Monday, September 3, 2012

Beating That Block

I was recently asked in an interview what I did to overcome writer’s block, and I was stumped for a second. I’d never really thought about it; when I sat down at my desk, I was always brimming with ten thousand things I wanted to get down. Sometimes there was just so much material waiting to burst out of me that it came out back to front and it would take hours to sift through and put it all into chronological order. It seemed as though I was immune to this so called 'block' that everyone was talking about. They were blissful days, the ones when I could sit and write and only stop when I physically had to because my hands were throbbing from mashing the keyboard so enthusiastically.

And then I moved house. Something happened when I moved house- maybe it was the stress of having to pack up my life for the fifteen millionth time, or maybe it was the inconvenience of moving somewhere I wasn’t particularly interested in living, but I…just…stopped…writing…

It’s a horrible thing, having a half finished project staring at you from your screen, and not being able to take the first step towards completing it. I had my chapters plotted, I had my characters prepped and loitering in the sidelines, waiting for their moment to shine.  I had a file bulging with research and notes. I also had no motivation.

My characters took to playing Yahtzee in the back of my head while I read about fifteen books instead of writing, and my word count glared balefully at me from my monitor every time I hedged passed my computer, promising myself I would write something ‘later’. Later never came.

Weeks passed by and, where before I would have easily finished the novel and be onto editing by that point, nothing had happened in my fictional world. There came a point when a family member asked me where I was up to with my writing, and I had to explain that I’d taken a bit of a break to do graphic work and make book trailers, and they said, “but I thought your passion was for writing.”

I replied, “It is!” But I finally realized that passion had gone on vacation without me. I had to get it back.

I tried a whole bunch of things to get myself geared for writing; the Rocky music didn’t work, just made me want to watch Rocky. After I’d watched that, I spent going over my notes, trying to immerse myself back into my work, but it felt like there was an uncomfortable disconnect there. That frightened the crap out of me, because it had never happened before. I got to thinking about what would happen if I never reconnected, what would happen to my half finished book, and the characters I’d painstakingly created in my head. I couldn’t leave their stories incomplete. I felt like crying when I considered that outcome. I felt useless and dejected and frankly was filled with self-doubt.

Enter the hollow days where I sulked around my apartment eating peanut butter off a spoon, bemoaning that fact that I was no longer a writer, but a person who hung around at home all day pretending to be one.

It took a long time to pull myself out of my funk. I only managed it by re-reading my book from the beginning, starting at page one and working my way through until the scenes and events that I’d planned for the story came crashing back to me in full force. That was how I managed to smash that block into little pieces and start writing again.  But it wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. My plan to avoid writer’s block in the future is to never move house again. I have real hope that that ploy will work out for me, but if that fails then I guess I’m going to start at page one all over again. Regardless of the project, I think that will always be a surefire way to rekindle my passion for my work.

So, now I ask the question that was posed to me in that interview all those months ago, knowing now how brutal a block can be: how do you all cope with your writer’s block?

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