A lot of writers talk about ‘writer’s block’ and how difficult it is to overcome. It is the bane of a writer’s existence when they are faced with it. What do you when you want to write, but for some reason don’t seem to be capable of it?
What experience is teaching me is that writer’s block isn’t external. It’s internal. The reason I struggle so much is not because I’m not trying or not focused enough. Partly it is because I’m too focused. I struggle because there is something I am not seeing, an aspect of the story I have not yet considered but that is staring me in the face. The block is my muse’s way of communicating that there is a problem.
I’ve been struggling to edit this week. I know that if I don’t get my target 5,000 words done by Sunday I’ll be behind on my schedule and this means that I won’t be clear and free for NaNoWriMo 2013. I want to have the novel finished, but it’s the first time I’ve ever attempted to edit a novel and I’m still unsure of my technique. The only thing I know right now is that I really don’t feel able to do it.
But time should not be wasted. So, instead of editing on my computer screen – paragraph by laborious paragraph – I made a choice to adapt. I shunned my keyboard and went back to good ol’ paper and pen. And ‘lo and behold’ what have I discovered? That I’ve written the story in the wrong order, that one of my characters is completely redundant and that another needs to feature more heavily.
What I realised is that my enthusiasm for the novel waned because my mind was concerned about various aspects of the plot and characterisation. Instead of ploughing ahead with the edits I needed thinking time. There was something ‘off’ about the novel and I wasn’t giving myself the opportunity to understand the issues. Pushing on blindly would only have wasted more time. I needed to stop and reflect and then understand what it was my muse had already worked out before me.
These issues are major structural problems that run deep throughout the current draft. Now I better understand what it was that is missing and how it impacts the novel as a whole, I can start to fix it. It’s not an easy fix. I think that is part of the reason I was having trouble. The part of me that acknowledged there was a problem didn’t want to face it because of all the extra work. It means moving backwards in order to get two steps ahead. Hence I was metaphorically blocking my own way out of sheer stubborn-headedness and fear.
Writing a novel is hard work. It’s meant to be hard work. But, in future, when I find it’s a struggle to commit myself to it, I’ll be looking to take a break and let my mind wander. I was so focused on the end result of making the first edit, I closed myself off to the creative process along the way. Now I’ve opened my mind up to it, the possibilities are exciting again. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it feels like it’s going to be worth it in the end.
If you understand the perils of writer’s block and/or have any tips that might help combat it please consider leaving a comment below.
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