The title of today’s entry is one of my favorite quotes about writing (credited to James Thurber, author of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”). It’s also one of the hardest pieces of advice to follow if you’re trying to overcome ‘writer’s block.’
As a plotter, traditional writer’s block is virtually nonexistent for me. I almost never wonder what to write about next, or where the story should go. The road is already paved for me – I just have to walk it.
So, the only two things that ever prevent me from getting out words are 1) laziness and 2) lack of confidence.
The laziness is pretty easy to fix, although I’ve been perpetually tired and sickly the past couple weeks. I’ve still managed to push out at least a few sentences every day…and hey, if I keep doing that, I’ll eventually have a book, right? I can cure laziness with a nap, or listening to music to jazz myself up. Or I read some encouraging beta feedback, which gets me hyped to finish the next iteration of this book. Getting motivated is often a result of made-up deadlines that I don’t want to miss, or the simple thought of someone reading (and enjoying) the finished product.
Overcoming a lack of confidence is far more difficult. I repeat Thurber’s quote to myself like a mantra when my fingers stall. “Don’t get it right, just get it written. Black on white. Get black on white.”
It helps. I have to repeat it to myself a lot, like every day I sludge through chapter seven, hating my voice, hating my lack of inspiration, hating the pointless dialogue and redundant movement expressions and utter lack of creative juices, and at a loss about this new segment of my story world I’m venturing into. I know it’s just for this road block. I’m not burned out on the entire story, but this one piece is just like banging my head on the desk. And you may say “Michelle, if you hate writing this part so much, what makes you think anyone will want to read it? Isn’t that a sign that you should cut it?”
Not always. Truly, some of the best scenes are the hardest to write (more on that tomorrow. I abhor writing action, and it usually takes me weeks to do it, but action scenes are the most complimented part of my writing). Additionally, if I force out a crappy scene, it’ll be way easier to rewrite or edit that scene than to keep staring at a blank page waiting for magic to happen. And a lot of times, I go back and think, “hey, this scene really isn’t that bad.” Writing it takes ten times more mental energy than normal, like I’m barely staying afloat…but I am staying afloat.
Mostly, writing new places in my book trips me up. In my outline, I express my plot at length, but I do no service to physical descriptions or mechanics of setting. In this fifth draft, I’m taking my characters to a location I’ve never taken them to before, and figuring out how to describe such a place is the number one culprit.
So perhaps I should meditate on it. And for next time, for the next book, in outlines soon to come, I will be sure to give new settings more attention. For now, I’m just trying to get it written, so later I can get it right.