Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Writing 101: A Different Kind of Writer's Block

I haven't made a secret of the fact that I got stuck on my current manuscript, lodged somewhere between two chapters and a time gap. None of my normal tricks and techniques were working, and the other day I realized why. I've got a different kind of writer's block...and I think lots of other writers have it, too.

Double-Edged Sword

Being an author is both a blessing and a curse in many different ways, and in a way I'm cursed by blessings. I started working on my newest manuscript even before my latest novel (Hope's Rebellion) was published. It's been on my "idea" list for quite a while, inspired by something I saw on Jeopardy! like two years ago. The point is, I've been very excited about writing this story. So why have I been stuck on it?

In a way, it's because of Hope's Rebellion. While sweating out the first draft of the project we'll call Mary, until I reveal the entire title anyway, I've been working on promotions for Hope's. This includes giving out review copies, naturally, and the reviews have started to come in. Happily, they've been largely positive. Some of them have even been effusive in praise.

I read another 5-star review a while back, and my stomach actually dropped. I didn't know why, at first, but now I do. Because now I also know why I've been stuck on the manuscript Mary: I'm feeling pressured. I got what I consider to be the best review I've ever received for Hope's, wherein the reviewer said there wasn't a spare word in the book and that everything had a purpose. Since I practically worship the art of brevity, I was completely blown away by this and totally overjoyed. But every time I opened up Mary, I felt a little queasy...and instead of writing even one sentence, I just stared and stared at the blankness of the page.

It's never a good idea to think about brevity while writing a first draft. The first draft is for vomiting the words on the page, typing faster than you can think, going off in weird directions and going back to edit all that mess because it's just too much. I've been letting the pressure get to me, and it's created a new kind of writer's block. 

Stress can impeded one's ability to think. It leads to hasty decisions, lack of concentration and all sorts of other stuff that stifles creativity. And stress can cause writer's block, too. Sometimes you can have difficulty writing even if you know what you want to write, and how you want to write it, and where you're going to go with the story next. 

How you treat writer's block depends on the type of writer's block you've got. In my case, relaxing is the best answer. Sometimes you've just got to take a breath, focus...and forget about all the reviews both good and bad. Remember that you can't let anyone else shape your stories, for any reason, and let go. Once you start writing for you again, that writer's block should begin to fall away.

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