Monday, July 7, 2014

When Words Fail

Have you ever struggled to find the words to say? This can be a good thing at times, especially when silence is the best thing that could be said. However, if you are a writer, these can be the most frustrating times (at least in my opinion).

They have a word for it. Well, actually two: writer’s block.

Writer’s block is one of the most difficult experiences someone can go through when writing a book, or anything for that matter.

There are times when I will just sit at the table (usually in Starbucks) and stare at something. It can be anything: the window, a tree limb outside, a customer buying a latte, the computer screen, or a sock I’m wearing. I will stare at that something and just think (though I try to avert my eyes if it’s a person so I don’t come across as creepy), running the plot and characters over and over in my head, trying to find the hole, the thing that’s not working. If it’s a thick writer’s block, I will watch a movie, play a game, or just not write for a day or two. 

Perhaps this small child is wrestling with writer's block.

That is how I deal with it – I obsess over it; I let it utterly consume me. Unfortunately, for my wife, this can put me in a pretty horrible mood at times. I even find myself withdrawing and getting irritable.

While the reaction to writer’s block is always the same, the breakthrough never is.

There is no secret way to resolve this creative inactivity. For me, it will just happen. I will think of the situation or problem again and the answer will unexpectedly come, and it will make sense too. So much sense that I’m surprised I didn’t think of it before.

Writer's block seems to come for me mostly when either an unexpected problem arises with the plot or when there just seems to be a hole in the story.

Holes... not good in your back yard, or in your story.

I didn't really seem to have as much writer's block with the last book I wrote, and I think it's because I felt like I knew the story more. I had thought about the characters and the plot for a few years in a couple of different forms, even in drafts for different novels. 

All that writing seemed kind of wasted at the time as I ended up shelving those ideas --each story had a unique problem I could never work out. But because of it, I knew what I wanted, and the fleshing out of the eventual book came easier. 

Pre-planning, plotting, outlining... before I sit down to write, I like to do a bit of this. Not too much, because I really do feel like a story is alive, in a way.  I like to have a goal to shoot for, but I don't want it to be a blueprint (to be followed exactly) because I want my characters and the plot to live and breathe and be free to do the unexpected.

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