This week’s theme is writer’s block, which, to be honest, I think I must be suffering from at the moment. I know that if I was to sit down and try to write, whether on something new or on a WIP, I would find a massive blank in my mind with not a clue on how to proceed. I finished a short story at the end of Jan, and I haven’t written anything (beyond poetical scribblings which I’m not sure count) since then.
Rather than get down about not being able to write, I turn my focus to anything that I can find inspiration on instead. Writing is not the sole outlet of my creativity. Lately I’ve been knitting, crocheting and designing cross stitch patterns.
Keeping myself this busy, and productive, I never have to sit down and face the page and suffer from writer’s block. Writer’s block, then, for me is a sense of knowing that if I tried to write nothing would come, so just don’t go there.
I’ve certainly had times in my life that I’ve really wanted to write but there’s just been nothing there when I’ve tried, and it is rather depressing, but I’ve learned that no matter how long it lasts, and how many things I get up to in the interim, the block does pass and I am inevitably drawn to story ideas and the page. Being away from writing for a time makes me really appreciate being able to write. I love the feel of words flowing easily from the brain to the page, and sometimes go on autopilot and just enjoy for a moment the feeling of the pen in hand moving across the page (I really do get distracted watching the point where the ink hits paper) or the feeling of fingers tapping away on the keyboard (I love my keyboard!)
So for me, these periods of writer’s block are not so much a barrier, they are more an opportunity to look elsewhere, be creative in other ways, and give myself time to forget the pain of trying to get words and ideas just right.
Inevitably the inability to write passes, and the need to write returns. That is what makes me a writer.
One of our Guild members – Rachel – asked me recently for help with inspiration, prompted I think by Tammie’s comment that she’d caught her recent writing bug from me. Fran in turn suggested I blog up here about the crazy few weeks I’ve had writing, by hand, around 200-300 pages of my second book.
For the last year and a half, since I published book one, I have been trying to make progress on book two. When someone hasn’t seen me in a while, they often ask me ‘How’s the writing going?’ or if they enjoyed the Silver Hawk, ‘When is the next one out, I can’t wait.’
While I am so grateful to everyone for their genuine interest and support, it is a very new experience, trying to produce a story when people are waiting for it and their good opinion of you as a writer rides on whether you can pull it all off a second time.
Unsurprisingly, until the beginning of this year, my actual words-on-a-page count was pretty abysmal by my standards. I spent most of ‘writing’ time talking to people, drawing maps, planning intricate details about Houses and characters you may or may not ever meet… I was getting into obsessive levels of detail because every time I sat down to write, my brain kept saying ‘You don’t know enough yet.’
I felt like, somehow, getting to know every single character in every House… mapping the streets and writing over a thousand years of history would give me the words I was looking for. The only problem was I totally overloaded myself with information and couldn’t work out how to tie it all together.
Then the holiday break happened. I went on a road trip around the North Island and didn’t even think about Tyria or book two while I was away. Coming back, I sat at the computer thinking, “I should try and write something…” and I couldn’t. All I wanted to do was get away from the screen and hide somewhere with a pen and paper.
So I did.
I printed out everything I already had, grabbed a ring binder and started cutting and pasting whole sections as I read back through. I added bits and threw other things out. Then I got to the end of the seventeen mini scenes I’d written over the last year and a half and picked up my pen.
For three weeks, you couldn’t get me away from that folder. I took it everywhere with me, separating sections as I wrote with tiny post its and sometimes writing for hours on end until I had a sore wrist (mother and boyfriend gave me the concerned raised eyebrow for that).
Then I ran out of things to say. I got to a place where ‘I didn’t know’ anymore. I stopped and had to go back to the drawing board.
After a huge conversation with my boyfriend last night, I’ve worked out the major kinks and I’m back on track, but I think the point is sometimes inspiration strikes and when it does, grab it with both hands. The rest of the time, don’t beat yourself up. I never stopped working. I know I couldn’t have written so much if not for the year and a half of hard work I put in designing the world and social context… but I also know I wouldn’t have managed to have this breakthrough if I wasn’t willing to try something different.
I’ve never written so much by hand before, but for me, it was exactly what I needed. It could be something totally different for you. Listen to what that little voice is saying. If you feel like writing diaries from the POVs of totally insignificant characters, go with it. Maybe you’ll find something magic when you let yourself stray from the path of convention.
Good luck and lots of love,