Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Writer's Block!!!!!

I had it. For my blog and my WIP. But not in the traditional sense, I suppose, because I'm writing this entry right now, and with my WIP, I knew where I wanted to go, I just wasn't sure how to get there.

I didn't even realize that I had writer's block until I turned to my husband tonight at 11:06PM - much later than I usually start writing - and asked him what I should blog about tonight. His suggestions included "Why Mario Bros. for Wii makes me yell" (What does that have to do with writing? "Someone has to write those story lines.") and "My wife is the most beautiful person in the world" (Gag. No one cares. Trying to kiss up much?) Of course it was then I realized that writer's block was a great topic for a blog entry.

After attending my conference and getting some excellent (albeit terrifying) feedback, I know exactly how I want to reshape the beginning of my story. Unfortunately, every time I opened my MS, the words just stared back at me, that blinking cursor mocking me and my lack of ability to find the right words to tell the story the way it now needed to be told. Ugh.

I honestly think this kind of writer's block - the kind where you just can't find the words - is much worse than the kind where you find you have no story in the first place. Truthfully, you can find a story anywhere. Think about something that happened to you today. Now, think about if that thing had happened differently. That's a story.

Take today, for example. My day job is in an office that has been under construction for about two months now. Today they were lifting some heavy something or other onto the top floor using a crane. The area was roped off, but I still had to walk underneath the dangling heavy something to get into the building. Someone was standing by the whole time, and no one was injured. But what if someone had been injured? What if it had been me? What if it had been my boss? Or my best friend? Or my worst enemy? There is a story in all of those options. The truth is, there are tidbits of my life sprinkled throughout my writing, especially in the storyline of my next project, a contemporary YA novel (my bff will either laugh out loud or strangle me when she eventually reads it). And I've heard a lot of authors say the same thing.

But what if you're just not comfortable writing from your own life? Maybe you're super paranoid that people will recognize the stories you insert, no matter how many details you change. Or maybe your life is super boring, so that even the what ifs aren't particularly interesting (What if I chose the garlic roasted hummus instead of the original? What if I picked cucumbers instead of carrots? Not much of a story there.) In that case, I suggest you invest in something like this:
This book was given to me years ago by a former boyfriend. I remember thinking it was a cute gift, sticking it on my bookshelf, and more or less forgetting about it for a few years. Then I moved out of college and started having time to (gasp!) write for fun, and I needed an idea for a short story. So I opened this bad boy up and found myself faced with some photographic inspiration. The story that came out of it was pretty awful, but the exercise got me writing - which is the whole point, really.

A similar option is story dice, which are basically dice that have images, places, emotions, whatever on them. You roll the dice and write a story based on what comes up. I saw the idea originally at Simon's blog, Constant Revisions - his wife made them for him as a beautiful gift. I thought it was a great idea. Fortunately, Google is fabulous, and since not all of us have spouses as crafty as Simon's, I found out you can get story dice at etsy, The Small Object, or just make them yourself to your own preferences!

Of course, The Writer's Block book and story dice still didn't solve my problem...I just couldn't seem to get the words out. So what did I do? At first I avoided it. I watched TV - caught up on the ten essential episodes of LOST, watched some Dexter, read until I fell asleep. Then I opened my MS, skipped right over the stuff I had to change, and started editing the second half of the book - the part of the plot which is staying the same (for now, anyway).

Finally, I sucked it up, put on my big girl pants, poured myself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and just started typing. A lot of it was crap, which was exactly what I was afraid of. But once I got into the groove, I started to get excited again. I know I'm onto something with this new beginning, and pretty soon I'll be ready to send it off to my critique partner.

And that glass of Sauv Blanc? It's sitting, barely touched, on my end table. Sometimes the writing is more important.


  1. Hey Heather! You rock! I read your blog daily, so inspirational! Love this post! :)


  2. I find myself in a rut at times where the writing doesn't seem to come, I want there to be something but it's always crap, I am like you though, poor that glass of wine after putting off writing for several hours, and once I start I can't stop... and the wine doesn't get touched... what a shame, but hey I'm writing at least!

  3. Good for you for getting yourself through it.

  4. Hoorah for just typing. Honestly, I think the best way to battle writers block is to force yourself to write every single day. Even when the words are total crap. And the wine certainly can't hurt!

  5. Haha, I wonder if the book/dice could really work for anyone... I always find that my little subconscious storyteller will help me out when I'm feeling desperate. Even if he gives me a bunch of total crap, there's always tomorrow!

    lindsay ||

  6. Ooh! That sounds deliciously thrilling. :) I've found the slogging is the most important part. Everything can be changed later, but unless you write something, how do you plan to get anywhere? Congratulations.


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