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.
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/ .