noun. A usually temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play, or other work.
I’m at the soggy middle stage of I Want You Back. I’ve written the beginning, I’ve written the ending, now I need to work out how A will get to B…so to speak…and the words are having problems coming through.
My characters are still chatting away and jostling about in my head – as they do. The problem is, they’re chatting away and jostling about with other characters whose turn to come out and play hasn’t yet arrived.
Plus, their chatter and story is currently being drowned out by all the noise in my head associated with buying a house, selling a house, and arranging an interstate move. Next time I pronounce, ‘seriously, how hard can it be?’ remind me of this moment.
I know I’m being hard on myself – there’s a lot going on and perhaps I should give myself a break, but:
- This is a business and commitments that get made have to be kept – just as they would be in any other business or if I had a book with a deadline to a traditional publisher
- I am busy – as are all of us who are juggling writing with day jobs, kids and other responsibilities. As such I can’t afford to waste any of that precious time staring at a blank screen
- I knew that we were moving when I set my production schedule at the end of last year. Any over-commitment is my problem.
I’m in this game because I like the process of creating – and (mostly) find writing fun. It got me thinking about what I do to keep it fun when the words aren’t behaving themselves.
1. Write a scene any scene.
When I’m stuck for words, I write a scene that’s completely out of order to where the manuscript is up to. Often the scene playing in my head is not the one that I set out to write, but there’s no way I’m wasting the limited time I have to write by trying to force a scene that isn’t yet ready to be written.
Because there’s always a lot going on in my life (and my head) I write this way a lot. It’s one of the reasons I love scrivener – I can easily move the scenes about when I work out where they need to go.
Writing in this higgledy- piggledy fashion certainly adds to the edit effort, but you know what they say: you can’t edit the words you haven’t written. Besides, we’re in this game because we like the process of creating – so
2. Finish at least one paragraph before you run out of words.
This is a little like the writer’s version of the rhythm method. Yes, I truly did say that. Anyways, my point is, leave a little behind. I’m making this worse, aren’t I? If you stop a few sentences from the end of your scene, you have somewhere to start in your next session that doesn’t require too much thought.
3.Write a blog post.
Aside from this site, I also have an astrology site (Jo Tracey Astrology), and and anyways – a site where I blog pretty much anything else: food, travels, rambles, thoughts, whatever.
I keep a loose schedule for astro blog posts, and a sheet of paper on my desk with a heap of word hints for blog ideas for here and for and anyways, so when the block hits, I get the juices flowing again with something from the list.
4.Watch good writing.
Ok, this could possibly be drawing a fine line between procrastination and research, but watching good writing (and I mean good writing) or something in the genre that you’re writing can help. Again this is about learning and inspiration – not entertainment. Oh, and set a time limit or before you know it you’ll be binge watching episodes of Lewis…did that come out loud?
Preferably away from the genre you’re writing. Sometimes the problem is that you can’t hear your voice over the voices you’re reading – especially if you’re reading something of a similar feel to what you’re writing.
I’m reading Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series at present. It’s cozy crime set in in 1920s London and country England. I’m reading it not just because I’m enjoying the jolly hockey sticks, and spiffiness of it, but because it’s so different to I Want You Back – which is contemporary women’s fiction set in modern day Melbourne and Hong Kong.
6.Go for a walk.
This is usually my fail-safe never fails to work option…except when I don’t do it – which I’m not at present. Somehow walking has the same effect as a moving meditation. Focusing on something else – being aware of everything else around you – clears your brain so you can sort out whatever plot or character problem that’s stopping you from moving forward.
7.Pull out your playlist…or pinterest board.
Playlists are to me an audible inspiration. I’ll listen to a song that I just know a particular scene has to feel like. I know that it doesn’t sound like it makes much sense, but it does. Yesterday I wrote a scene that I’m hoping reads like Missy Higgins’ The Way You Are Tonight looks in my head.
Maybe you use a pinterest board or some other type of vision tool. Whatever it is, revisit it.
8.Interview your characters.
I went through a similar stage with Wish You Were Here. In that case my “block” was largely because I didn’t understand Max’s motivations. What did she really want, and what was she prepared to do to get it? Knowing her chart helped me answer that question, but so did a spot of free writing in her voice. Have some questions up your sleeve that could help, as could writing some back story that while never seeing the light of day will help you understand what it is that makes your characters react the way they do.
As the definition says, writer’s block is usually temporary – so take comfort in that.
Do you have any tips to beat the dreaded white page or blank screen?