Friday, September 3, 2010

Breaking Through the Dam (my first writer's block)

Okay, so truth be known, I had been stuck for quite some time in the final chapters of my WIP. In fact, it feels like the last 1/4 of my novel has taken me as long to write as the first 3/4. Very frustrating to have the words flowing like a downstream river, only to hit a dam with no idea of how to get over or around it. But alas, this is what happened. It doesn't help that I have been completely sleep deprived (let's just say that I often end up on the couch at some point during the night because a king size bed may seem big, but it's a whole hell of a lot smaller when there are two four year olds sleeping between dh and I :-)).

Anyway, I had been really struggling with these final scenes in my ms. I know the ending already, but it's the climatic scenes right before that were stumping me. I knew what I wanted to happen, but couldn't find the words or picture in my head of how to make it happen. The movie in my head got stuck. I'd sit to type and look at the screen and then I'd open my blog and play around with that. And then I'd go back to my WIP, write a few sentences, erase it and then I'd go to my favorite website, AW and search desperately for something new and interesting on the board so I could procrastinate further. I'd smack my hand, return to my WIP, type something, erase and then check and respond to other blogs. Back to my WIP and...oh, I need to check my email. After all, it's been a whole five minutes since I last checked, you never know, right? Ha.

Yeah...I was having a writer's block and it was majorly upsetting me. I guess I didn't realize it was a true writer's block (I had never really had one), but looking at it now that's exactly what it was. I think I was ashamed to admit that. Not only to other's, but mostly to myself. It made me doubt myself. It made me believe for a small moment that there's no way I could be an actual writer if I was unable to get the necessary words down on the page. I tried stepping away for a few days, I tried working on other stories I have on the back burner, but I couldn't seem to concentrate on anything because this mental block was taking over my life. I would wake in the middle of the night and not fall asleep for hours because my mind would not turn off. I was desperate to find a solution on how to break the damn, dam.

So a couple of days ago, I looked at what I had so far in this chapter, took a deep breath, DELETED it and started the scene over, going in a totally different direction with it. And you know what happened? Yep, it started to work. The ideas and words and movie started to play again in my head. When I write, I tend to see everything happening like it's before me on the big screen. So I closed my eyes, pictured the scene in this new direction and voila, it all made sense. It all came together. I realize now that I was trying to force something that just wasn't meant to work.

It was a very well built dam I hit. I tried to go right through it, but that didn't work. It was too strong. I tried to go around it, but that didn't work either. I tried to go over it, but damn if this dam wasn't the highest built dam ever. So what did I do? I back tracked. I swam my way upstream against the current (it wasn't easy to let go of the fact that I had already swam all that way only to turn back), and made my way to that place in the river where it forks off in different directions and tried a different route. Now, I admit I have come across a few small sized dams on this new route, but they're more of the normal sized dams that I'm able to push my way through.

The lesson: Writers hit dams and that's okay. It's part of the process. Don't be afraid to swim backwards against the current. Don't look at it as wasted effort (but I spent so much time trying to make this work) Sometimes, no matter how hard you push and push, things are just not meant to be. Let it go and try a totally new and different approach. Trust yourself enough to let it all go and know that there is another solution out there. After all, in the end, the only thing that matters is getting to your final destination. It doesn't matter how you get there as long as you get there.


  1. Good for you! Love the analogy of backtracking to find a different fork/route and, boy, do I know what you mean. Serendipity gave me fits until I fixed the early issues I knew weren't working. It's still my albatross-from-hell, but at least the thing is finished (for now). Glad you hit your stride! Great job!

  2. I know what youre talking about. I stalled at 35k on my last WIP and realised to fix it, I really had to go back to the beginning. which, kinda sucks. and it feels like wasted effort in a way - but now that i've started thinking outside the box and stopped thinking about ways to salvage everything i had - well, I'm back to writing again - even though I'm sitting on 10k now instead of the 35k from before (may be able to slice and salvage a few scenes...)

    thanks for sharing - i find it inspirational and encouraging.

    also - looking forward to that climax!


  3. Ah, so glad to hear you're swimming well again! That's a great analogy, btw. I can't wait to read the end of this thing now. Ok, I know I have those chapters of yours to do. Tomorrow I promise. :)

  4. This post kind of ties in to Nathan Bransford's post yesterday about how he was so set on his second book having a particular beginning. I created a block for myself by sticking to a story device that wasn't really working.

    I thought it was the writing causing the problem, not the dream frame I was using--it wasn't until my critique group encouraged me to throw that out, that I was able to come up with all these other good ideas.

  5. Thanks guys for sharing your writer block frustrations with me.

    Angelica, that's exactly how it felt. I created the block for myself because I was sticking to a direction that wasn't working. Once I let it go, the words all came flowing to my head.


Blog Design by Use Your Imagination Designs images from the End of Love kit by Lily Designs