Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Writer's Block Pt. 1

Welp, the plan for this week was to discuss notes, but then the monster known as writer's block came busting down my door, demanding a cameo. So guess who our special guest is tonight?

It's a real jerk, ain't it? Partly because it's not really an it at all, but rather, a they. Writer's block is like the seven deadly sins, each with their own stupid flare that makes them all the more detestable. But it also makes them vulnerable. The trick is identifying which sin you're dealing with, and teaching yourself to wield the virtue that'd counteract it. Easier said than done, right? Just like with getting started, these identifications and counteractions are something you'll need to discover and create for yourself, but maybe I can guide you in the right direction.  If nothing else, I can give you something to waste your time on when writer's block insists upon your procrastination.

#1 Something's Wrong
If you've followed any of my other teachings, you know by now that I'm a psycho who thinks my story's a living, breathing thing, born from the depths of the subconscious to rise up and make your life a living hell. Well, I'm not the only one. In a quote that's way too long for me to want to copy+paste here, Orson Scott Card describes writer's block as a warning sign your story's giving you that something ain't right. Maybe you veered off on a path your story doesn't want you to take. Maybe you missed something crucial. Maybe you worded one damn sentence wrong, and now you have to rake through the whole thing a billion times to find it! (Yeah, not speaking from experience here or nothing)

It's a simple dilemma that's exceedingly hard to recognize. How do you do it? For me, I get this churning feeling in my gut and I know not all is well in the world of (insert title here) Eventually, you will, too, but that takes a lot of experience and practice (and horrible, horrible failure) So until then, begin at the first sign of writer's block. You might not know which deadly sin you're dealing with yet, but the trick here is to take a day off. Distance yourself from your writing, then go back and re-read. Ask yourself, "what's the purpose of this?" or, "how is this connected to that?" Usually, you'll come to one of three outcomes. A.) Delete it. B.) Re-write it. C.) Acknowledge that this is uber important whereas you might not have picked up on that before.

Of the three outcomes, the latter might not have an immediate fix. All you can do is take note of it and keep it in mind as you write, so you don't stumble across this deadly sin later in your writing. As for the other two, they're pretty straight forward. If none of them apply, you've got yourself a different sin on your hands. And maybe, it's...

#2 Perfectionism
The problem with the first sin is that we can throw ourselves in a downward spiral, trying to weed out those parts we think need to be perfected. Truth is, nothing needs to be perfected, especially in the early stages of writing.

But who hasn't fallen victim to perfectionism? When working on your baby, you want it to be the best it can be, and therein lies the irony (rhyme not intended) Getting obsessed with mundane details does, in fact, make your writing mundane. You get so focused on your attempt at sculpting the smallest parts of your story to perfection, you forget the story as a whole.

Getting caught up on these details will only tangle you up in a web of despair, and I'll tell you why: perfection is unattainable. Remember that your story is organic, which means, it cannot be perfect, but it's that imperfection that gives it character—what makes it human. 

So what's the virtue for this one? Basically the same as the last. Go back to your questions (how is this related to that, blahblahblah) and ask yourself, "is this really so important that I should be burning precious time over it?" If it's not, delete it. If it's essential but confusing, re-write it. If it's uber important, take note of it, but if it's none of the above, move on!

It's rough, I know, especially if you're working towards publication. Anything less than the best is terrifying to you because, in your head, if it isn't perfect, it ain't going no where. Thing is, it's that fear that'll hold you back. Which leads to the next sin.

#3 Fear
Now fear, ah yes, fear is my big one. Fear can include anything from, "what if it's not good enough," to, "what if I'm not good enough?"

I've found the best cure for this particular sin is...wait for it...flattery. What? Admit it, all writers are vain bastards (on some level) When we're unsure whether a story's working or not, whether we'll be getting published or not, whether we'll be able to put on our underwear this morning or not, it's always best to have a helping hand to pull that underwear right up on your bottom. Okay, no, but it is nice to have someone remind you that you can do this!

I'm not talking critique partners here. Critique partners are great, but in this situation, critiquing is the last thing you need. You need encouragement. Turn to a close friend, a family member, that homeless dude that'll tell you whatever you want, so long as you give him a buck ( get the point) Ask them to let you rant about your story. Ask them to read some of it. Have them tell you all the things they loved about it. Hell, have them tell you all the things they love about you! Find ways to feel good about your writing and yourself. That's what builds this virtue's armor up thick and gets you barreling through the walls of sin #3.

Whoa now. This is getting pretty long, ain't it? And we're not even halfway done! Well, hopefully I've wasted enough of your time, but if not, check back next week for Pt. Two. And you know what? If you've got writer's block really bad, how about you take the week off until I catch up with ya'll next time? I've covered this before, but it really is okay not to write, if you need to take a breather. So kick back, relax, eat some snacks, and I'll see ya'll next week!

Current Stats
Watching: Ninja Turtles II
Listening: My cat meowing
Reading: The Ask and the Answer: Chaos Walking Book II by Patrick Ness
Playing: Still nothing ;_;
^^^What are ya'll up to? Comment below!^^^


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