writer’s block aka your phenomenal narrative skills run amok

Painting by Cy Twombly

Painting by Cy Twombly

You’re a writer. Or a blogger. Or a creator of some kind. You can incite a reader to suspend belief; you build suspense like a big-rig-sized ratchet, and your characters are people readers will mention, like the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man, years after they put the book down. You can wait for hours on your belly for the light to be right for your painting or photo. Your poems evolve lightly, spun like airy cotton candy, a word at a time. No matter your medium, you are a facile “story-teller”, except, as Dr. Seuss would say, when you’re not.

I’m editing  rewriting my 100,000 word novel for the second time. So, I told a story already (note a hint of indignation here). Occasionally I slow to a crawl halt and wonder what the f**k I am doing writing and rewriting all of this stuff. And then with all that language and angst in the air, I wind down to an even slower crawl  halt. A slower halt. That’s clever writer’s lingo for block.

My earlier career as a coach trained me not to use such solid, unmovable words in reference to states of being, so that we all could be more flexible and elastic in the face of adversity and swings of fortune. Block would be a no-no word. But it did come up recently in one of my slower halts.

So I did what I always do. I googled it. Googling is one of my favorite crawling halting activities.

That day, the number of articles conjured by the #writer’sblock search were 8,230,000 entries (in just 17 seconds).

Clearly, not everyone subscribes to the flexible and elastic model for describing such a state. However, I’m not philosophically able to be in such a solid state as “blocked”, or even slowly halted, because I have generous beta readers (I bow to them) waiting to read the next part of my rewrite; I have to reframe this professional condition in such a way that I can move on (and my family won’t demand that I stop using writing as an excuse for not emptying the dishwasher).

Presumably, after 2 rewrites and numerous other writing projects over 20+ years of my life, I can say I have a modicum of narrative skills. In this instance my hero(ine) wants to meet goal, something gets in the way, heroine conquers/or doesn’t; get whats she wants or doesn’t because heroine’s don’t always get what they want, but sometimes they just get what they need. (I bow to the Stones, also). I’m sure this is true of you, in your creative endeavors, too. (The hero’s journey part, not the Stones part. I’m guessing you must be a Stones fan, but I don’t know you.)

Since you and I are creators, and human, we are born with powerful, little, air-powered narrative generators (PLANGs for today’s purposes) that NEVER STOP. Which means that even when I’m slowly halted, I am still telling myself a story or two. If I’m not careful, that little demon of an PLANG switches to stories about ME, and MY GOALS, and MY LIFE, which are unhelpful when I’m trying to write about fictional characters and their goals, and stay on topic. Plus it uses up precious resources for creating “crazy” which I need for my novel.

I have mastered (a few times) a trick or two when I notice my narrative has switched from the novel to me. I do tricks, like writing clever paragraphs about how the protagonist (me) got through this sticky part of being halted, where she (I) look(s) like she’s (I’m) not writing (to the untrained eye). I arrive at clever work-arounds on her behalf, find new reserves, and use unlikely friends for twists in the “blocked” plot. I outlines scenes; I edit old parts, when I (she) still can’t bring my(her)self to write. I do word searches on my overused words (like ‘halted’).

Most importantly, every day, I OPEN THE DOCUMENT, which is always my Writing Tip #1. For some reason, once I stop listening to my narrative-run-amok, I always do something good inside that document, in spite of my sad, stereotypical story about #writersblock.

I had a Zen teacher/friend once who always said, “It’s ok to have a PLANG (I’m paraphrasing here, of course). It just becomes problematic when you believe the story.”

If you have read this far, I bow to you. (Readers are a huge benefit to writing.) If you want to read more #writer’sblock blogs, there are about eight million of them. But I love Chuck Wendig, so here’s a link to his really good take on it. But if you’re reading this because you are slowly halted, go open your document, get your paints out, grab your tripod or break out the acetylene torch and put it to metal. I prefer not to be an accomplice to a line of narrative that leads you to a dead end.

Luckily, I am not likely to be a big diversion for you in this way. As you can see by the dates between this post and the last, during the flood of Blogging 101, I have been slowly crawling toward that giant goal of bi-weekly posts.  In defense of my flawed character (me), did I mention (she’s) I’m rewriting a novel?

What are your big projects and how are you managing to blog and work on your project, too?


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