Lucinda Elliot

A Yuk, Yuk Topic – Writer’s Block

imagesThe dreaded Writer’s Block; that’s a Yuk, Yuk topic indeed.
All writers dread it. It’s supposed to happen to every writer – but many seem as reluctant to admit to it as they are to having sweaty feet or sending round robins at Christmas. Well, I’ve been known to have sweaty feet,but may the day never come when I send out a round robin…

There are a number of posts about writers’ block.

How do I know – well, I er – a friend of mine had it, that’s it…
No actually, I had it myself (general exodus in case it’s catching).
I had it for weeks. (Shouts defiantly) I had it for weeks! And most of these posts assume you’ll only have it for days.

Perhaps it partly depends on what you call writer’s block. I was writing stuff, but it didn’t serve to forward the plot properly; it wasn’t compelling; the creative urge never took over, making me write something that seemed to come from nowhere; generally, it felt flat, and contrived.

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A writer friend was suffering from terrible editing difficulties at the time, and said it was nearly as bad, but I couldn’t agree; at least she’d written stuff that forwarded the plot. I couldn’t.

I’ve had it before. I had it with both ‘Scoundrel’ and ‘Ravensdale’ tantalizingly near the end, when I couldn’t work out how to bring all the main players together for the grande finale. I went on for maybe two weeks, and then I woke up one day with it all so clear to me and so obvious that I marveled that I hadn’t been able to work it out before.

But that was when I was ninety per cent done. Here I was only halfway through a novel, with the greatest dramas to come and the resolution nowhere in sight.

I’ve just had a quick look at the cures recommended. Now, all the things that they recommend, I tried: –

Walking and Exercising (I’m a goody-goody; I do both every day). Didn’t do any good.

Making a cup of tea/coffee (I’m too addicted to tea not to make it constantly anyway). Had no effect,and I made enough cups of tea to fill a swimming pool.

Playing music: I do that every day anyway, too, and often baroque, which is meant to make the two sides of the brain (my what?) work together. Didn’t work.200px-Pamela-1742

Indulging n a treat like a fudge sundae:  I do that too often anyway, and sorry to sound self-righteous, but I don’t think comfort eating is a way out of creative blocks. If I’d had a fudge sundae every day I was uninspired, I’d have ended up not only with writer’s block, but a fat bum to make life perfect.

Keep on trying to write through it; write anyway; just write: I did, and what I churned out didn’t further the plot. It was just so much padding, which would have been fine in the days of those Victorian three volumes but no good now.

…And all the rest of it. One writer even suggested affirmations. Now, I know that you don’t have to be a follower of New Age thought to believe in affirmations, and that athletes routinely use them (and I can see, looking back, that I even used visualization myself in my long ago days as an athlete of sorts); after all, they are supposed to work directly on the uncritical but highly powerful unconscious. Still, that I didn’t try; I just can’t take standing there coming out with them seriously.

One writer remarks that you won’t overcome writer’s block by reading posts about overcoming writers’ block; well, I’d followed that advice before I even knew about it.

In the end, I had to admit it. My problem was largely a loss of faith in the work. It was a problem with the whole structure of the story and my ambiguous feelings towards it.  My topic is a ‘difficult one to write tastefully’ and a real minefield anyway, and I’d gone wrong somewhere earlier on, and the whole thing needed re-writing. On the excellent advice of my ever brilliant writing partner, Jo Danilo, it’s gone in a drawer for year for my old unconscious to mull over.

The Villainous Venn has been left frozen in time as he rushes off with a savage laugh and Clarinda’s godmother’s all revealing magic mirror in his hands, one of the ubiquitous bribed servants at his heels… Yes, it’s a gothic with strong elements of satire.

After fifty thousand words, admitting to temporary defeat is a little tiresome, but there we are.

However, I’ve returned to a planned sequel to ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’ which I’d abandoned after 7,000 words in my eagerness to start on this new project. Whispers: the writer’s block has lifted – for the present.
(Hectoring voice of internalized conscience: That comes of chopping and changing. See where it leads you – to so much wasted time).

Ah, and I thought there was some excellent advice on a blog I found on writer’s block

Finally, if all else fails, the only thing you can do really is keep on writing. One way or another, that will solve the problem over time (if only, as in my case, through your realizing that the whole story needs a rethink and a rewrite).

Ah, and I did like another piece of advice from the post where the recommendation for comfort eating  brought out my disapproval; to write something ridiculously incongruous about your characters; in my case, perhaps the Villainous Venn losing his wiry frame to the charms of fudge sundaes (if they had them in the eighteenth century; they could surely only be done using an icehouse). Well, after all, I have said in a previous post, someone ought to start writing those romances about BBM’s (Big Beautiful Men) to complement the BBW’s (Big Beautiful Women).

2 Responses

  1. I can sympathise, Lucinda! I currently have a novel of over 100,000 words sitting on my hard drive. It’s been through several drafts, and it’s not altogether bad. But there’s something really false about it, something that just doesn’t work. Worse still, I’ve no idea how to fix it. I’ve adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach; perhaps my subconscious will get to work on it while my conscious mind is otherwise occupied…

    I’m surprised that overeating in particular disturbs you, by the way – you seem vastly tolerant of people’s foibles in general! You’d hate life here in Italy, where deep-fried pizza dough and mozzarella are popular appetisers, usually followed by three other courses, all washed down by wine. God knows how Italians manage to stay so skinny!

  2. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has got stuck with what seemed like a good project, Mari, though I suspect you are a great perfectionist.
    I think i might love life in Italy, anyway, Mari, hearty eating or not; I probably put that badly. I don’t mind people having hearty appetites when they led active lifestyles – then it’s natural -it’s the sort of lifestyle that leads to obesity that I object to, all part of the car culture thing. But it is a fault when I’m tolerant of most other forms of excess…

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