Friday, August 10, 2007

The Dreaded Writer's Block...

By Lonnie Cruse

I can’t speak for all writers, but for me, when the so-called "writer’s block" hits it’s nearly always caused by . . . me. By my own insecurities. But why?

Well, to begin with, I’m part “outliner” (using 3 X 5 index cards to plot out the story line) and part “fly by the seat of my jammies” writer, writing whatever comes to me. If/when I leave the index cards and take off into unplotted territory, I often hit a wall, wondering where to go next with the story. When that happens, instead of sitting down with my character, trying to figure out what he or she would do next, I often avoid writing all together, suddenly getting very busy with household chores or letting outside influences drag me away from the computer. I’ve let days go by without touching my work-in-progress because I was afraid I couldn’t think of anything to write, if I sat down to try. Which, of course, makes the problem worse.

Sometimes it’s a confidence problem, as in, can I really write and finish another mystery manuscript? Will anyone want to read it? What if I can’t write it? That shuts me down as well.

Or, worse yet, I sense a problem with the manuscript (or my critique group does) and I’m not sure I can fix it. So I avoid writing all together.

One advice seasoned writers give to the rest of us in the writing world is to write something every single day. Even if it’s just a few words. Write something. (No, e-mail and grocery lists don’t count.) But write a few words, even if they stink. Even if you have to delete them later on or re-write them. Just write it. When you go back, you might even discover that it’s pretty good!

For me, the most important lesson I’ve learned is not to let myself avoid the computer for a whole day if at all possible or get too caught up in other things to write. So I’m learning to do the “little bit of writing every day” thing. I’m setting the clock and getting up earlier (before the world can interfere) and writing a few pages. That way, if life does interfere, so what? I’m already done writing for the day. And I don’t get caught up surfing the Internet, researching future books, or promoting those already in print, or answering e-mail first. (Which seems to suck the life out of my writing, because I’m tired when I’m done with those jobs.)

Next, I’ve given myself permission to write chapters that really stink, not trying to “fix” them right then, but making notes toward that end in the re-write. And I’m taking it a page at a time, not panicking at the first sign of lack of direction. Asking myself what could I do with my character, IF I had the courage. Then doing it.

But for me, the “writing a little bit every day, no matter what,” is key. And it really doesn’t have to be on the computer. Pen (or pencil) and paper is fine. Or dictating into a small recorder. Whatever works. Point is, IF you’re blocked, don’t run away from it, sit down with your computer and your character and work it out. Figure out what’s stopping you, what scares you. Then tackle it. And good luck!

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