Writer’s block

So far in my twenty-plus years of writing effort, I don’t think I can say that I’ve ever suffered from writer’s block. I suppose I should give you my definition of writer’s block so you can understand what I’m saying.

I consider writer’s block to be a state in which I have something I want or need to write, but I cannot make the words come. This is different from the common situation of not being satisfied with the way I have phrased something and a subsequent inability to say it right. Writer’s block to me is sitting before the screen for hours at a time getting virtually no writing done. It is a time when the creative process fails.

There have been long periods when I have not felt a desire to write, but I think that is different. And there have been times when I’ve been bored with what I am writing and didn’t really want to continue, but that is also different. But being stymied when I want to write — that’s just never occurred to me. (Yet?)

I’m not sure how to account for it. I’m certainly better at writing in the mornings, and even better in the mornings that are lubricated by tall glasses of iced tea. Perhaps if I tried to write fiction more often in the evenings, I would face more creative frustrations. I tend to prepare myself for my writing opportunities by making notes of what I should do next or fix or explore. Thus when I sit down at the keyboard on those mornings, half of the creative work — the imagining part — is already done. I may quite literally have a stack of notes beside my computer that I can review and put to use. I guess that’s a form of pre-writing, but as I noted in an earlier post, I’m cautious about understanding too much about my personal creative process.

One little trick I have used to overcome writing fatigue is to take familiar characters of mine and put them in different fiction. By that I mean I could take my husband and wife sleuths, Greg and Ann Finnegan, and put them in a western or a speculative fiction story. They wouldn’t be fish out of water characters but legitimate characters with all of the qualities they have in the mystery stories who happen to fit and belong in the different genre. I wouldn’t have them solving some mystery in the Old West but perhaps taking up farming or ranching on the high plains. They would be the same personalities simply put to a different purpose.

When I have done this with characters, I seem to discover (or create) new qualities for them. I understand them better. I enjoy them better. And when I go back to the original writing, I’ve felt renewed.

I also have a gazillion ideas about stories I want to write. If I ever begin to feel a bit of a frustration with one story, I can easily set it aside to ferment and pick up a completely different idea that I can generally jump right into. In fact, I’m doing that right now with a short story as I wait for the last chapter of Finnegans Afoot to gel.

I’ll cross my fingers or knock on wood or drink copious amounts of iced tea to keep writer’s block away, but so far it hasn’t been a problem.

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