Okay so it has almost been two months since my last blog post. So I thought I might talk about the things that keep someone from writing. Blocks, Apathy and Distractions. A combination of these three things or a whole host of other things can keep a writer or would be writer from writing. I chose these three things as they are my major stumbling points not only in regards to finishing my novel, but also with finishing most things in life.
I‘ll start with Blocks. Writing Blocks are the bane of writers everywhere. You might have the story, images and ideas flashing through your head but when you sit down at a keyboard or pick up a pen the words just don’t come. Alternatively you might have reached a point in your story and your imagination might have shrivelled you could be staring at the page or screen and thinking and then what happens? I don’t know. Crap. This is my story and I don’t know what happens. Quick someone tell me what to do.
Just writing this measly introduction I blocked about five times. I stumbled over how I should phrase something or what I should put next. (I actually did it in this line) Now these are minor blocks but they are blocks none the less. I pushed through them mainly by shrugging and saying does it really matter it just a blog, the few people who read this aren’t going to care.
This of course is much harder when you are writing your novel. It’s meant to be fantastic, stupendous, and perfect. Readers should pick it up and be amazed at how the story pulls them in, the pages filled with witty dialogue and beautiful descriptions. The first thing I would encourage everyone to do is remember that there is always an opportunity to revise or to come back to something. For me personally I’m better off getting something down on paper and pushing on with the story rather than stalling. If you come up against a minor block the best thing you could do it’s put down what you have got and get on with it. Failing that skip the section come back later and see if inspiration strikes.
Of course sometimes a block isn’t so minor sometimes a block can last months or even years. My record is six years blocked. I was eighty thousand words through a novel; the storyline was set I had just finished the tenth chapter I was on a roll and then kaput. I knew exactly where the story went, what the characters were meant to be doing, but the words failed me. I got about a paragraph into the eleventh chapter and came up dry, I knew what I wanted to say but actually saying it for some reason just didn’t happen.
It remains to this day one of the most frustrating experiences of my life and that novel is still sitting in a folder or my computer waiting for me to return and finish it. Hopefully one day something will click and the rest of the story will pour forth.
So I blocked on a story sure it happens no big deal do something else write something else come back in a little while and try again. Try and try again. Push through. Easier said than done unfortunately.
The main thing with major blocks, the story crushing kind is that they often also crush everything else as well and so my second problem comes into play, Apathy.
To put it simply, who cares. Do I care? Do you care? What’s the point? Why bother? It’s hard to produce anything when you are not motivated and extremely easy to give up when things are going wrong. During my six years of being blocked not only did my novel sit abandoned but so did all my other projects.
I started short stories and would manage a couple of hundred words and lose it. As time went on my attempts at writing became less frequent until they petered out altogether. The last two years of the block I’m not even sure I was still blocked simply because I didn’t try. It is impossible to succeed if you don’t try. Writers need to write. It sounds stupid but it is probably the most important thing to remember. Even if you hate what is coming out a writer needs to produce. So we come to my third problem distractions, something that when you are capable will keep you from writing.
Distractions come in many shapes and sizes. Some are small some are huge. Some are important some are trivial. My wife is a distraction, she wants me to spend time with her, do housework and so on. Work is a distraction I’m meant to go there five days a week and focus on problems that have nothing to do with how character A reacts to the revelation by character B. Netflix is a distraction, Daredevil season 2 is out I must binge watch the episodes.
With distractions it is all about prioritising. If I want to stay married, eat, sleep, continue to pay my mortgage and not resume the relationship I had with my hand as a teenager those first two things are probably good distractions. The third one though is more of a luxury. That is not to say luxuries should be abandoned in favour of focusing on a novel, you would probably go insane if you did but maybe don’t binge watch all thirteen episodes. Watch one and spend an hour working on the next chapter.
There are also related distractions and these can be a real problem. World building is a fantastic example of this. I spent years putting off writing while I constructed my world. I would say to myself but I have to know how this country formed or the major wars that have been fought. I am writing something of substance not a pulp I can’t just gloss over the details.
That’s great and yes it is important, but you can take it too far. I’m not saying don’t world build what I’m saying is you should also be writing.
Building your world is an important part of the story but it can be taken to extremes. For example the story that I blocked on takes place on an island country, a small island in an archipelago. There are three other island countries and a large empire on the mainland. I’ve got the basic lay of the land. I’ve got some history and details of the island that the story take places on. I could have just started there. Instead I spent years developing cultures, histories, maps and stories about the rest of the world.
No problem, all useful information that will make my life easier if I need to insert some of these details. Then it went too far I said well what about the mainland surely there are other countries or empire there too, so the map extended, the backstories became more convoluted. Before I knew it I had a world map. My world had ages. Continents. All for a story that took place on a small island in the middle of nowhere that would neither shake the world off its axis nor affect anything other than the single island country and its relationship with the empire. Don’t get me wrong this is fantastic in its own way. It has produced fodder for countless other story ideas but instead of devoting my time to world building I could have been writing, if I had my novel might be complete and not languishing unfinished and abandoned. A writer must write.
I will leave it here for this post. Next time I will look at things that helped me get over my blocks, apathy and distractions.
PS my previous post included info about the newest addition to my family. Meet the largest distraction in my life at the moment.