Monday, 12 August 2013

When your book stalls

Last week, I hit a wall with the book I’m currently writing. I simply couldn’t bring myself to add a single word to it. Since I’ve written a couple of books already, I had experienced the same before so I wasn’t worried. I also knew that I shouldnt fight it, but determine the causes and fix them.

There were several reasons for why I was unable to continue writing. The characters felt boring and stupid, not worth developing into the fullness of what I thought they could be. The plot was meaningless and uninspiring. I would have to read everything I’d written so far to pinpoint the exact places where it started going wrong, but the third reason why I was unable to write on was that I was tired.

I was, in other words, feeling both lazy and uninspired. I could have tried to force the words to come, but I chose a different approach.

I decided to give my mind something else to think about.

I gave myself a permission to start writing an entirely different book that had simmered at the back of my mind for a while now – and which was perhaps a contributing factor for why I’d stalled. For two days, I researched and created different characters and settings, and wrote with a different voice – first person narrative instead of third. In the end, I only wrote the first chapter, but that was enough. I’d got it out of my mind.

More importantly, I’d given my mind a chance to rest and work out the original manuscript on the background.

Today, I opened my manuscript and read it through. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. There were some weak spots, of course, but the characters were just fine and the plot was developing as I’d planned it to. Some changes were needed, but I managed those with a few additional sentences or paragraphs. And I was able to continue with the book and write a couple of thousand new words.

Every writer has bad days. They’re unavoidable. We all have different ways of addressing them too. I gave the manuscript a few days and occupied my mind with something else. Here are some other options, collected from different blogs:

When all else fails, take a shower. Some days the writing just doesn’t go well. And some days it doesn’t happen at all. You find yourself staring at your blank page in the same way you stand in front of a full fridge and can’t find a single thing to eat. And you’re not even hungry.

I believe that fear is at the heart of all writer’s block. Fear that it’s not good, never will be good, which means that you’re not good, and never were, and never will be, and you’re gonna die alone, too.

When that happens, it’s time to step away and stop thinking about the suckage, the deadline, the fear, all of it. Take a walk around the block. Go for a drive. Read. Turn on Food Network and watch Guy Fieri watch a guy named Louie make a meatball hero. Those seemingly brain-draining moments of down time are, in actuality, gold mines of productivity. Better yet, they quell the fear. Writing isn’t only about the physical act of sitting down with a notebook and pen or a laptop. For me, the real writing happens when, to the rest of the world, I’m doing nothing. (Read the full post here.)
The important thing is figuring out how you work. Not even how you work best, because then you’ll make excuses for why you’re not writing this day, or in that place, but simply how you work on that particular project. (Read the full post here.) 
Do not let yourself get caught up in setbacks. Your motivation to continue will, I think, be proportional to the strength of your commitment to your ideals.

I believe you can intentionally grow your own resilience. Practice it whenever something disappoints you. Remind yourself of your larger purpose. Stay humble. When you feel entitled or like you “deserve” success, be angry for a few minutes, then re-focus on your goal. Ask yourself if, in light of this latest development, you need to change anything. (Read the full post here.)

What do you do when you feel like you simply cannot write more?

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