When the writing fights back…
It’s not writer’s block that gets me. I always have words and stories! It’s when a particular story takes a hiatus unexpectedly that I find myself struggling.
What do I mean by “hiatus” you might ask? Well, let me tell you about what’s been happening lately and share some tips with you while I’m at it, in case this happens to you.
For me, stories come on their own time.
Some writers can push through blocks or pauses in the writing process. I am not one of them, and I don’t think that’s a healthy approach for me anyway. A pause is when the story stops rolling out of my brain and through my fingertips onto the screen for a short period. It isn’t the same as a block–where nothing will come and it feels like a scramble to find any words at all–it’s more like needing to hit the pause button on a video while I take a bio or snack break. Except in this case I’m not the one hitting the pause button, it’s the story itself.
It’s like the story needs to gather itself together before we can go on telling it.
When the story is ready again, the words will start to flow as if nothing ever happened. It’s pretty magical, honestly. I’ve talked before about how my characters come to me already fully realized and with their own personalities and agendas. I don’t have control over them, I swear. They bust in and do what they want! The stories themselves are much the same way. I control how the words come out, and I have plot ideas and places I want the characters to go. But once things start, I often feel like I’m along for the ride while the story spills out with no regard to what I planned on or wanted.
[Yes, realistically I know that I’m responsible for the whole shebang. I’m not channeling some great Spirit of Storytelling or something. Or am I?]
So what to do when this happens?
The truth of it for me is that I can’t force the writing. That just pisses me off because nothing comes out right. I’ll just end up ditching all of it. But I can work on other things in the meantime. What that means is that my brain is still engaging with my creative centers, and I can let the other story sit in the background and marinate in possibility until it’s ready to re-engage with me.
What that means is that I’ve had TWO stories I’ve been working on. The secondary one is just for me right now; I may or may not release it to the public at some point. I’m just writing it for the sheer joy of interacting with the characters and the plot. That’s what I mean when I say I’m not blocked, by the way. I have no end of tales to tell and words to string together.
Other ways I handle a pause in a story flow:
- immerse myself in another different creative activity
- do something physical like dancing or walking
- work on social media and blog posts
- go on an Artist’s Date *
- take a break and pamper myself for a few days
In my current case, the break has been for an extended time, so I’ve indulged in several of these tactics!
The biggest piece of advice I can offer is try not to panic. I know that it can feel scary and overwhelming to have your writing just shut off like that, but trust the struggle and your skills and know that this is a learning process as a writer. Stories can have their own schedule and not everyone can force themselves through a lapse in writing. It’s okay. You’ll get to the other side.
I linked to it above, but I can’t recommend The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron * enough for times like this. She’ll give you even better tools and advice than I just did!