|"How could you, Jurgen?!"|
Image description: Knight on a horse holding a spear and looking at a
tombstone with some non-English writing on it.
In my last article I spoke about inspiration and the eternal struggle writers have with it. I talked about those times when you just have to knuckle down and get those words on that page, even when it’s a hard and painful slog. But then, it strikes:
Writer’s f*&%ing block.
That bastard, sneaking up on you unaware, stealing your ability to think, write and sometimes even form coherent sentences to your friends and family. They would be worried you’ve gone mad but they’re aware you’re a writer, so they know you already are.
You’re struggling, the words aren’t coming and you’re staring, again, at the blank space on the page in wordless despair. So here you are, having come to the internet for “a little break” or “inspiration” or even “research” – any of the many justifications you’re making for why you’re not writing. You’ve tried to stay focused, and maybe you even tried to keep your most recent draft up on your computer display, telling yourself you’ll refuse to use the internet on this hallowed instrument of your craft, no, you’ll be distraction-free and disciplined for once.
But I see how your phone creeps out of your pocket, I see how sly you think you’re being. As if it doesn’t count if you just check your phone for five minutes. (It does.)
“But it’s so hard,” you tell yourself while you read those memes. You know which ones I mean. The ones with the “inspirational” quote on a background of crumpled paper or designed to look like an inky typewriter just finished spilling out the passionate truth about writers and writing. You read them with solemnity, and you nod your head. “Yeah, that’s so true,” you tell yourself, and you feel so much more noble, so much more persecuted by your own inner word-stealing, finger-stalling demons. “All writers struggle with writing,” you repeat sagely. It’s part of the job description.
It doesn’t have to be. I’m going to tell you how you can kick those finger-stalling demons in the nads and start writing again, in only 5 easy steps. Those demons can’t hurt you now, my precious, you will have weapons with which to defeat them.
Step 1. Get to that document. Put it up on the screen and look at it.
It’s a simple step, at once both the easiest and the hardest.
Step 2. Explain to yourself why you’ve stalled. Seriously. Start typing the following, “And now I’ve abandoned my work to the siren song of procrastination because…” and finish the sentence as applies to your situation.
And now I’ve abandoned my work to the siren song of procrastination because I honestly have no idea what my characters are supposed to do next and without having any idea what they’re going to do next they’re going to sit there in the Grog-house of Kazabulladon* frozen in time-space for the rest of eternity and I feel really bad about that because I like these guys, they’re a fun band of troll-robbers, but I just haven’t the slightest clue what to do next and I’m so sorry guys, I let you down.
By laying it all down in text you can start to fully understand the root cause behind your lack of progress. If it’s just running around and around in your head, making you feel frustrated and angry with yourself, then it’s taking up precious mental space that it doesn’t deserve. Trap your problems like the nuisance vermin that they are, make them real with words and then imprison them on the page.
Step 3. Explain to yourself what you wish you were writing. Start typing the following, “Instead of being stuck in this mental quagmire, I wish…” and once again, finish as applies.
Instead of being stuck in this mental quagmire, I wish I was in the middle of writing an epic quest with action and suspense and drama and maybe someone dies in such a terrible, beautiful way that it makes people sob over my book like tiny, helpless children.
Step 4. Still stuck? Think of the worst thing you can possibly do to your favorite character. Do it.
The chair screeched backwards and Jurgen, Gurgul’s right hand man in the lucrative business of troll-robbing, pulled a knife from his hip to hold steadily beneath the chief troll-robber’s heavily bearded neck.
“What the hell, man?” Gurgul cried, wounded to his soul. “I thought we were friends!”
“That was before I spoke to Dark Lord Deathface, and he offered me eternal life, a new horse and a lifetime supply of grog! Nothing personal, you know, I just really like grog, horses and living forever. It’s a thing.”
Step 5. Don’t stop now! How does this affect the rest of your characters? Are they upset? Are they secretly pleased? Do your characters rally together, or become divided? Explain everything, over-explain it if you can, because it’s all about getting the words out and you’ll be able to edit it down to the elegance you’re aiming for in your second draft.
There are infinite possibilities, sometimes that’s the whole problem. All you need to do is to choose one and go for it. It is, by nature, the right choice because you made it. If you believe in that choice then the reader will too, so commit to it. There’s no holding back. You’ve got this.
Good luck, my precious.
*This is not a real story, but maybe it should be.
She can be found online at her own website: www.ariellekharris.com as well as on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/ariellekharris/ and her published work can be found on Amazon here:https://www.amazon.com/author/ariellekharris