Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Working with writer's block

At 2am this morning, I finished a new 3,500-word short story. It's embarrassing to admit how long it's been since I last wrote a short story from scratch. Let's just say...a while.

So, future me asks, how did you manage to complete this story?

A few things helped. On Sunday, I attended a one-day Clarion West workshop taught by Eileen Gunn, about working through creative impasses. I managed a rough ending during one of the 15-minute writing burst exercises--at least enough to start editing and expand.

Having a deadline helped. Knowing I had to deliver what I promised helped.

I didn't turn off the internet, but I probably should have. After a month of trying to write this thing, by mid-day yesterday I had about two thousand good words and some rocky words. The key was that no matter how much I procrastinated, and I procrastinated a lot, I would keep forcing myself back to the keyboard. I treated myself like a stubborn kid who refused to eat her vegetables. I basically threw a lot of tantrums, certain I wasn't going to be able to do it, but I kept forcing myself to open MS Word and make small attempts. Over and over and over...Until I was too exhausted to fight anymore and I ate the damned leafy greens.

There are authors who don't believe in writer's block. I envy them. I wish I didn't believe, too. But I have these tendencies, if nothing else, to avoid writing fiction. Give me something tangible and clear cut, where I can make a fancy list and check off deliverables and I'm solid. Technical writing, no problem, but fiction? I struggle.

I've thought a lot about why I struggle. I know it's in my head. I've reorganized my entire life to be conducive to writing. I have the equipment, the books, the support network. So why freeze up? Two reasons come to mind. One, I dislike not being good at something so much I'd almost rather not to do it than fail. Two, I'm afraid of being boring. Both are fantastic ways to make that playful voice inside my head, the one that whispers, "What about..." and "This might sound weird, but..." to take its toys and play elsewhere.

All of this is to say, the draft is done and submitted. And, future me? There are much, much better ways for us to write a short story. Go find them.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on completing the story! And thanks for providing a practical and doable (tested by you) technique for working past writers block.

Folly Blaine said...

Thanks, Miriah. :)

Nicole F. said...

Congrats on finishing and submitting the story!

Folly Blaine said...

Thanks, Nicole!