Saturday, March 15, 2014

Finding the Spark.

I’ve said before that I don’t really believe in “writer’s block.” What I mean by that is that I generally don’t like to use it as an excuse for not writing. What I do firmly believe in is, “I so totally don’t want to be sitting here writing right now. I’d rather be doing almost anything, including tasks or chores I normally wouldn’t do with a gun to my head.”

Usually, this feeling grabs me whenever I’ve failed to do my upfront homework while preparing to write a new story. Maybe I didn’t take the time to properly explore an idea that sounded neat at the outset, and instead started writing just to see where the notion took me. Sometimes that works, and it can be hugely fun and satisfying when everything falls into place. However, there also are those occasions where I end up like Wile E. Coyote, slamming face-first into the proverbial canyon wall.

Yep, we all know there are going to be days when the words just don’t want to spill forth, no matter how long you sit in front of your computer, or how hard you stare at your screen. You can feel them; they’re a jumble up in your head, but they’re fighting amongst themselves and really have no need for you to be bugging them right now. You can usually coax them out sooner or later, and every writer has their trick for doing just that. For me? My usual method is to just walk away from the whole thing.

Sort of.

Over the years, I’ve found that focusing on some completely unrelated activity is one of the best ways for me to work the knots out of a story that’s giving me fits. I go for the mundane sorts of tasks, like working in the yard, washing the car, folding laundry, cooking dinner, or just taking a shower. My mind is free to wander during these times, and as often as not I’ll have to stop whatever I’m doing so I can run back to my desk and jot down a bunch of notes.

The other night, I was shaving when—at long last—something sparked in my little monkey brain as I let it bounce around the room a bit. The kinks in the story I’ve been plotting for the past week or so just straightened themselves out as I was staring at myself in the mirror. It all happened in the space of less than thirty seconds. Hell, I nearly cut my own throat in my excitement, because I could feel right then that this was the answer! Thankfully, I survived the incident and was able to transcribe my nonsensical ramblings to the page, small globs of shaving cream dangling from my ears and everything.

Oh, and it offered me the idea for this month’s post. So, you know…a two-fer!

(Meanwhile, my wife just shakes her head as she watches all of this unfold.)

How about you? What do you do when the words don’t want to play? How do you go about finding that spark?


Charles Gramlich said...

I've had more of those times lately where I just didn't want to sit down and write. I know it's because as I get older I'm finding myself more drained by my regular job work and by life stressors than I used to be. I just have less energy. Sometimes, too, I can put words down but I just don't like them; I don't feel any passion from them.

Liane Spicer said...

What you say makes a lot of sense. I too believe in walking away from a stuck story and doing non-related stuff. The most dramatic time was somewhere into my second novel; I walked away, and the solution came to me four days later when I was doing dishes.

The problem with this is, for some of us, walking away can turn from days into weeks and even months. And that's dangerous when one's deadlines are self-set and thus malleable.

G. B. Miller said...

Most of the time, walking away and doing something else does the trick, but sometimes like Charles says, outside stresses have played a larger part in me simply staying away from doing any kind of writing beyond the requisite blog post.

I'm hoping to get back to writing once some of those outside forces dissipate.

William Doonan said...

I kind of agree. I don't really get writer's block, I just get uninspired. Usually I move to another one of my 6,000 partially-completed projects.

Anonymous said...

I'll do that, too. If something's not working on the story in progress, I'll bring up another item on my "To Do" List, which always seems to get longer whenever I'm not looking......