So, last time I covered several types of writer’s block. I saved the best (or at least the most complicated form, the Things Left Unsaid version. Many, if not most of us, were raised with all sorts of scripts. Don’t rock the boat. We don’t talk about such things. Nice girls (or boys) don’t say that. It is, I think, why I would rather do anything, including housework, than write a blog post. Not only is fiction more fun, but I get to hide behind my characters.
But even fiction takes courage. I had a really hard time completing The Stolen Luck once I realized that it had arguably wandered into the realm of male/male fantasy romance. I worried about all the questions I’d get about what a straight woman was doing writing about gay (well, bisexual, actually) males. (My answer has since become ‘why not’? I’m a person. I write about people.)
I especially worried about the slavery issue. Not that I had any qualms about my approach, since the idea was not to condone the institution but rather to explore what imbalance of power does to the soul of all parties involved I was afraid editors and readers would find the topic so unsettling that they wouldn’t see past the word ‘slave’ to look at how I was exploring the theme. It’s absolutely not your typical master-slave trope story, but rather the antidote. Unfortunately, when you try to turn a trope inside out, it’s hard to pitch it without everyone seeing the original trope.
I actually abandoned the novel several times because I was so uncomfortable with the idea of taking it through the pitch process once it was complete, but the novel kept riding me and demanding to be written.
But I finished it. And I found a publisher for it. And then my editor found the scene that I was still afraid to write, and made me (gently encouraged me) to write it. I did. It made the book better, and the world didn’t end.
I’m proud of the book. I’m glad I pushed outside my comfort zone to finish it. No one stopped speaking to me because of the book, and I managed to create a work that a Catholic Republican friend (yes, I do have one or two of those) enjoyed and found ‘very tasteful’ *and* an avid reader of male/male fantasy called ‘squee worthy.’ How many writers can boast that?
So, my point is, if you find yourself sweeping the walk and washing the curtains rather than sitting down to the keyboard, ask yourself: ‘What am I afraid to say?’ ‘Why am I afraid?’ And then say it and see what happens. You might be glad you did.
Samhain kitty says to remind you that you are following the last bit of advice, like all the advice in this blog, at your own risk. Please don’t sue the writer-person. She doesn’t have much money, and she needs it to buy kitty-crunchies.
I seldom get writer’s block anymore with regard to fiction. My problem there is just the opposite—too much writing to be done, too little time to do it.
Blog posts are another story. I am actually one of the few writers that works on her novel as a way to avoid blogging. (Novel-writing is a highly underrated tool in the procrastinator’s toolbox. Writing a novel allows you to put off unpleasant tasks for a long, long time. And if you start outlining your next project while revising the one you’re on, you can procrastinate indefinitely. Or until whatever you didn’t do suddenly precipitates a crisis, whichever comes first.)
Recently I made a commitment to myself to blog at least once a week. So here I am, about a week past this week’s self-imposed deadline, and naturally I’m thinking about writer’s block.
Writer’s block has many causes, each requiring a different treatment. Kind of like headaches; you would treat a tension headache the same way you would one caused by a brain tumor, nor apply the surgical techniques for removal of a tumor to a blunt-force trauma brain injury.
Many non-writers think of writer’s block as a lack of ideas. In my extremely unscientific research, which consisted of recalling some chats with my writing buddies, most writers have more ideas than they can use in a lifetime. It’s the nature of the beast. If, however, you are one of those writers suffering from idea deficiency, there are some simple remedies. Pick up a dictionary, flip open to a random page, and without looking put your finger on a word. Write it down. Repeat the procedure twice more. Look at your three words. There’s your writing prompt. Go write.
A more common, and more pernicious, cause of writer’s block is lack of confidence, either lack of confidence in your ability to write or lack of confidence in your ability to get published (sometimes, but not always related.) Hard to get excited about writing when you’re sure it all sucks and anyway no one’s ever going to read it. Watching a Doctor Who rerun seems like a better idea (especially if it’s a David Tennant episode.)
If the problem is a lack of confidence in your craft, the first step is to take a hard look at your writing. It might be worth it to pay for a professional critique. These are often offered at writer’s conferences, and some professional writers also do critiques on the side. (Caution: make sure the person is worth your time and money. Check credentials closely, especially if it’s someone you never heard of. But that’s a blog post of its own.)
Maybe your skills need some work. No problem. The best writers are the ones that never stop working on craft. There’s truth behind the old saying ‘if you stop getting better, you stop being good.’ There are resources out there. Join a critique group. Take some classes and workshops. Read books on craft (I suggested some titles in an earlier blog). Not only will you improve your writing, you may find a fresh breath of inspiration.
The never-gonna-get-published blues as a source of writer’s block is harder to address. Any glance at bookshelves at the nearest bookstore (they do still have bookstores somewhere, right?)will confirm that it’s not exactly a direct correlation between the quality of your writing and your ability to get a publisher to fork over an advance. Yes, there’s some great stuff being published right now. There’s also a lot of schlock, and a lot of great stuff I’ve seen from fellow writers that never finds a home with mainstream publishers.
I can only say, hang in there. The first short story you sell to a ‘zine will give you enough energy to make it to the point where you have a handful of sales. Those handful of sales will carry you through to your first anthology sale, which will keep you going until you finally sell a novel. Haven’t made your first sale yet? Hold on to the fact that it took J K Rawling something like ten years to sell the first Harry Potter book.
There is another, more complicated type of writer’s block, but this blog post(ironically, given its subject matter) is running a bit long. So in the interest of not missing another blogging deadline I’m going to save that for Writer’s Block 2: What Are You Not Saying?
BTW, my collection of three short-short stories, The Three Tunes, is free on Amazon through 6/25/13