I am back, fellow writers, and I am not dead. I’ve just been way too lazy to post. But I’ve got a new one for you today, and it’s one I’ve been thinking about for quite a while, so I hope you like it (run-on sentence).
Writer’s Block is an affliction that cannot be cured with pills, unless you get all your inspiration from drug-induced hallucinations. I’m really hoping you don’t, though, and if you do then GET HELP! Stop reading this blog right now and find someone to help you with this problem of yours!
For those of you who aren’t addicts (of the drug variety anyway — mmmm chocolate) I have thought long and hard about Writer’s Block, what causes it, and how to cure it.
First, there is the cause. Why do you suddenly find yourself with this annoying mental blockage when days, hours, or minutes earlier your mind was a veritable reservoir of….um…That is to say you had a plethora of…ideas! That’s it! You were a reservoir of creativity and ideas! Ha ha lame joke moving ON! For me, my bouts of blockage have occurred at the worst possible times – when I’m right in the middle of a project, and have been chugging along with a full head of steam up until the point where I hit that figurative brick wall – causing me to wish I could slam my head into a literal brick wall.
Not pictured here: The answer to all your problems. Pictured here: The cause of a concussion.
This pattern of blockage has occurred so often that…jeez, it sounds like I’m a commercial for constipation meds or something….
Anyway, I’ve derived a pattern, a cause, if you will. You see, I often have very good ideas for the start, and possibly the end, of my books. I even have concepts for certain events that I want to happen in the book. It’s when I reach a moment where one such event has ended that I have my problem, because I’m either not sure what the next event should be, or I know what I want to happen next, but I don’t know how I should lead up to it. In other words, I have A and C, but I’m not sure what B should be. And what exactly do I mean by “event”? Well, it could be anything. You could also think of it as a “scene” I suppose. Here’s an example:
Sally Johnson went to the store and bought some milk. She then returned home and gave the milk to her mother.
To some, there are four “events” in this story: going to the store, buying milk, returning home, and giving the milk to the mother. To some, there might only be two: The time leading up to and in the store, and the time after the store. But whatever your definition, if you run out of ideas for these moments, then suddenly you can’t write anymore. For instance, what if I knew that Sally was ten when she bought the milk, but the next idea I had for her character was when she was thirteen? How do I fill up the time in between? What other things happen to her between the buying of the milk and her thirteenth birthday? I have two solutions for this problem.
NO! Not that!
Solution 1: Skip past the part I’m unsure about and start writing the next event I’m sure of. I always put an inch or two of space in between the two sections so I know where I left off in the first part of the story. In other words, I know what point I have to go back to so I can fill in the gaps. And that’s exactly what I do. Sometimes, it’s just the act of writing that gets my creative juices flowing enough to make me think of what should happen in that gap. Other times, it becomes clearer to me what B should be when I have both A and C fully written out. I think it has something to do with the fact that, once I have C written, I have a better idea of where my character has ended up emotionally and physically, so I know what kinds of things need to happen to get them to that point. For instance, if Sally starts out frightened of going to the store by herself, and then I write a later scene where she is no longer frightened of going to the store, then I know that the scene(s) in between need to somehow include Sally getting used to going to the store. And then I have my jumping-0ff point.
Solution 2: Timeline. I make a timeline of every “event” I already know I want to have in the story. Sometimes I just include the big things – car explodes, thirteenth birthday, mother loses arm to rabid badger attack, etc. – and sometimes I need to include smaller details. This usually happens when I’m making a timeline for just one part of the book, instead of the whole thing. i.e. go to store, walk through door, look around, find dairy section, find milk, buy milk, walk home. In the grand scheme of things (the timeline for the whole book, in other words) this would probably be written as one event. Something like, “Sally buys milk at store.” Once I have all these events written out, I usually get the same results as I would from Solution 1 – I see what I have, and where my character is going, and can figure out what’s missing. I can also ask “What if?” a lot using the timeline. “What if she meets a one-eyed elf in the supermarket in between ‘Car explodes’ and ‘thirteenth birthday’? Would that further my story?” And I can keep running through ideas like that until I land on the right one.
The other thing to remember is to JUST KEEP WRITING! Creativity is a muscle! Writing well takes time! You only improve if you keep doing it, and keep making mistakes! My methods will not work for everyone, and you have the best chance of figuring out your own solution through trial and error. Note that “Trial” is the most important aspect! Your only “error” without “trial” is never trying at all. That makes no sense to anyone but me, I’m sure. Oh well. I tried. I will say that I have multiple projects going on at one time, so if I get stuck on one, I can still keep writing by switching to another. That way I’m never left without something to work on, so I get to keep working that creativity muscle even if I’m suffering from Writer’s Block with one of my projects.
That’s all for now! I’ll probably write again one day!
Word of the Day: Proletariat (n) – the class of wage earners, especially those who earn their living by manual labor or who are dependent for support on daily or casual employment; the working class