Writing Became Difficult
I began writing my fifth book (Pushed to The Edge of Existence) with high hopes. The plot was solid, and I had well-established characters. The first 60% jumped onto my screen until I got to the best part of the story. This was the juicy section where I described how the universe worked. I had been thinking about this part for over a year, and after two pages… Blah. Blah? What was blah? Why had the words stopped? I did not have a clue.
When I have a writing issue, I distract myself for ten minutes and get back to it. This trick did not work, and instead, I punted by taking a thorough analysis into self-editing earlier sections of the book. The next day, I began my writing by self-editing and occasionally writing a sentence or two. My output went from a chapter a week to a few paragraphs a month. It was terrible.
This lackluster performance lasted for at least two months, and I changed tactics by forcing myself to write an awful paragraph daily. They required lots of self-editing to make any sense. It was evident that I had lost my focus. To make matters worse, the writing was no longer fun, and I considered stopping altogether.
Writers call this “writer’s block.” It means that they cannot continue. Typically, this occurs when the next part of the story is unclear. A significant logic/plot/character issue often prevents the story from working. However, I knew exactly what I wanted to write and what it should read like. My problem was more fundamental. I did not want to write. To solve the problem, I took some time to think about my situation. As a test, I looked at the last paragraph and felt hesitation. I categorized these feelings as anger, stubbornness, and fear.
What was the source of these negative emotions? I was not sure. Something new was occurring, and I needed a fresh approach. Well, I am an electrical engineer. What is an “engineering” approach to solving this dilemma, like an extensive technical analysis? Or would I take the soft approach by talking to my friends and family? Search the internet for solutions? Not quite. I solved my problem by not solving it.
This choice freed up time, and I focused on home projects—lots of gardening. I even thought up a bunch of new topics to blog about. So, it seemed natural to write about this very subject. I did not intend to solve the issue but to explore it for entertainment.
I did this until I got to this very paragraph. I must have re-edited the above ten times until I concentrated on problems with my first book. The marketing has not been going well because I am 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? Not really. As I think about them, my only negative emotion is jealousy. They are young and get to have exciting lives. Why can’t my life be like that? No, that was not the source of the problem. Fear of success? Or failure? I have come to grips with the reality that writing is a hobby, and I will never be a megastar like Tom Clancy.
Am I tired of writing? Again, no. At this very moment, writing this sentence is an enjoyable experience. I just thought of a new blog topic.
Look forward to “Working With An Editor.”
Eventually, I came up with a plan. I was going to jump right in. When I got stuck, I would write my negative thoughts and answer some questions. Why was I feeling frustrated? How good would it feel to continue? How should I be feeling? What should I be writing about? Once I captured some thoughts, I would try again. This data collection would allow me to analyze my thoughts and look for patterns. There is that engineering mind again. Collect data, organize, and analyze. “The conclusion will rise above the noise.” Now, if I could put all that data into Microsoft Excel…
With a lofty spirit, I jumped to where I had stopped. Next to my computer, I placed a notepad and was ready to capture my anxious thoughts. Immediately, I felt the wall. I did not want to type. So, I walked to the refrigerator to get a glass of iced tea. Then, I sat in front of my computer and felt frustrated because I feared what was happening. I looked at the blank page on the pad and did not want to write down my thoughts. “It’s write the book or write your feelings. Your choice!”
Rather than let everybody know what was up in my baffling mind, I forced myself to write a paragraph and then another. The last thing I wanted to do was to have the world know why I could not be a happy writer. As I typed, I “had” to get up four times for a snack. This entire experience made me angry and frustrated. The words I slammed into Microsoft Word were terrible.
However, after an hour of pounding, writing became more manageable, and I had genuine writer’s block. I knew the next part of the story but did not know how to make the leap. So, I stared at a blank wall, worked through the issue, and returned to writing. Three hours later, I looked at the clock. 11:30 p.m. Half an hour past bedtime. I powered through 15 pages!
Amazing? Unexpected? Yes, it was. My fear of recording my fearful thoughts shamed me back into writing. What the heck? The human mind is indeed strange.
In hindsight, I am not sure what my issue was. My best guess is that I embraced my fear, breaking me out of my funk. Perhaps the lack of success built up a roadblock. The amusing thing is that writing broke my fear of writing. Was this a logical procedure, or had writing inspired me to write? Or am I a brilliant writer that got stuck? Let’s go with the last one.
Since that time, there have not been any significant problems. I again enjoy getting my characters into deep trouble and helping them out. Plus, I still have that blank notepad and will record my thoughts if there is ever an issue. Hopefully, I will not have to write, “Writing Is Difficult Again.”
You’re the best -Bill
August 01, 2018 Updated July 08, 2023
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