When I started my current (second) novel, I was all momentum, all burning excitement. Twenty thousand words practically wrote themselves. I was on a downhill sled with the wind hitting my face so fast that it chapped my lips and watered my eyes, but damn was it fun.
That was mid 2013. After about 20k words, I put it on hold so I could focus on finishing my first book. Then I had to edit, and I wanted a break for a couple months to recharge, so I didn’t pick up the second novel again until mid 2014.
I got on my sled and did that thing sledders do where they push with their feet, scooting bit by awkward bit towards the precipice where gravity would then take over. But nothing happened. There was no hill, just flat ground. The words that came so easily before were stuck.
I got up and started trudging. That’s how it felt to write. Every sentence, every word, was like lugging heavy boots through thick snow. I gave myself a challenge, dedicating an hour every day for one month to this story in the hopes that the block would come out. That I’d find my hill.
But I didn’t. And by the end of those 31 days, I felt relieved to call it quits.
I didn’t touch the book for nine months.
During that time, I wrote several short pieces that I liked a lot. I (again) edited the bejesus out of my first novel and started researching publishing.
This February, I opened up that file again, assuming the long break would have charged my batteries.
What happened?? I still love the premise, the characters. I know where to go next in the plot, so I’m not stumped. (But I’m not so rigid that it’s formulaic.) I have no other big projects calling my name, so I’m not distracted. And, a luxury that so few writers get, I have the time.
I’ve written more shorts that have poured out of me. But my novel? Trudge trudge trudge.
It hasn’t been all bad. I’m at 42,000 words now, and there have been moments of beauty. Scenes that flowed. Dialogue that made me grin as I wrote it. Last time I wrote, an important scene flowed out of me that I’d been stumped on for ages, and it felt so good.
Yet when I open up my laptop to write, my boots feel heavy. It feels like work. It’s been easier this time than it was during that one-month challenge, but it still feels like something I have to push through, despite the fact that I genuinely, in my heart and soul and guts, love this story.
Maybe trudging’s not so bad, because trudging is still moving forward. Though I do miss the wind in my hair.
Tell me about your worst writer’s block. How did you cope?
9 thoughts on “Just keep trudging”
I have the opposite problem. I have so many stories that I’m working on at once, it’s hard for me to know which are good and which are duds. haha
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The only thing I can ever do when I have writers block is just keep writing, even if it’s just an entire page of “AAAAAAAAAARGH”.
Also, I find reading a book from a new genre/new author helps.
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If the writing feels like pulling teeth, I always stop, because nothing fruitful will come of it. But what I’m in right now isn’t like that, it’s just more of a push than I would like. More like work. I miss that downhill feeling from before, but maybe that what beginnings always feel like. It’s like the infatuation period of a relationship! Ha 🙂
Hi Shannon. I’m not sure there is any correct answer to this omnipresent obstacle to writing that you are currently facing. I have repeatedly read where others have said; you must press forward and write, write, write! I noted that that is where triSarahtops (a blogger whose writing I am very fond of) left it at. Please remember—she is only a dinosaur after all, and may have designs on consuming your latest literary effort for her own personal enjoyment. Now, I have had others read to me (as reading is a lot of work, especially if you’re reading this response), about hacks who will actually get up and go take a walk (think of the money they saved by not using Jenny Craig!), grab a bite, sit on the throne, lose a calorie or two, and then read Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Seuss. But, most of this writing horde agree on one thing, and that is; writing inevitably leads to writers block, and that everyone deals with it sooner or later (or as in my case, constantly), in different ways. Personally (now you just knew I was going to get around to that, didn’t you?) I’ve found getting up and taking a walk, or going some place I really enjoy (will occasionally make no difference at all) and can put me in the best frame of mind—which can be awful when it comes to writing, but at least I feel better about the idea. However, having said that (I’ve just went through experiencing writers block, and nothing I did really worked) you may find that sometimes pressing on and writing, even when you don’t feel like it, can lead you out of that funk and into unexpected areas of writing exploration. Here (and it’s working at this very moment) is where I find that this approach ignited a whole new line of thought, which by the way, suddenly stimulated the writing process (that’s the trick to writing, but don’t quote me on it) and into exciting unexpected twist and turns in my writing style—such as it is. Well, that costed you—some dictionary will tell you COSTED is not a word at all—nothing, except the five minutes of your life (you’ll never get back) that it took to read my suggestions. Nevertheless, you may expect my bill any day now, as I am always starting a Swiss bank account and never seem to quite get around to activating it, as no one has ever honored any of my bills I sent to them—at least, not yet anyway. I hope this helps you (in some convoluted way) into jump starting your own writing again, but if it doesn’t please know, I have a very powerful attorney (not) on retainer in case you decide to sue me for this terrible waste of your time. By the way, thank you so very much for deciding to follow me over in “My Attic.” All I can assume is that triSarahtops fell into some new family money and bribed you to follow me, but why she didn’t send me any of that unexpected windfall instead is still a puzzlement. Still, I want you to know how grateful I am, Shannon—to be your new leader! Again, thank you for following the very cluttered thinking that goes on in my blog, and I hope I make you laugh—otherwise I think I’ll take up writing drama. ;o)
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Ahahaha. Best. Note. Ever.
Yup, pressing on is exactly what I’m doing. And strangely enough, posting this entry seems to have greased the block a bit, because I had my easiest time writing this week than I’ve had in awhile. It goes back and forth – I’ve had days where my writing was like, BANG, KAPOW, COMIN AT THAT PAPER LIKE A FREIGHT TRAIN! Then others that were a struggle. Let’s hope this good streak continues. Though maybe I shouldn’t be expecting all writing days to be good writing days, maybe that’s part of the problem. Anyway, I’ve decided to do my writing outside of the house more often – different settings churn up my brain soup, and keep me from associations that I’ve formed of other workspaces. (For instance I don’t write anymore from the same desk where I do research.) It helps! Thank you for your great note, and I’m excited to read your blog. I hope you’ll visit this blog again as well!
I’m glad. For writers, writing is a job, but like any job, (passionate as we are about it) there are days where maybe it feels like a chore, but that’s also true of any job. With writing there’s this passion to produce something we care about, because we can’t help ourselves. Well, that’s the last of the truth serum. Have a great 4th Shannon! :O)
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It’s nice to hear that some other writers struggle to write. Your snow analogy is apt. Seems like most people have no problem putting the words on paper, but I get stuck often. My first huge writing endeavor was a 200,000 word fanfic novel. As I was writing it I had no comprehension of just how long it was XD Although with a good editing job it probably could have been reduced to 50,000 words, lol. It had gotten to a point where every chapter was difficult but I had been writing it over several years, so I lost a lot of the momentum. When I started writing original fiction I decided to devote myself to short stories for a bit because I’m not ready to write another novel. I still get stuck on short stories though. It is what it is. I just work through it and get it done. It’s not always pretty, but that’s what editing is for XD It helps for me to brainstorm with friends though. I often figure out the story by myself. I guess I like to write while someone is holding my hand, even if it is only virtual 😛
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Dang, 200k! No wonder you were exhausted! Nothing wrong with virtual hand-holding. It’s nice to know that people have our backs 🙂 And it’s definitely nice to know that other writers struggle with the same things. It helps to not feel alone.