Writing Has Unexpectedly Become Difficult
My fourth book [Finding Immortality] simply flowed. I had a great outline and the story wrote itself. When it was done, I was really happy with the result and I began writing my fifth book [Kim and Gabe Thrive] with high hopes. The plot was solid and the characters were well established. I was positive that writing this book was going to be easy, fun, fast, and the result would be my best work.
The first 60% of the story came right out and then I got to the best part. This was the big juicy section where I described how the universe worked. I had been mentally preparing to write this part for over a year. I got right into it and after two pages… Blah. Blah? What was blah?! Why had the words stopped? Well, I was going to have none of that and to fix this situation… Well, I punted. Normally I would start writing where I had last stopped until I became “word blind” and needed a change. This change would be self-editing earlier sections of the book. The next day, I began my writing by self-editing and then occasionally writing one new paragraph. My output went from a chapter a week to half a chapter a month. It was terrible.
My mental outlook became so bad that just to get into the mood of writing, I would start by self-editing my fourth book and then if there was time, I did some self-editing my fifth. About once a week, I got frustrated and forced myself to write a paragraph. Honestly, those paragraphs weren’t great. I had to go over them several times just so they would make sense. It was very clear that I had lost my focus. To make matters worse, the writing was no longer a fun and I considered stopping altogether.
Writers call this “writer's block.” It means that for some reason, they cannot continue writing. Normally it’s because they haven’t figured out the next part of the story or there is some logic/plot/character issue that’s preventing the story from working. In my case, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about, how I wanted to write it and what it should read like. My problem was that I simply didn’t want to write. I took some time to think about my situation. I understood that when I would look at the last paragraph, there was a definite hesitation to begin typing. I categorized these feelings as anger [stubbornness] and fear.
What was the source of these negative emotions? I wasn’t sure. Something new was occurring and I needed to tackle this problem. What there an “Engineering” approach to solving this dilemma? A big technical analysis? Or would I take the soft approach by talking to my friends and family? Search the internet for solutions? Writers have clearly encountered this issue in the past. My decision was to avoid the issue.
In the meantime, I was looking for new blog topics and decided to vet out some ideas. The intent wasn’t to solve the issue but simply to write a fun blog topic. After some deep thought into writing this very paragraph, I suspected that the core of the problem was that my first book was encountering difficulties in its attempt to gain readers. I know that good marketing is tough and I’m clearly not a natural salesman. Perhaps I was secretly blocking myself from completing this fifth book to prevent another bad marketing situation from occurring? Seems logical.
Was I tired of the characters in my fifth book? Not really. As I think about the characters, my only negative emotion could be described as jealousy. They’re young and get to have exciting lives. Why can’t my life be like that? No, that wasn’t the source of the problem. A fear of success? Or failure? I’ve come to grips with the reality that writing is a hobby. I will never be Tom Clancy and I’m fine with that tragic circumstance. My marketing goal is to break even. Still got to make that happen.
Am I tired of writing? Again, no. I like writing and self-editing. At this very moment, writing this blog is an enjoyable experience. I just thought of a new blog topic. Look forward to reading in 11 weeks, “Working With An Editor.” Ten other topics to tackle first. Do I just need to man up and write? No, that leads to forced dialog, incomplete plots, errors and overall bad writing.
As I was writing this blog, I came up with a plan. I was going to jump right into writing. When I got stuck, I would force myself to write down my thoughts. Why the frustration? How do I feel? How good would it feel to continue? How should I be feeling? What should I be doing? Then, I would write up everything on this blog the next day. This would allow me to analyze my thoughts and look for patterns. There’s that Engineering mind again. Collect data, organize and analyze. “The conclusion will rise above the noise.” Now, if I could put it all into Microsoft Excel…
In that lofty spirit, I jumped right to the last paragraph. Next to my computer was a notepad with a blank page. Immediately, I felt the wall. I simply didn’t want to write anything new. I got up to get a Diet Coke. I sat back down and was frustrated with my fears. I looked at the pad and I certainly didn’t want to write down anything. I thought, “It’s either write the book or write your feelings. Your choice!” I forced myself to write a new paragraph and then another. The last thing I wanted to do was to have the world know why I couldn’t continue writing. I continued writing and “had” to get up 4 times for a snack. I was angry, frustrated and the words weren’t that great.
An hour later, the words had begun to flow and I actually had real writer's block. I knew the next part of the story, but I didn’t know how to make the leap. This had happened a few times in the past and I did what I normally did to get around the issue. I stared at a blank wall, worked through the possible solutions and got back to writing. Three hours later, I looked at the clock. 11:30 PM. Half an hour past bedtime. I had powered through 1.5 chapters and I enjoyed the experience.
Amazing? Unexpected? Yes, it was. My fear about writing down what was going on in my head shamed me back into writing. That has never happened before. Thank you all three blog readers! The human mind is indeed strange. I’m not sure what the real issue was. I think I settled into a pattern and it took something epic to break me out of my funk. Perhaps, the lack of success built up a kind of roadblock. The crazy thing is that this blog broke me out. Was it logical or was it inspirational? Or was this a sign of a truly great writer? Let’s go with the last one! That’s got to be it.
Over the last 4 days, I haven’t had any trouble writing. It’s again an enjoyable process to get my characters into deep trouble and help them out. I still have that blank notepad and if there is ever an issue, I am going to write it all down. I hope there isn’t a future blog titled, “Writing Has Unexpectedly Become Difficult Again.”
You’re the best -Bill
August 01, 2018
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