Recently, I’ve been stalling on writing something new. I had started a re-writer for a novel that seemed to be working for me, until I was forced to face the page. To make sure that it all made sense and was working. But little by little, the determination and focus that I had carved out the week before began falling to the wayside. I couldn’t even wrap myself into the bliss that my usual routine would provide. Or follow the process no matter how hard I tried. Sharpened pencils. Stacks of paper and books that I had been previously interested in reading were useless now because nothing could to provide or restore the edge and direction that I had had before. Until I decided to change tactics.
So instead of just reading something and doing a little warm up writing, I started to listen to music. Then I watched one or two episodes of a series that had previously been helpful. Watching it I could tell that the characters had chemistry, so their interactions came off as smooth and insightful. Recently I realized that this was one of the places where my work was lacking and I knew that I needed to deepen the reader’s experience. Of course, this will be something that is ongoing but it’s great to read your own work, say a month or week after and get some insight into where things work or don’t work. An as a result, I have begun to sharpen the scenes, which honestly have been somewhat slow, but very insightful. (Doing this, I try to remember what Rilla Alexander said about doing the work, that usually it takes twice as long as you think to complete, so you give yourself mini treats along the way, to make sure that you are fully motivated.)
So, how do you beat writer’s block blues? With pitch forks and axes? No. With grit and determination. You take a day off and do something less stressful, if the need arises. A long walk. A trip to the beach where you can enjoy the scenery. Or if you’re determined to press on and want to beat resistance. Tell yourself that you’re only going to look at that one page or paragraph, where you’ve presumably faltered. And you read it and move on, maybe as a part of a free writing exercise, giving yourself permission to re-write late. But just for right now, you are going to put down something for the next five or ten minutes and then if the rhythm or momentum is there you continue. If it’s no good, you can chunk it. But just for right now you are working. No pressure, no stress. Let whatever’s coming to you come. And if it’s no good, tomorrow, you’ll do the re-write. But for right now, you are doing what you set out to do and are living up to your goal, writing the work that needs to be written. And just for right now, be brave and give yourself permission.
How you might ask? Taking it, line by line. Going through one paragraph after another, word by word and making sure that everything seemed vital. Important. But for this exercise, I was only trying to see how I could make my characters a little bit strong and more real. So I guess, you still need to focus. Only you don’t try to do it all at once.