On Getting Stuck

I spent a large portion of my morning lazing in bed. I’d had a really weird dream about a tornado, and how Starbucks wouldn’t let us go home. So, I took my sweet time to think about the dream, and what it meant and why I’d had it.

I decided that the pouring rain and wind lent to the weather theme. As for Starbucks not letting me leave… Well, that’s a rabbit hole to tumble down on another day.

After pondering my subconscious I perused my morning paper, i.e. the interwebs. First Facebook, then Twitter, and lastly WordPress. I save WordPress for last because it’s usually the best. New articles from people I follow, and of course, the Freshly Pressed for the controversial and thought provoking.

While reading, I came across an article that said, “How Not Taking a Break is Bad for Your Writing”. Or something like that.

I clicked into it, excited, because I thought maybe I’d find an excuse not to write today. I’ve been working really hard the past few weeks, and my brain felt like pudding last night. I was looking for an easy way out today.

But, the article was a bit disappointing. It wasn’t the gift I was hoping, not an “it’s ok to give yourself a break every now and then”. It was an explanation of how, when you’re writing is stuck, sitting there staring at a blank screen isn’t always the answer. The article implored me to get up, to move, and to go outside.

Which, ok. Sure.

But, I’m not stuck. I haven’t been. Not really ever. Occasionally a chapter or scene fights me, and the writing is hard. But I’ve never been honestly stuck.

And here’s why.

In my experience being ‘Stuck’, or having a bad case of Writer’s Block, comes from one thing:

What you’re writing sucks. I’m not saying the whole book, or that your actual technique is bad, but the scene, the moment. You know, even as you’re writing it, that it will get cut. It is bad. And so you balk. You let yourself think, and that’s writing death.

So, here’s what I do to get over being stuck. I write the shitty scenes. I know they’re bad. I know I’m going to cut them out. But I write them, because they’ll get me where I want to go. I recently wrote a scene that, while a ton of fun to write, and good for character building, I know probably won’t make the final revision. But, I kept writing because it was a stepping stone to the next scene that needed to happen.

You can always go back and pick a different stone, but it will still get you where you need to go.

All that being said, getting outside and moving is a great way to refresh your mind and come up with new ideas. Maybe even just sitting next to the window can be helpful.

And so, that’s my two cents on being stuck. On to this week’s achievements and goals.

In the past 7 days I’ve written 10,000 words. As previously discussed my brain felt like pudding most of yesterday, and I didn’t even write anything new. But, I did edit Chapter 2 of ‘Vessels’, which took about two solid hours. Adding a large scene, cutting poor sentences and paragraphs. It was a lot.

So, I’ve met my goal of writing a chapter a week for ‘Cards’ as well as editing a chapter a week for ‘Vessels’. And, I’ve actually written about 3 chapters this week, so I’m killing it!

Suddenly I understand how Brandon Sanderson can write 30k words a week. I don’t think I could, I’m not that fast. But, if I didn’t work a day job, I could probably do 20k.

So goals for this coming week. I really just want to keep the momentum going. I’m going to start chapter 9 today, though I anticipate slow going. Tomorrow and Sunday I probably won’t get much done, but Monday-Thurs will be good writing days.

Our six year anniversary is on Thursday. I have the day off, but I won’t be writing. I’m not closing next Friday, and I have the following Saturday off, so next week’s writing days are limited. I still think I can make these goals, however.

Wish me luck!




Not What I’d Had in Mind

Writing is hard today. Don’t know why. I’m sitting in the lobby of my Starbucks, freezing under the unnecessary air conditioning, and staring at the blank screen of chapter 11.

Chapters 9 and 10 were so good. And really came quite easily. Now I have to fight for 11.

It doesn’t help that my brain is clogged with other things.

I started playing Defiance, and it’s awesome. So of course it’s almost all I can think about. If I could, I would play 24 hours a day, that’s how much I enjoy it.

Also, I had a new story idea and it has me really excited, but I don’t want to even touch it until the rough draft of Vessels is finished. Which is really hard to do.

Add to it that I’ll have been at work for about 12 hours today, and somehow didn’t manage to drink any coffee, and I’m mentally zapped.

So, basically, Vessels has been ignored this last week. Except for when I shower. For some reason I always think about my stories when I’m in the shower.

Even now, as I write this post, I’m really just avoiding chapter 11. I tell myself that I’m just using the blog to work out my problems with the chapter, but so far that’s not really happening.

Maybe it needs to marinate? I don’t know. I have flashes of moments from the chapter, and they’re good. Exciting. I should want to write them.

But, once I actually sit down and rest my fingers on the black keys of my MacBook, nothing happens. 

I think I’m nervous. What if 11 doesn’t stack up? 9 and 10 have set the standard, and I’m terrified that 11 is going to suck.

How dumb is that?

Another method of ignoring this chapter has come in the form of editing the Vessels playlist on my ipod. This is the music I listen to while writing the novel. it includes the collective genius of Muse, 30 Seconds to Mars, Incubus, Cage the Elephant, The Civil Wars, Jeff Buckley, The Lumineers, Soundgarden, and Placebo.

It’s an odd playlist, but most of the songs make sense for the novel, either through the lyrics or the actual sound or tone of the song.

Anyway, this post has taken the better part of two hours to write, and as the evening persists, my mood steadily drops. I can’t write tonight, it would seem. I can’t focus. I can only scribble in purple ink the tenuous ramblings of my broken mind.

Impotence. That’s the feeling.