My latest episode of writer’s block lasted, on and off, for six weeks. It felt different. The words flowed, and then they didn’t. Plot strands wound around each other, and then frayed. My cast of characters seemed to look at me with sighs of exasperation as though saying, “Would you just get on with it already?” And I’d try, only to then block myself once again.
Eventually it became evident that the cure for this episode required an accurate diagnosis, so I sat back and studied it. I’m so far along now. This is the easy part—the climax, the resolution. Seriously, once you finish these thirty + pages you have FINISHED the first draft.
What the hell? There it was. Staring me in the face. The most idiotic, ridiculous, asinine reason for writer’s block that had ever happened to any novelist in the history of all novel writing. I didn’t want to finish the novel because I didn’t want to leave it. I’d lived in the world with Baby Doll, Georgia, Elias, Javier, etc., for three years. They had become family to me. And, once I’d typed the final letter of the final word in the final chapter, it would be goodbye.
Of course, we all know that’s not really true. The ending of a first draft means the beginning of the second one, so I’d continue to live in this world for months to come. But rewriting and editing are not the same thing as writing. Writing involves expansive freedom and creativity. It is a series of “what if” exercises undertaken in a judgment-free zone inside my brain. Characters evolve from plot devices to two-dimensional figures to real, breathing people who insert themselves through the story and take it places I never expected. It’s like watching a blank canvas become a still life, then transform into a magical, animated forest, lush with color and movement.
But now, with the final stroke of the paint brush, I am done.
Once the malady had been diagnosed, it resolved. I dove into the final thirty pages. I celebrated the completion of the draft with a toast of my coffee cup. I shared it with my family and a few friends, though I don’t think they got the importance of it. Maybe they didn’t know the best response to “Hey, that project I’ve been obsessing about for a couple of years and told you very little about? I finished it.”
Now, I’ve put on a different hat: merciless editor. I’m slicing, dicing, loving it, loathing it. The second draft is coming along well. I’ve shortened it (I needed to) while adding a few key scenes. There is still one mucky section that needs something—not sure what—but I trust I’ll figure it out. If all else fails, I’ll ask one of my characters for help, because after all, Baby Doll, Georgia, Elias, and Javier live on. They just sleep in a different part of my brain now.
What’s been your experience with “writer’s block?”