I was thinking recently about what to post on Instagram. There are some great sites, full of all things bookish and beautiful. Unarguably photogenic moments, captured all over the world. Typewriters surrounded by fresh blossoms. Inspiring quotes in exquisite fonts. Slogan coffee cups and notebooks.
But, scrolling through Instagram got me thinking, that’s not what writing looks like. That’s how writing feels, on a good day. When the writing flows, and you’re carried away on an ocean of urgent intent. Characters become vivid. Images striking, scents evocative, voices distinct, even the most fictious locations, absolutely tangible. You’re a fiction-writing, typing machine, born to do this shizzle!
When you get in that good place, it’s a high, and nothing can separate you from your work. Once you reach your destination, whether that’s the end of a chapter, a plot-point, or simply finishing a single sentence which has so-far eluded you, nothing feels as good. Seriously. But the reason it feels so good, is due to the hours, days, sometimes even months, when you’re all out of ink.
If Instagram captured what writing looks like, rather than how it feels when it’s going good, we’d be treated to a series of writers sorting through laundry, looking mildly perplexed. Gazing from windows, presumably dwelling on that next, great paragraph, but more likely wondering what to have for lunch. And on a bad day, drawing angry lines through reams of words, wearing last night’s PJs, surrounded by an assortment of illegible, handwritten notes. But mostly, they’d be scrolling through Instagram, looking at typewriters surrounded by blossoms, reading inspiring quotes, drinking from slogan coffee cups, trying to convince themselves they’ll live to type ‘The End’ someday.
Writer’s Block strikes every single writer, every, single time. It’s the Yin to the writing Yang. Or the Yang to the writing Yin, but either way, it’s what happens as you head towards completing your book. And, I’m here to remind you, you are heading towards the finish-line. Don’t let The Block fool you. Writer’s Block is your chance to critique the work. Wrestle with plotlines. Revise certain scenes. Deepen your understanding of characters. You might be avoiding the keyboard, but you’re doing the work. You’d just rather be writing. So, in the interests of solidarity, let me share some breakthrough moments:
Stare moodily from a window while brewing your Arabica or Robusta. Tell yourself the whole thing’s a waste of time, but as you get yourself re-caffeinated, face it, you’re overreacting. Ultimately, you’re telling a story you feel compelled to share. It’s hard-work, but it’s your work, so admit there’s worse problems than ironing out a plotline, and remember it’s only difficult because you’re committed to making it stronger. And, you will make your story stronger.
You might have vacated the desk, but that doesn’t mean downing tools. Write down the issues, put any doubts into words, ask yourself those questions which trouble you. You need to problem-solve, not sulk, to search for the answers. Getting your slump in front of you, means freeing thoughts and isolating issues into something more manageable.
Change the scenery. Whether that means braving the elements, working out, or disappearing into a box-set, unplug the engine and put yourself on stand-by. Ideas come from the ever-flowing subconscious, not from that erratic wasp of a mind of yours, so switch-off and notice how ideas spring from ‘non-moments’. It’s no coincidence, Grasshopper.
You’re entitled to a time-out. Read. Go to the Movies. Think about what to post on Instagram. Catch up on Twitter. Ogle Pintrest. Grab some inspiration, and while you’re at it, remind yourself of what you’re trying to create with your own work. How would you describe the tone of your story? How do you want the reader to feel? Tune into whatever evokes those same feelings, and while you’re analyzing, you might get a little energized.
Annoyingly simple, isn’t it? I can’t tell you the hours I’ve spent, seized by my own word count. I know something’s not right. I can’t place it, or if I can, I’ve no idea how to fix it. I go through the previous steps. The self-created drama. The doodling. Time passes. I remember I’ve got a story to tell…and finally, I face it. You mightn’t know where to start, so start wherever that takes you. Re-read, step back into the story, and take advice from your characters.
6. Repeat steps 1-to-5 until inspired to write blog post.
(c) Patricia Caliskan