Sometimes this blog stops dabbling in toasters and sofas, ceases to philosophise about contentment and end-gaining, halts the process of reviewing TV programmes and real ales and remembers what it was supposed to be about; namely, moments in the life of a self-underemployed writer. I had such a moment yesterday when I found myself completely blocked in writing the novel. I’d started a new chapter and managed to write a few pages but they weren’t leading anywhere: clearly, I needed new inspiration and a fresh direction but where were they going to come from? When I’d been for a walk and watched a bit of a video and had a rest and nothing worked, where the hell was I going to find my mojo?
Today’s writing quote has this to say on the subject of moving on:
‘A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.’
There’s something about starting a new project, whether it’s a book, a poem, a story or a new chapter, that is daunting. You seem to feel the need to raise your game; to up things by a quantum level. This new thing is bigger than you are and you need to grow in order to challenge it. And there lie the roots of writer’s block: the feeling that you’re not good enough. Maybe if you wait a little, do something else for a while, that stunning inspiration will come and you’ll be able to move on.
Nope. Nuh-uh, ain’t gonna happen. Not no way nohow, no sir. I don’t know why these ideas get into the DNA of writing that don’t seem to occur in other fields, but they do: you wouldn’t find an athlete saying ‘I’m not ready to run a marathon yet; maybe if I wait a little the inspiration will come’; you don’t hear musicians saying ‘I can’t tackle Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D minor yet but if I stop playing for a while I might.’
And yet there is a truth there. Sometimes we need rest and change; sometimes there is a need to digest what has gone before in order to be ready. But when you’ve done all that and it’s still not coming, it’s time to pick up the pen or stick the pen-drive in the slot again and just do it.
Ages ago I wrote some tips for overcoming writer’s block. And did I remember them? I did not; but eventually some memory went thunk in my brain and I recalled the first one: Set an alarm and write without stopping for five or ten minutes. So instead of breaking my brain trying to write all afternoon or giving up and watching a video, I alternated: ten minutes writing, ten minutes video. And guess what? I wrote 1500 words and they’re actually not bad.
Wordsmith, heal thyself!