FMWriters is traveling the web via the Merry Go Round Blog Tour. Site members have grouped together to write monthly on themed topics and turn the blog tour concept on its head: we’re not the ones touring: you are, as you read one writer’s perspective after another. This is my contribution to the Merry Go Round Tour. Enjoy your ride. ~ Dawn
Now that I’m taking Karate classes, this term has a new angle of thought for me. When we block, we’re defending ourselves from incoming force. In writing, when we cite a block, we claim we are blocked, kept away from something we want. Sometimes it can be procrastination, or a lack of knowledge of a particular topic, but it could also be that we’ve come up against an obstacle we’re unable to overcome on our own at this point in time.
I really don’t like the term writer’s block. It’s too easy to use when something in your writing isn’t going along the way you want it to. So the writer claims, “I’m blocked on this project”, and now they have an excuse to put it down, which leads to an incomplete story languishing in a drawer forever. Using this rationale, I never experience Writer’s Block. That doesn’t mean I never have issues though.
I believe issues are based on knowing enough to know that something isn’t working, but lacking either the skill to identify the problem or the resolution. For example, I attempted to write a fantasy story about this girl being followed and having an encounter with a wolf and a goddess. I literally wrote it ten different ways. After some time in a decent critique group, I looked at the story again, threw out everything I had previously written, and started over. The new version earned me a semi-finalist in a highly competitive contest.
In my mind, a block is an excuse. Any time I start thinking I’m blocked, I make myself take another angle on the problem. Sometimes, the problem is something in the story that simply can’t be fixed. It can happen. What writer has never written themselves into a corner only to find it’s round not square…and then you get stuck in the hamster ball. You get my point, right?
We learn by doing and sometimes what we’ve written sucks. In these situations, it’s okay to toss the story into a drawer. But after you do that, go pick up something else. Start a new story. Don’t whine about what you can’t write. Move on to something else. And sometime in the future, come back to that round corner you painted yourself into. You just might surprise yourself.
Speaking of surprising yourself… do you have a drawer with half finished projects? What would happen if you took a peek inside?
Today’s post was inspired by Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round topic, “Writer’s Block”. If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and read about their ideas, then check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Next up is Raven on the 7th.
Erm, yes, I have a shelf full of stuff I wrote a couple decades ago and am afraid to look at again. Then there are the started stories on my computer. What am I afraid of? That I’ll get paralyzed trying to figure out where to start. And truthfully, some stories are better left unfinished — or finished and never touched again — because they’re fundamentally flawed. There is no story, no arc, no reason to care — and injecting any of those would make it not what I set out to write. It might be better, but it wouldn’t be ME.
And, yeah, I don believe I have to finish everything I start. But that’s a separate discussion. 😉
I can agree with that, but it takes a while before one can truly judge of a particular story is of the “let it simmer” or “let it die” category. I’ve relied heavily on my critique groups for seeing how damaged a story is or isn’t. Which is why I still never truly kill something. I set it aside and look at it again. Because it has value in the lesson. And because you never know if you pick up an old piece, it might inspire you in some way. Something made you write it to begin with. That fragment, at least to me, is important.
I have a drawer as well, It even has a few novels in it! But they’re never really abandoned. In some cases I know I need to be a better writer than I am now to fix what’s there. Some day though!
Good points Dawn. I think there have been times it was an excuse to get up away from the keyboard and go do something else, like clean the toilet, lol. Thanks for the reminder.
The toilets need cleaning. Stories need simmer time. It can work!