So, with the sound of screeching metal and the smell of burning brake pads, my muse has come to a sudden and complete stop on my Medieval France story. Just like that, she was done with it and try as I might, I could not eke out another single word.
Now, that might sound frustrating, but it actually worked out pretty well. I reached 100,000 words on the mss, with the last 2,000 words being a very rough outline of the last handful of chapters. So I know what happens, I’ve filled in the daunting middle, and now just need to let everything stew for a couple of weeks before writing any more on it.
Some people might consider this a writer’s block. I am not one of those people. For a number of reasons. One of the things I notice is that if I have a writing binge, I cannot sustain it indefinitely. I eventually catch up to my muse’s output then have to stop and wait while they generate more material. It’s not a writing block, more of an empty tank. Until the fuel levels rise, I ain’t goin’ anywhere.
I could choose to apply firm discipline and try to make myself keep going, but I’ve learned from bitter experience that that is almost always a major waste. This does, however, work for some people. My guess is that it depends on WHY you’ve stopped writing in the first place. If it’s fear or trepidation, sometimes working through it is exactly what you need. But if it’s an empty tank or well run dry, I’m not sure any amount of discipline will help. This is where spending some time to get to know yourself and your writing process can be of enormous value.
For myself, I know that I default to writing. It is one of my preferred activities in life. It is my job, my hobby, my escape, and my passion. Therefore, if I’m not doing it, it usually means there is a really good reason for me not to be doing it and I have learned to respect that.
For others, however, who have not yet awakened to the absolute necessity of having writing in their lives, perhaps discipline is called for in order to really ingrain the writing habit. In fact, a very wise writing teacher once told me that one of the best reasons for really devoting yourself to writing for a couple of years was that the habit became fully ingrained and then you would not have to fight that particular battle all the time. You will have convinced yourself of the “rightness” of having writing in your life, and would be free to pay closer attentions to other writing lesson and patterns.
So for me, the best approach is to turn to another project. Luckily, I have a contracted book that I really should get started on anyway, so this screeching halt coincides very nicely with my writing schedule. It is also one of the ways I’ve learned to make ADD work for me. It doesn’t always have to be a negative. If you structure your life in the right way, it can be a huge plus. So for me, between my fickle muse and my short attention span, having revolving projects like this works very well. Which is a really convoluted way of saying whatever works for you so that you end up with words on the page over time, with as little frustration as possible, is the right approach.
But let’s say you’re a one-project-writer kind of gal (or guy) or you really don’t think you need to recharge your creative batteries. In that case, I think another common cause of “writer’s block” is that we simply do not know enough about the story to keep going, OR, we are going in the wrong direction. But since this post is already the size of a small chapter book (Clearly I studiously ignore the cyber rule that blog entries should be short and punchy) I'll post more about that tomorrow.