Society lied to me. It lied viciously and with no qualms whatsoever.
I admit that I’m the one who ate the lies hook, line, and sinker, but I can still be annoyed.
When I began talking about a writing career (about four hundred years ago) I was told of this thing called Writer’s Block. It sounds like an awful condition when someone explains it to you.
“Oh, that? You stare at a blinking cursor with a blank mind and wonder why the hell you ever thought you had any words, much less creative ones, in that brain to begin with, and it can go on for anywhere from one day to your entire life. Writing is a great career! So much fun!”
You know me pretty well by now, dear readers, and you know how I like to look words up. Webster was a distant relative – yes, the Webster of Webster-Merriam fame – so perhaps it’s a family trait, except he had to create his own research tools.
Writer’s Block: the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.
Are you ready to discuss why this phrase bothers me beyond all reason? Because I sure as hell am.
Block: a large solid piece of hard material, especially rock, stone, or wood, typically with flat surfaces on each side.
That’s the first definition.
The third definition is true metaphorically, as it’s being used as a verb, which is not true in the phrase Writer’s Block. There it’s a noun.
Block (verb): to make the movement or flow in (a passage, pipe, road, etc.) difficult or impossible.
It’s not Writer’s Block, my friends. A block is something that you can build upon or with. Lego blocks, cement/concrete blocks, straight up brick roads, even the yellow ones. Those are blocks.
The nine chapters that I’ve written in my current work are blocks. Each chapter being its own, and allowing me to build a story.
So what are we really dealing with when the ideas or words won’t come? A wall.
It should be Writer’s Wall.
This wall would be taller than the breathable atmosphere – like the ISS has to bump their trajectory to avoid it kind of tall.
It’d be long. The length would impress President 45 in its tremendousness. There would be no walking around this wall.
We can’t dig underneath it, the damn thing’s foundation is buried deep in the writer’s soul. There’s no grabbing a shovel and uncovering it any time soon.
But how do we know it’s a wall? We can’t actually see anything, and the sounds are muffled. We know our characters are having conversations on the other side of whatever this thing in front of us is, but we can’t hear them.
We’re the kid wearing a bucket on our heads and ramming it into that wall over and over. But we don’t know it’s a wall, because we can’t see anything, can’t feel anything. we just know we’re thumping into something over and over again.
The people around us watch and titter. They can’t understand the appeal of what we’re doing. “And what’s with the bucket?” they wonder.
Don’t ask the writer. If they could answer that question the wall wouldn’t exist anymore.
So how does one get past it? I am not sure I have the answer, not one that works for everyone, but I do know this:
When it’s time to tear down a wall the best tool is a wrecking ball. So what metaphorical ball can we use?
I went into my last chapter, the last block I knew could sustain carrying the weight of the rest of the story, and I threw a bomb into the middle of it. I took one of the main character’s conversations, changed one word of dialogue, and now everything is in absolute disarray.
Disarray or not, now I know the story has to go somewhere, and the words have begun writing themselves.
Don’t be afraid to go into that chapter you wrote, the one you think is perfect, and go 100% against the grain of one of your characters. Throw the bomb and see what happens. Save a separate copy of your document before you start, of course, or copy that chapter onto a new document and work through it that way.
The side note on all of the above, however, is yet another question:
What if this wall has built itself before you’ve written the first word in your masterpiece? Your idea is there, but the words are not. What then?
People will tell you to write something, anything. Sure, like what? If you had something/anything to write, you wouldn’t be having this problem. So, here’s something to try. Let me know if it works for you.
Regardless of the genre of your story, forget the intended plot. Take two everyday things that don’t seem related, and put them together in dialogue. Yeah, I know, dialogue is a bitch, but it’s important and stirs creativity. Why?
Because we have to imagine who just said those random words, and why they said them. They don’t have to be important words, you can delete them later on. That’s the joy of technology; nothing is written in stone.
So for example. I couldn’t think of how to begin my last book Freedom’s Song. It’s a sequel, but I didn’t want to leap directly into the first book’s main character’s. So I picked a minor character from the first book, Nancy, and told her something bad had happened.
“Nancy, I’m afraid our time together is at an end.”
That sentence doesn’t tell me or the reader what happened. Now we want to know. Is she being dumped? Fired? Counseling session ending? What’s up? There’s nothing stopping you from making three documents exploring each option and figuring out which can best foreshadow your plot.
A second suggestion are books with writing prompts in them. I’ve seen a few. “Write a story/scene that includes a lightbulb, turtle, hair bands, and a roll of toilet paper.” Some interesting stories that I’ve later turned into books have come from those suggestions.
I wish you luck, fellow writers, and I hope your wall crumbles before it’s ever built.