, Rachel. Just keep pushing forward until the log jam breaks and miraculously you have a book and a pretty damn good book, if you say so yourself. And yes, breaks are good. I find I need them to recharge my creative juices. Good post.

Cathy Ace said...

You'll be fine - your 3 tips are perfect, and you understand true application of effort.

Unknown said...

Thanks! Skipping forward to a more interesting scene is helpful too, then fill in the blanks later.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Right, one word at a time.

Susan C Shea said...

Your #1 is good advice. Seen from someone's else's perspective, the light can be illuminating!