Sunday, September 20, 2009


I know the story. I’ve got the time.

Yet sometimes the words simply won’t come.

So I sit at the kitchen table nervously looking from the clock to the blank page on my laptop screen, and all I can think about is my looming deadline. The few words that do come out of me read more like a history-of-the-most-boring-topic-ever textbook than a romantic tale.

Advice from one of my favorite books on the craft of writing, Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver, come to mind:

The less you care, the better you write.

He’s absolutely right, but like most good advice it’s easier said than done.

So I sit a while longer, willing myself to chill out.

No luck.

Finally, I get up, grab a legal pad and curl up on the living room sofa. (I’ve been in our living room maybe three times and one of them was to show the delivery guy where to put the furniture, so it’s a huge change of scenery for me.) Soon I’m scribbling down a few of my characters thoughts which leads to an outpouring of scenes my pen can barely keep up with.

I’m not sure how, but writing in longhand gives my stalled brain the jumpstart it needs to shift into high gear.

Soooo, how do you get started again when you’re stalled?


Katrina Spencer said...

So true! When I don't think about my deadline and things I need to get out the words flow. The more I panic the less I write. A lesson that I should have learned now, but it's hard to quiet that nagging voice in your head that tells you to hurry up. Great post!

Shauna Roberts said...

Phyllis, I'm looking forward to seeing what answers you get. I haven't figured out a good way for myself yet.

Phyllis Bourne said...

Thanks for stopping by on a Sunday, Katrina and Shauna!

@Katrina - it's soooo hard to quiet that voice, isn't it?

@Shauna - I'm also on the lookout for a new technique to try.

Liane Spicer said...

Phyllis, so, so true. The more I care the harder it is to write.

There must be something to this longhand business. I wrote the first book entirely in longhand and stalling was never a problem. O_O

I tried freewriting earlier this year when I was getting desperate and I believe it worked by taking the pressure off. Took a week or two, though.

Farrah Rochon said...

Switching to longhand works for me, too. Well, sometimes. Other times, I just use swear words. :P

Stefanie Worth said...

My problem is usually that there are too many words in my head clamoring to get out and I become overwhelmed at the prospect of reigning them into something cohesive. So I do the deer-in-the-headlights freeze.

I find that a digital recorder is handy for these times. I can capture story bits like those great pieces of dialog that comes at you perfectly phrased and demanding your immediate attention. After a while I seem to catch up with my thoughts and I can go back to the keyboard.