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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - The Inevitable Writers' Block

It happens to all of us. One minute, we're slaloming down fresh-packed hillsides, brains digesting words like carbs and begging for more; the next, we're pushing that one shopping cart through the store with the bad wheel that spins and spins and doesn't roll, forcing the stupid thing around each corner and dragging it along the dairy cases. Writer's block is inevitable, and annoying beyond belief. I think it hits all writers a little differently. For me, it's never that I don't know what comes next, it's that I don't have the mental energy to say it well. The words just won't arrange themselves artfully and make my fingers type them. Argh. And for me, the block is usually tied to some sort of physical stress. I messed up my back riding last week, and then unloading thirty bales of hay, hauling bags of shavings...yeah, my back is unhappy. I feel like a little old lady. So annoying.

So today's topic wasn't what I set out to write about this week, but it became appropriate. What do we do when the block sets in?

There's a standard set of strategies, and they are tried and true. The best is - go do something else. For some people it's going for a jog. Yoga, walk, read a book, etc. Being with the horses helps me - mucking, grooming, riding, all of the above. Listening to music. I like to mess around in the garden, go take pictures, watch a movie, clean house, anything that takes my mind totally away from the story.

But I've got another strategy, one I use when I feel like I need to write something.  When the novel turns into the messed-up shopping cart, I write a oneshot - a short story - that ties into the novel somehow. I take the characters on a little side adventure, a deleted scene, a bit of fluff, and a lot of times, that does the trick. It's how I got Rosewood. And a lot of the time, those fluffy scenes become important and I fold them into the novel. Right now, I'm working on a little piece set between God Love Her and Keeping Bad Company. I'd love to see if I could put it in the Kindle store as a short story download. Either way, it's fun to explore those "between" moments, and at least I'm writing something.

I think the big thing, though, with writers' block - what I've had to learn to cope with over the years - is to remember that it will go away. The words will come back. The book will get written. Taking breaks is difficult, because as writers, we never leave our work at the office - it's with us always. It's taken me a while to learn that sometimes you have to shut the power down yourself, get some air, and come back fresh. And sometimes, you can start something new, and surprise yourself.

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