Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Does Writer's Block Exist?

No wait.  Will all the frustrated writers out there please put down the pitchforks and torches?  Don't lynch me just yet.

I'm not saying writer's block doesn't exist.  I'm asking a question, and thinking through the answer.  And then, maybe, I'm saying it.

Because I'm not convinced it does, even though I've struggled with it for about a week.  "Eh?" you say?

This past week, off and on mind you, I found it a struggle to work on the projects I wanted to work on.  In fact, the novel has been at a standstill for almost two weeks.  That's even after this excellent post where I described how writing out of sequence helped propel me forward.  It did for a few scenes, then... nothing.

Is that writer's block?  A ten second viewing of Wikipedia's entry tells me writer's block is an author being unable to produce new work.  It also says that F. Scott Fitzgerald struggled with it.  Who am I to argue with Fitzgerald?

Here's the thing.  I couldn't figure out what wasn't working with the novel.  So I worked on a short story project.  I mean, I'm a writer, right?  Right?

I structured a story, grew excited about the new world, and started typing it out.  I made it through about 200 words of ugh.  Then I stared at the screen.  I backed up and tried again.  Nothing.  Took a break, came back and sat down at my keyboard.

By this time my head ached, my eyes drooped and the bed called to me.  But, I hadn't written anything worth keeping, and hadn't for a few days.  My weekly 6000 word goal openly mocked me, but that's nothing new this month.

I figured something out.  This particular story involved two characters.  I was writing it third person limited perspective from the wrong character.  It occurred to me that as the lines and prose flowed through my head, I was hearing them as 1st person POV from the other character's perspective.

Hmm.  That information helped, but it still felt like I was in the wrong gear.  So, I wrote a scene from the middle in the new POV.  Magic.  Just like that.

I learned for myself what I've read from other authors.  Sometimes approaching the story the wrong way can keep it from working.

Back to the novel.  This is hard to admit, because it's a fantastic story.  But, I've figured out it's probably not a novel.  It's a novella.  I'm somewhere in the 20-25K word range, and it's already at the climax.  Instead of bloating the story, I'm going to finish it and see where I am.  The story only needs to be as long as the story needs to be.

So, back to writer's block.  I'm still not convinced that it exists to the point that a writer can not write something.  Even when I struggled with both projects mentioned above, I'm certain I could have started another story.  That's what writers do, and that's what I am.

But to the degree that it means a writer can be blocked from writing what he or she wants to write?  Yeah.  Sometimes the story stops you.  Usually, you can break through it by pushing ahead, or pulling back and analyzing what's not working.

Back to the original question.  Does writer's block exist?  Sort of. Kind of.  But not the way most people think.  If you want to be a writer, you have to find a way past this mostly imaginary condition.  That's what you do. It's your job.

Okay.  You can pick up the pitchforks and torches again.