Musings

[Blog] Battering Rams

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I am a huge proponent of brute forcing your way through writer’s block.

Some days, you just want to write. The words are coming and you like them and the story is unrolling before you in all its glory. Some days, you think it’s going to work out like that, only to have it all melt away as soon as you put your hands to the keyboard. You know the ideas are still there. They’re just out of reach. And then there’s the days when you feel like this whole writing business is absolutely nuts, you’re a hack, and why did you ever think you could do it?

And then, sometimes, that last kind of day stretches out into that kind of week. Or even that kind of month– or longer. Writing anything feels like pulling teeth, or pushing on a locked door, or trying to convince your cat that she should come cuddle with you. It’s awful, and it makes you wonder whether it’s worth all the trouble.

Which brings us back to the battering ram method of pushing through writer’s block. As a little background, I do my best to write two hundred fifty words six days a week. I can tell you right now that there are days that sitting down and doing it is the last thing I want to do. Maybe my mind is just wandering. Maybe everything I do manage to get onto the page feels trite and shallow. Maybe the last ten ways I’ve tried to start a scene have fallen flat, and I’ve already got a sinking feeling that Attempt No. 11 is going to do the exact same thing.

The only reliable way I’ve found to get myself past all that is to just sit and write. I can’t guarantee the quality. I can’t guarantee that the scene will suddenly sublimate into something wonderful. I certainly can’t guarantee that it will get easier to write on any given day. But I can guarantee that I keep writing. Despite the horrid, stuck feeling and everything that comes with it, I still have raw words that can be used, formed, and edited. Or I’ve crossed another narrative path off the list, which means I’m one try closer to finding the one that will actually work.

I can hardly take credit for this idea, of course. Many writers far better than myself have said something similar many times before; in particular, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and Agatha Christie come to mind. It’s also, more or less, the concept behind NaNoWriMo. And I suppose, in some ways, it takes some of the mystery out of writing, making it seem more like mining than anything else.

But that’s okay. Because writing is like mining, and there’s a lot of dirt and much less ore. It takes work– hard work– to create. And I’m not the first person to have that thought either.

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