Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kicking the Block

I occasionally find myself mired with writers block. All writers do, I believe, at one point or another. There are books written and articles penned daily to help the desperate writer move past or even destroy said blocks. Today, I'm going to add my two cents, as it were. 

Starring at a half written page, even if it's on page 43, and being completely stumped as to what to write next, is intimidating. Here you've had your plot or your characters - or whatever - driving you along. Maybe you're following an outline. Maybe you're writing from the seat of your pants. Either way, you've hit the proverbial block. Nothing seems to make sense. Maybe what you wanted to come next in the scene doesn't work or maybe you just want to scrap the whole project.

No. Don't. Not yet. 

Sometimes, when I'm completely, mentally blocked, I turn the story over to my characters. I abandon the point where I'm stuck. Working at this point is getting me nowhere, obviously. Instead, I open a new page, pull to mind whichever characters I want, even if they're not giving me difficulties, and I let them speak to each other or to an unknown audience if necessary. You can let them speak in narration, description...your choice. Pick your area of strength. For me, dialogue is a language I understand. I carry on multi-sided dialogue within my head all the time. Now, I simply let my characters say what they want, and I put it on paper. 

Writing it down is important here. You can think about your characters talking from now until doomsday, but nothing will become clear or make sense until you write it down. This is classic psychology, here (or some kind of -ology).

You're blocked. So write to move past this block. Think about it. A block is another word for fear, if you'll be honest with yourself. To use a tried and true example, what are you supposed to do when you fall off a horse? Sit on the hay bale and stare at it all day? Circle it and wonder why you fell off to begin with? No. You're supposed to pull up your britches and hop back on then hold on tight. Writers block is no different. You're blocked, so pull out the paper and write, damn it. 

I don't care if it's messy or the quotes and punctuation aren't right. Bah, you're trying to get past a block. Magnifying faults only adds cement to your wall, not tear it down. Does this mean every word I write will end up in my final WIP? Probably not. Don't let this deter you, however, because it's serving an important purpose. Remember this.

Giving some of my characters a chance to run free on the page oftentimes works me past the block. There are times I discover parts of the character I hadn't known before, and this new discovery makes the difference in the story. I may find a new conflict or a solution to one I'd been puzzled by. Sometimes, I find the way I was trying to push the story flow was completely wrong. That's a doozy, let me tell you. Especially if you're the controlling type (and who of us writers aren't). You wanted the story to transpire from point A to point B to point C. But in letting your characters have a little freedom on the page, you discover it works better to begin at point B then move to point A and finish at point C. Or however the mix may go. 

Okay, this can often result in deleted paragraphs or even pages of already written material in your WIP. Yes, it's painful, but what growth isn't? In the end, you'll have a story you love even more than when you began. And you'll be past your block.

So the next time you're stumped, open a new document (or pull out the old trusty pen and paper) and let your characters come out to play. Allow yourself to be surprised by new discoveries and return to your WIP refreshed and ready to tackle any hurdle the evil writer's block demons try to throw your way.

1 comment:

  1. Rock on! Totally right. I do that, too. Skip over a part and go on to another. Mine end up looking like AGDFH.... so yep. I hear you!