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Writers Block

by Wendy Thacker 6 months ago in how to · updated 6 months ago
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And the way I overcome it

I was part way through my piece for a big challenge and I developed writers block. I couldn’t think of one more way to develop the story so I decided to put the whole thing aside and do some practical non writing things like eating and laundry and going to work. This may have been my downfall or my lottery and I was gambling with what was turning out to be a decent albeit half finished story.

I thought about all sorts of things, things that were worthy of writing about and all the things that couldn’t possibly be worth writing about. I still couldn’t think of the one thing I needed for my story to develop. I did think about writing a funny story about clipping my cats toe nails but it sounded too much like how to give a cat a pill, so I didn’t. I searched through all sorts of things on the Internet to unblock myself and found myself in a veritable rabbit warren. I stumbled across a page called 150 facts that you won’t believe. There are some quite peculiar curiosities in this treasure trove such as the Mayor of an Alaskan town is a cat and headstones now come with QR codes so you can read about the deceased on your travels through the graveyard but I came across nothing that was likely to unplug me. I have to admit, I did spend a lot of time Google searching the Google search. By the way, the Alaskan town is Talkeetna and the cats name is Stubbs. I’m now also thinking that at least three quarters of you will be clicking on another tab to google the cat mayor but do that after I’ve finished please. The cat will always be there.

Can you tell that I was procrastinating? Noooo? Really? My kitchen bench was never so clean and I think I vacuumed the whole house twice. I then tried the discipline approach and marched myself back to the computer and googled how to unblock writers block. Well that was another rabbit hole. I did mention at the beginning that this was a rabbit warren but I didn’t tell you that it was designed to suck you in and not let you out. These well intentioned articles by authors who’d written tomes included things like silence your mind and treat it like it doesn’t exist or that it’s a cover for something more deep seated. I think I said pfft more times than I care to remember and I really didn’t want to pay the $250 to find out even if it did come with a free how-to pamphlet.

So I rang my sister who also loves to write. Our styles are very different but our passion for story telling with purpose is quite equal. My brother in law jokes that we are the modern day Bronte sisters. I know he’s trying to buoy our spirits so I don’t dare remind him that none of them lived beyond thirty and their works became recognised only after they were all dead. But yet again, I digress with the full intention of procrastinating some more. So… my sister and I discussed procrastination and her suggestion was to pick three random items and write a piece that includes all three. You’ll be pleased to know that this didn’t help either.

You know what did help? Doing nothing. Yep, that’s right. Doing absolutely nothing but going about my usual business. You see, my writing and my characters are really important to me and forcing words on the page for people that I’m getting to know just doesn’t work. I think what’s going on in the back of my mind, is that I am thinking about them, how they would react to something, how they would interact with others in the story, what’s important to them and when I come across a patch where I can’t write, it’s because I haven’t developed the character enough to know what they would do and by doing nothing, it allows my subconscious to do that work.

My clincher was looking at real life examples of what people did in similar circumstances. Not that there are too many real life examples to a sci fi short story but humans will be humans and we’re as predictable as any other species. Not in a clairvoyant kind of way but in a human nature kind of way.

What does someone do when they’re cornered? What drives someone to perfection? What creates chemistry between people? All of these are human nature questions and Mills and Boon have made a fortune from understanding one particular niche of human nature.

So maybe I didn’t do nothing. Maybe I went looking for my characters in the real world to see them with a little more depth.

So for writers block, just step back a little, take a little inspiration from people you know, people you encounter and think on your characters and how you want them to make people feel and then you can write them as their full selves. Knowing who they are will ultimately tell you what they will do and how you can use them in your story. I have often changed the outcomes of my stories because the characters just wouldn’t dream of doing what I wanted to have happen in the story. Sometimes I’ve added characters or killed off characters because I needed people in my story with certain qualities in order to tell the story that I wanted to tell.

Writers block is a real thing, but if you have a story to tell, give yourself the time to create wonderful, rounded characters and your story will tell itself.

So my short story is now finished. Well the first draft. I’ll sit on it for two weeks then revisit it with fresh eyes and see what tweaking it needs. Then submit and wait. Wait to see if what was brilliant in my mind is at least half way decent in others.

PS I’m voting for Stubbs at the next election

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About the author

Wendy Thacker

I’m a nurse, mother and house renovator, one of those is begrudgingly. And I love words, big words, small words, obscure words and the way they can captivate, send you somewhere you never thought you’d go. Like magic.

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