Thursday, February 22, 2007

What's it All About, Alfie?

41,000 words (back on track, sorta)

There are at least a few different kinds of writer's block. My most frequent one is 'Driving with the hand Brake On.' That's where I spend more time second-guessing what I just wrote than I do writing more. It's my inner critic gone mad.

It's also not the subject of today's blog.

Today's about a second, more brutal form of writer's block. You know the one: you've come too far to turn back now, but no matter hwo hard you try, you just can't work out what happens next.

You're blocked.

Near as I can tell, it happens to everyone. It's not happening to me right now, but it has in the past. My last novel, for instance. And the one before that.

When it does, I get away from the keyboard. Long walks, bike rides, tramps up the sides of damn mountains are favorites, but it doesn't matter. The key is to give the body something to do so that the mind can wander. And ponder.

And ask, what the hell am I writing about, anyway? What's the point?

Literary professors get to used high-falutin words like central conflict and theme. But I am a bear of little brain, and prefer simple, working class words. I want to know what the story that's stumping me's supposed to look like when it's at home.

But really, central conflict and theme are what's getting lost in those white-out, writer's block moments. Writing is like building a forest one tree at time. The inner critic wants to see that every leaf and pine needle is just so. The white-out is when you've lost track and started building up above the ridgeline, or onto thin, rocky soil where your story doesn't properly belong.

There's something you love in your story. Something that puts that particular wood (whether a 2000 word grove or a 350,000 rainforest) in that particular place. After all, if you don't have the love, there are heaps of other ways to spend a day. The love of that story, wanting to see how it turns out -- to see it told -- is what makes writing worthwhile.

Find the heart of your story. You'll also find the key to your dilemna.


Kate S said...

Find the heart of your story. You'll also find the key to your dilemna.

Will ponder... I have a feeling that's great advice. Now I'm off to find the heart of my story. :)

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

hey there steve malley. myself, i call it writher's block. hope you get over the hump.

etain_lavena said...

Gosh...I am also my worst critic....secod guess myself over and over.
But words are all I have so I will always try and find them:)

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm close to that blockage point now and I know it's because I haven't thought enough about the overall story. Been focusing more on scenes. Had a long walk yesterday and another is scheduled for today. Maybe I'll work things out then.