I’m reading two books at the moment, although not at the same time. I have a hard enough time retaining information as it is, without splitting my mind in two. One is Terry Pratchett’s ‘Making Money’, from the local library. The other is ‘Writing from the Inside Out’ by Dennis Palumbo. Of the latter, I’ve only read part one but it’s already spawned the graphic you see as my featured image.
I didn’t think I had writer’s block. I’m writing now aren’t I? Every day I come up with some idea or other about a story or poem; that’s enough, right? Just because I’m not actually writing anything doesn’t mean I have writer’s block. Look, I’m writing a blog…writer’s block my ass!
Who am I kidding? Just because I could tell you the gist of the story I’m kinda formulating in my head don’t mean I don’t have writer’s block. Of course I do. Why else would I sit down, start to develop an idea and then stop because I think it’s weak or unexciting? There’s only so many ‘how to’ books you can read. I understand story structure. I know there needs to be conflict, which then gets worse and is, even negatively, resolved. I also know there’s a number of reasons why I’m not getting anywhere at developing a story
1. I don’t have faith in myself.
For someone so seemingly comfortable in their own skin, which I generally am, I suffer with some social anxiety. This makes me change my mind at the last minute about attending events, or feel out-of-place and awkward at parties. When I was little, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my apparent nervousness about staying over at a friends made me go home early. It makes no sense; many times when I’ve ignored the feelings I’ve gone out and had a great time. Other times, when I’ve given in, it’s made me lose friends.
It all stems from experiences at school. Times when I’d be in a group and we’d all be sharing stories and ideas. I always felt like people weren’t interested in what I had to say. I wasn’t the funny one, the adventurous one, the deprived one, the complaining one. It’s made me feel uninteresting so I stopped talking about myself. It also made me feel like I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say.
And I’m scared. Scared of other people’s opinions. Scared of what my writing might reveal. Scared I’ll learn it’s all a waste of time.
That’s why this blog is so important. It’s helping me find my voice, work through my mental blocks. When I was doing other kinds of research into writing, one thought shone through to me…I wrote it on post-it notes and stuck it on my wall. Write for yourself. That’s what I need to start doing.
2. Trust in my writing.
Or lack there of. When you do take the time to read these ‘how to’ books; whether it’s felt that they help in the long run or not, they always come back to the same thing… read other writing. That always throws me into a cosmic spin. On the one hand I can appreciate and admire the work of another writer. On the other, it magnifies the inadequacies I feel.
Take Pratchett for example (RIP)…
‘A brief spell of thundery weather passed across the chief cashier’s face.’
‘Bent shrugged, an impressive maneuver on that gaunt frame. It was like watching an ironing board threatening to unfold.’
I understand the concept of ‘show, don’t tell’, but this is sheer mastery. (And, I must remind myself, has been refined in over 30 years of experience).
This links to…
3. Lacking detail.
I don’t see my self as a prose writer. I never have. Even when I started getting firsts for my Creative Writing assignments in my third year at university I didn’t. I think it’s because of my process. I’m sure every creative person feels this…it has to be perfect from the first draft. That’s where I always fall short. I know that all I really need to do is get started: she wanted this, so did that, but something else happened etc etc and then go back and start to build the scenes and paint the picture, layer the plot and so on. This is the frustration…if I know that, why can’t I just do it?
I put too much pressure on myself – you need the bare bones before you add the flesh. No one’s going to see those drafts. Time and patience and discipline, that’s all it takes.
4. Not liking conflict.
Conflict: the engine that drives the story. The steam that smoothes your shirt. The spider that spins the web (and other imagery). Not a fan. I prefer harmony, cooperation, clarity in communication. This is another mental block I need to get passed.
Here’s a few notes I have about conflict…
‘A character wants something, and the harder it is to achieve it, the more dramatic the story.’
‘Conflict/dilemma – how struggle manifests in action’.
‘Conflict is not the same as confrontation.’
That last one was a bit of an epiphany. Conflict I deal with everyday, and quite calmly I might add. Confrontation, that’s a whole new animal. Confrontation bears it’s teeth and makes you hide under the bed while conflict skitters around the floor but can be caught with a well-timed tea towel. I need not be scared of conflict.
5. Use of music.
I write better to instrumental music. I know this. When I was at university I became aware of a guitarist called Michael Berk, whose finger-style playing sends me into this clear-headed trance. It got me through the essays and research of my BA and PGCE study, yet when it comes to doing writing I hardly ever think about listening to it. Like when I’m doing resumes or cover letters, it’s usually after the third lame attempt at selling myself, when my head feels all poofy, that I finally go…music! Duh!
Since my husband introduced me to string arrangements of familiar rock bands, like Vitamin String Quartet doing SOAD’s Toxicity, my playlist has increased. I’m a sucker for a good bit of violin or fiddle, and anything that puts a spin on the familiar.
So, yeah, must put on the headphones a little sooner in the creative moment.
When I started this blog it was a way to help me establish some kind of discipline and routine. I’m not going to repeat what I’ve said in previous posts but I definitely need more discipline. I need to write every day. A lovely gentleman read my blog and emailed me with some advice; to write at least 2 pages a day. I want to, I really do, but I feel like it needs to be worthwhile and, although I feel I’m finding my direction more and more each day, I don’t think I’m quite there yet.
These are all just excuses though. Reasons for me to ignore what’s really going on. I guess it’s a form of denial really but the waters are evaporating and what’s left is salty and bright…
- Only. Procrastination.
- the action of delaying or postponing something.“your first tip is to avoid procrastination”Google.
That’s all it is. I do it all the time. And not just with the things I don’t want to do…the things I do want to do, or the things I need to do, too. I have no idea why. I guess I work well to deadlines and enjoy that final rush of getting something completed when needed. I can’t give myself a deadline though. My lack of discipline will make me fob it off somehow and make up another reason why I didn’t do it and how it’s ok.
I mean, come on, I was doing some research and just closed a post called ‘How to Stop Putting Things of Until “Later”‘ so I could finish reading it another time.
That’s it then – kick the procrastinator aside and get something done!
But tomorrow, I’ve written enough today.