I sat down this morning with the intention of continuing the second draft of my novel. I didn’t think I could do it. In fact, it felt like the worst idea in the world. I wanted to do anything but that. I had a mini crisis of confidence. My head felt empty of words. But I tentatively opened up my document and reread yesterday’s session. I still had no idea how I would progress. Nada. Nichts. I mean I have an overall plan, but the dots didn’t want to connect. I wanted to be anywhere apart from sat in front of the dumb manuscript mocking me with its silent stare.
Some call it hitting a wall, others refer to it as the dreaded ‘writer’s block’. I don’t know what to call it. But it hurts. It’s not an ideal position to be in.
A phrase materialised. I didn’t know where it came from. It would lead to nowhere, I was convinced as I wrote it down slowly, hesitantly against my mind’s protestation:
‘Same old thing, same old thing,’ I wrote. Yawn.
Probably describing this same old debilitating feeling, this insurmountable block, this wall I struggled to scale. But as I punctuated that sentence, I had another thought, ‘what if I shift the narrative?’ I’ve been playing with the omniscient voice in this novel as it suits my intended feel by providing a wry commentary on the lives of the characters.
‘Will Terrence ever change? Do any of us ever change? I mean ever, really, truly? Well, speak for yourself. Personally, I’m doomed. Just like poor Terrence,’ so the words continued.
Then I had another idea. Ten words became a hundred, which became a thousand.
So, how did I overcome this wall? How did I write myself out of a creative cul-de-sac and magic enjoyment and inspiration out of a void? By being cruel, that’s how.
Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, right? Sometimes you have to shoot someone in the foot. Firing a gun is one of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve come across. I’m not talking about an actual gun of course. I can’t condone violence just because you believe you suck at writing (which you don’t by the way). Firing a gun in this instance refers to revealing something shocking that will upset the status quo for your characters. I’m not suggesting you write a soap opera, but think of those moments in [insert favourite/least loathed/somewhat familiar soap opera here] that leaves you hanging, that big Eastenders reveal that segues into that dum dum dum OMG! drumroll. For my unlucky character (sorry Terrence) this came in the form of a mysterious, and somewhat unpleasant, phone call:
‘Tut tut tut,’ says a male voice. It is croaky in all the wrong places and punctuates this rebuke with a throaty cough.
‘Who is this?’
‘Tut tut tut,’ the man repeats. ‘You’ve been a naughty boy Terrence. You ain’t been nice ‘ave ya? I seen ya.’
Dum dum dum dum…
If you’re currently stuck, face pressed against a wall, glassy-eyed, hair in hands, head drawn back about to connect cranium with brickwork, don’t. Please, just don’t.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Bring your characters into the chaos, coax them from the pan, and stoke up the fire, make them share your pain and anguish. It’s not fair that you should suffer alone sitting at your desk with no other company than a yapping dog/dozing cat/crying toddler/annoying fly that smacks at intervals into your ear while your characters are swanning off somewhere having a whale of a time is it? That’s just not on. A problem shared is a problem halved, keep telling them that as you write them into some sticky situation. Be cruel to be kind, they won’t mind. You can always make up for it later.
So, if you wanna write, just write (don’t worry about a thing — grammar, punctuation). Write outside the box. Write one-handed. Write while listening to Mongolian throat singing. Write standing on your head. Shift the narrative. Take someone else down with you. But write.
Image credit: Sofia Sforza via Unsplash.