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The first thing I want to do is to thank Jon for giving me this space. I know how hard he works to make his blog both interesting and informative (with, I might add, some success), so I’m honored that he thought my ramblings would both inform and amuse you.

Today’s topic is one that hits me pretty close to home. In my daily blog updates, I normally post word counts since my last blog entry at the bottom of the post. I try to aim for a minimum of a thousand words every weekday, a target which I normally manage to hit.

So what happens? I get an inordinate amount of comments ignoring the main body of the post and saying things like: “wow, you’re such a prolific writer!”

This, along with reading other writer’s musings, leads me to the conclusion that the most serious difficulty facing writers is simply getting the words onto the page. This sometimes stems from day-job exhaustion, but is also often the product of that other bugaboo: writer’s block.

Now, I’m certain there are millions of posts elsewhere on the net that give quick fixes to the condition – free writing, no getting up until a certain number of words are reached, etc. But though quick fixes can create a writing habit, I don’t think they cure the condition completely. The only way I’ve found to get ahead is to take responsibility for my action.

What?

Well, I have a theory. I believe that no one in the world gets blocked when they have to write a description of a vase or a landscape. These things, while important in getting the text polished and balanced are not critical to the story in the writer’s mind – they are not part of the shining, wonderful idea that left the writer no choice but to put fingers onto keyboard and begin writing.

Try it. Even the most blocked of writers can describe a sunset.

The block comes when you’re advancing the story: writing that swordfight, describing Emily’s feelings as she watches Ernest ride into the distance, getting the key conversation just right. This is the hard part of writing, the part where the brilliant idea becomes words on a page. This is the part where the ideal disappears, and the writer has to make choices.

Many people simply can’t take it. They agonize over the placing of each word and comma and generally believe that their shining, wonderful idea is becoming tarnished. Story. Grinds. To. Halt.

There is no quick fix to this. Free writing is designed to take the stress off the writer, but all that stress will immediately return when faced with something important, a piece of the story you are emotionally involved with.
The only way to solve it is to open your eyes. Yes, there are other ways to write the paragraph you’re composing. Yes, not everyone will agree with your choices. But writing is about commitment. You can’t please the whole world, so choose what you believe is best, and stick to your guns. The choices you make will define who you are as a writer, and will make your writing much more memorable than if you try to please everyone.

So even if that perfect idea seems to be disappearing as you type, forge ahead. Keep in mind that those blemishes are what critics and readers call “an author’s voice”, and they are what makes your story better than a perfect one would be.  

 

How about you.

 

What do you do to conquer writer's block?



Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine writer with over forty stories published in five countries, both online and in print, and a winner in the National Space Society’s “Return to Luna” Contest and the Marooned Award for Flash Fiction in 2008.        His genre fiction has appeared in three Hadley Rille Books anthologies, Atomjack, The Best of Every Day Fiction and others.  His work has also been published in Spanish translation.  He can be found online at www.gustavobondoni.com.ar, or at http://bondo-ba.livejournal.com/ .


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( 67 comments — Leave a comment )
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jl_johnson
Oct. 8th, 2009 11:58 am (UTC)
I find that either doing dishes, or taking a shower unblocks the creative energies.
silverwerecat
Oct. 8th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
Seconding the dishes. Also, cleaning the cats' boxes. ;)
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Oct. 8th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dferguson - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
dferguson
Oct. 8th, 2009 12:05 pm (UTC)
First of all, I don't believe in writer's block. There have been stories I've lost interest in or put aside because I didn't do the proper research before starting to write it or it just simply wasn't the time for me to start writing it. And there have been times when I simply didn't feel like writing. Oh, I had the scene all mapped out in my head and knew each line of dialog. I just didn't feel like writing that day.

I think that a lot of writers fall victim to trying to edit the story as they're writing it and that's something you just can't do. When you're writing, you're writing. When you're editing, you're editing and I don't think you can do both at the same time. Editing while trying to write stifles the creative part of the brain that's simply trying to get the story out.

And I usually have two or three projects going on at the same time. When I run into a problem or some difficulty with one story I put it aside and work on something else until I've resolved the issue with the problem child then go back to it. I also allow myself to time to do writing entirely for fun (superhero fan fiction) so that I'm not continually obsessing over my original work. Writing fan fiction allows me to indulge in writing simply for writing's sake and not get my guts all twisted agonizing over my original work.
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
I think you're absolutely right about keeping writing and editing separate. The attempt to get things perfect in first draft is a killer for many writers.

I'm actually guilty of this myself. I like to get the first draft clean enough that the editing consists of only light reworking and spelling.
(no subject) - dferguson - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dferguson - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
peadarog
Oct. 8th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
As I always say when asked: the best cure for writer's block is to take a walk -- around the block.
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
There's always a wise guy in every class...
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Oct. 8th, 2009 04:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Oct. 8th, 2009 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Oct. 8th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peadarog - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Oct. 8th, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peadarog - Oct. 8th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Oct. 8th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
maryjdal
Oct. 8th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
I found myself nodding all through this post. So true for me.
"They agonize over the placing of each word and comma and generally believe that their shining, wonderful idea is becoming tarnished. Story. Grinds. To. Halt."
My best ideas fall to pieces when I try to get them down, and so to avoid them ending up as lesser versions from what I envisioned, I stall so this won't happen.
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading!

Here's a secret (but please don't tell anyone or they'll ban me from the writer's meetings): we all do this. The trick is to get the stories down on the page, even if they waren't perfect.

I often find myself struggling to get the scene down just so, and hating every word, only to find that, a couple of days later, it doesn't seem quite so bad, and can be turned into something surprisingly good with just a few brush-strokes.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Oct. 8th, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Oct. 8th, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
black_faery
Oct. 8th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
If it's a scene where I know the theory of what happens, and I just lack the right words or frame of mind for writing that particular scene at that moment in time (ie, I want to write a snarky fight scene, and the story's stopped at a tender romantic moment...), I skip it. I come back to it, leaving a place marker of [INSERT BILLY & JO'S FIRST KISS HERE] or similar for when I'm feeling in a soppy and romantic mood. I jump ahead to the next available plot point that I know, that I can write.

If it's a case of writing myself into a corner, that's a different matter. Before now, I've written all my characters into nice, safe places, where there is no need for them to move. Story = stalled! Time to go back and work out where I went wrong. Sometimes it's a chapter back, sometimes it's something mentioned earlier than that. Hopefully I don't need to delete too much.

And last but by no means least - I don't edit. I used to write, and then start editing because bits looked scruffy and clunky, and after a while I'd realise that while chapters 1-4 looked great, I had no impetus to keep going to find out what happens after all of that. This year, I banned myself from editing my current story until it was finished - no matter how bad the writing got. And it's worked. 81k later, and I have a pretty much finished first draft, which I can now set about with the editing shears and the Red Pen of Doom. *grin*
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
That "no editing" rule sounds like it worked perfectly. And congrats on getting the novel done - I don't know how many you've got under your belt, but even one is a huge achievement.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Oct. 8th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 02:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing that one - I really need to try it sometime. My outlines (both for stories and novels) tend to look like they just came back from the Spanish Civil War when I'm done with them. Maybe the index cards would give me room to make new notes.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Oct. 8th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
LOL. I hear you - in my experience, the blighters either refuse to do anything whatsoever and stand around looking at each other in awkward silence or they hijack the story line and simply refuse to give it back. I sometimes have to kill them all and start over.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
silverwerecat
Oct. 8th, 2009 01:49 pm (UTC)
Picture taken during NaNo 2005: to cure writer's block, just pull.

http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y27/Werecat/NaNoCat.jpg

Edited because photo was way too big and I don't know how to reduce its size. Sorry.

Edited at 2009-10-08 01:50 pm (UTC)
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 02:25 pm (UTC)
Hmm. Perhaps a nice antiseptic spray would be a good idea, too.
(no subject) - silverwerecat - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - silverwerecat - Oct. 8th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
clarionj
Oct. 8th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
I think I go with what Gustavo says here. When I'm blocked, I write anyway, even if I think it's coming out bad. It's partly the free-write mentality (I go for that a lot), but it's also what he says about just facing the problem and doing it. I've had scenes I didn't want to write and I've put off writing, but when it comes down to it (like cleaning up the kitchen), if I don't do it, nobody else will. So, I force it. At first. What happens then, generally, is I become involved and I end up with words on the page. Those words might need a lot of fixing, but that first hurtle is past. And on good days. those words become exactly what I'd hoped for.
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)
I often find that when I do that and then come back to the writing a couple of days later, it isn't as bad as I'd thought!
(Deleted comment)
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes. Blank page syndrome. I deal with that by writing just the first sentence and closing the doc. Then, when I come back to it, and the page is no longer blank. Your mileage may vary, but I've found it works surprisingly well for such a silly idea.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Oct. 8th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
I actually appreciate the comments - a lot - which is why I keep posting wordcounts. I've found that posting them on the LJ helps to keep me honest because if I'm not writing, I know someone will ask about my count!
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Oct. 8th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
kmarkhoover
Oct. 8th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
good essay, thanks :)
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
And thank you for taking the time to read!
bogwitch64
Oct. 8th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
This sounds really smug, but I've never experienced writer's block. This leads me to believe that one of the biggest contributing factors is time. I have TIME to mull over the plot and such. I don't have to squeeze 1000 words into an hour at the butt-crack of dawn. I imagine having to can seriously cramp one's creativity and drive.

When it comes down to it though, Nike (the shoes not the goddess) said it best: Just do it.
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
Absolutely...
lyngperry
Oct. 8th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, I don't have a workable solution for my personal writers block...I just have to walk away for an indeterminate amount of time. Not the best solution as it really ignores this thing that is so helpful in getting published...it's called discipline! lol
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
LOL. Yeah, that would definitely cramp the possibility of getting things done!
(no subject) - jongibbs - Oct. 8th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
karen_w_newton
Oct. 8th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
Hot baths or hot showers. I don't usually get blocked for long, and when I do it's most often because I can't make up mind on the best way to get the protag from point A to point B (more often a mental rather than a geographic journey). I find it best to let my unconscious mind work on the problem. If I don't get it in a day or two, I usually just jump ahead in the story and write from point B onward. Sometimes that works really well because something unexpected will happen which will clinch the decision about the how protag got to that point.
bondo_ba
Oct. 8th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
Very interesting system - I myself have never been able to jump ahead when writing in first draft. Thanks for sharing it!
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