Monday, 25 July 2011

Writers' Block

I have been sitting in front of a blank screen for several minutes wondering where, exactly, to start this post on how to write what I have in mind in the most effective way I can. Then I decided to carry on thinking about that as I make myself cup of tea. So here I am, back at my computer with a cup of tea and ready to write something about writers' block.

It's a habit, of course. At least one aspect of it is habitual. Like just now when I was reluctant to get going until I knew that I could produce something that was at least passable right from the beginning. And sometimes what counts as being at least passable may need to be fairly good. Or even brilliant. So those of you who are anything like me may find yourselves doing all sorts of warm-up routines which, instead of getting you started, remind you that one more check of your inbox and the Google search that you thought about last night... And so on. But first thing after lunch...

Now none of that, none of that cyberskiving or polishing your specs or playing with the dog amount to writers' block. But they do create the conditions in which the bug can thrive. Slip into that sort of easy-going way of working and as soon as you get to a part in the story where it isn't clear what happens next, you've had it. It all grinds to a halt.

There are two different things here, though, and they must surely need different responses. In the first case I'm pretty sure I know what to write. But I don't want to mumble into it as if it were inconsequential chatter in the pub. Well, you never know who will be looking over your shoulder, do you? Could be an agent or a publisher on the look-out for genius. Or I could inadvertently hit post before I have tidied things up. That's no excuse. Just get on with it has to be the motto. It should go on the wall above my desk. In Very Big Letters.

What about those times when I grind to a halt because I don't know what comes next? Just get on with it won't do.  But it might.  Take my current project. I know where the story is going; it's pretty well mapped out already. But there are transitional bits. How do we get from mid way through chapter twelve to the beginning of chapter thirteen? One answer might be that it doesn't matter. Just go to the next chapter and come back to fill in the final scene of the previous one later. Just get on with it.

So that's what I have decided to do. Whenever it gets to one of those slow parts when everything is  threatening to slow down and stop, I shall simply go to the next chapter. Just get on with it. And come back later.  There was an instance in Bunderlin where this happened and, try as I did, a transitional scene refused to come. So at last I moved on intending to fill in later. And then I realised that no fill-in scene was needed. The story is complete without it. There isn't any hole there.

I guess we have all – many of us, at least – learned over the years that we begin at the beginning and work steadily towards the end. Sometimes it may be helpful to begin in the middle and work outwards.

1 comment:

Patsy said...

Luckily for me, I've never suffered writer's block. Could that be because I often do mumble into a piece of writing?

Cyberskiving is different - I'm really, really good at that.