I have often come across writers who complain of being blocked. My apologies but a ‘writer’s block’ is something that I really do not understand. I honestly do not. To me writing is about putting yourself on paper. It is about emoting on paper. So, if ‘writer’s block’ were to be a true phrase then it would mean that a person has nothing, literally nothing to emote! We all know that cannot be true, right? The brain never sleeps. No, it does not and neither do emotions. Even when we sleep, the brain continues to work. So then what is this writer’s block that everyone keeps talking about?
The noted author and poet Maya Angelou put it rather succinctly when she said – ‘I suppose I do get ‘blocked’ sometimes but I don’t like to call it that. That seems to give it more power than I want it to have’.
Now I may not agree with “Writer’s block” per se but I do know that we all, I included, run out of ideas at times. There are moments when our Muse deserts us. We get stuck in our stories and the ideas do not flow. So, what to do if that happens? What to do when we are at a loss for ideas? What to do when the usual techniques for idea generation desert us too? Well if you take the advice that I give myself, then you must keep writing anyway. I concur with Ken Macleod (Scottish science fiction writer) when he says, ‘the secret to becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing’. And, that is exactly what I do.
Like most amateur writers, I too get stuck with my writing at times. There are times when I literally sit and stare at my computer screen for I cannot find the words to fit into my story. It’s almost as if on these days my vocabulary bids me adieu. Try as I do, I am unable to come up with the right passages to take my story forward. These times are admittedly few and far between but they do plague me. However, over time I have learnt to deal with these phases. There are two things that I do when I get stuck.
I take a break from writing – I believe that not finding the right words to write is just my brain’s way of telling me to take a break. So that is exactly what I do. When my ideas do not flow as fluidly as I want them to, I take a step back. I switch off my laptop and go back to being my mundane self. I watch a movie (yes, I am quite a Netflix junkie), finish my chores, go grocery shopping, catch up with friends and family etc. I literally do anything and everything that I do not do, when I write. I often use real life as a muse for my stories. The inane conversations, the everyday incidents, and people we meet; they all have stories. They all inspire me to write. So, taking a step back and just being myself gives me fresh perspectives and ideas.
I take walks. With or without music on, walks are actually my ‘ME’ time. I walk alone as that gives me time to think things through. If I am stuck in a plot, I look at the people around me, I look at their activities, try to imagine their stories and that offers up fresh perspectives. The real stories that I see around me everyday often find their way into my fictional stories.
Trust me when I say that this ‘ME’ time actually works because after some ‘ME’ time when I come back to write, my mind is fresh with ideas.
I make two drafts – another little thing that works for me when I feel stuck is to make two drafts of the story. In the first document I just let my emotions flow. I write with abandon, unconcerned about any word limit. I sketch out my characters in detail; I give them distinct personas. I add some quirks to them. I add incidents and events to the draft. In short I literally vent myself on paper (oooops, I mean computer screen). After I have done that, I make a copy of the document which becomes my second draft.
In the second draft I edit and eliminate out everything that is redundant. I cross out unnecessary details. I omit the things that do not conform to the central plot/theme of my story. This helps me to reduce the word count substantially. It also helps me to unclog my brain. Once I have shortened my second draft, I start substituting vocabulary. I also use more adjectives and adverbs to spruce up the grammar. My idea is to always eliminate unnecessary clutter from my story while maintaining its theme and plot. For example, consider the following sentences. The first is a sentence that could be from the first draft, the second sentence from the second, edited draft.
First Sentence – I woke up in the morning and I realized that I was not feeling well.
Rewritten sentence – I woke up in the morning feeling ill.
The point I am trying to make is that long winded sentences, flowery language etc tends to clog my thinking. So when I edit my story and after that compare both the drafts, it often unclogs my mental machinery and I am better able to visualise the direction I want the story to go in. The ideas come naturally after that point.
To me writing is not about putting out a perfect story. It’s about putting a part of you in that story. Writing is not about having people read your story and say, “Wow! That’s a great story.” To me writing is about having people read your story and say, “Wow! That’s a great story by Sonal.”
Your writing should be distinctly your own style. It should carry your stamp even if the story is anonymously presented. People should be able to identify you by your style of writing and not because the story carries your name. That to me is what real writing is all about. And as for “Writer’s block”, Bah! There is no such thing, my friend. Just keep writing……
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