Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's All Fun & Games Until The Words Stop Flowing

Writing is fun. Except when it's not. Some days the ideas flow so fast, I need three files open on my computer just to keep up. Some days, I sit and glare at my blinking cursor which, despite multiple death threats against it AND it's mother, refuses to just write something already.

Sometimes, the dry spells, the I-dread-sitting-at-my-computer spells, last. They fill up a day, spill into the next and the next and before I know it, three weeks have passed and I'm still struggling with a chapter that stubbornly resists my every attempt to find it's shape, texture, and weight.

Sometimes, my characters stop speaking to me. Sometimes they hover just out of reach and nothing I do brings them closer.

I'll be honest. I don't like the times when writing isn't fun. I don't like struggling for the words, knowing when I re-read the next morning, most of what I wrote won't be worth keeping anyway. I don't like wringing dialogue out of reluctant characters whose true voice eludes me for the moment.

But those dry spells never last. One day, I wake up in the middle of the night, electrified by a new idea, or the perfect conversation between two characters who've decided silence is no longer a virtue. One day, I sit down at my computer and the words race across the page and I've got that spine-tingling certainty that this is what I'm meant to say here.

So yes, writing is fun. Even when it isn't. Because I know the words will come back, the characters will speak, the conflicts will bloom, the world inside my head will become real enough to touch and the joy of creating will steal the sleep from my eyes. And even though I know another dry spell will hit, the sheer excitement of seeing what's in my head come to life on a page makes the roller coaster ride worth it.


  1. Oh I so know this feeling. The entire first act was that feeling. Now I seem to finally be finding my stride with these characters, and even though I know it means probably rewriting the first act later, so what.

    Sometimes when I get stuck, though, it's because I'm trying to force my characters to do something that isn't right for the plot. From time to time, writer's block for me is kind of like an early warning system that says I need to re-evaluate. Not that I always remember that at the time.

  2. Having noted writers *bleak* is a growing problem among authors, I decided to test my hypothesis that water & soap have a creative effect on writers. Thus, I conducted a survey (my day trade) with a very select sample of 3 people (myself and 2 critique parters). The survey results show with 95% confidence level that taking a shower unclogs the brain blockage. An additional finding of note is that writers who discover the creative effects of soap and water also tend to be cleaner than the average Joe or Jane on the street.

  3. Yes. This. Exactly.

    I get very testy with the "There is no such thing as writers' block! There are no dry spells! There is no muse! You put your butt in the chair and write!" crowd. But WHAT do you write when the story has deserted you? How do you "just write what happens next" when you can't see it?

    I'm a big believer in the back burner. Set that story aside, give it a stir once in a while to check its progress, and eventually (ba-dum-dum) the plot will thicken. (Sorry. The cooking metaphor only stretched so far...) Play with something else that IS fun and DOES flow in the meantime.

    Further evidence that people write differently. To some writers, words are a commodity, put a certain number of them on the page each day to meet a quota, and some feel more of a relationship with their stories, as if transferring it from head to paper is a cooperative effort with a partner who is sometimes not so cooperative and the schedule has to be adjusted accordingly. Not that it necessarily affects the quality of the finished product either way, but the processes are completely different.

    I'd like to have that part of the process that lets me crank out 3,000 words a day, but it seems wasteful to me to crank out 3,000 words and throw them all away later because they're the WRONG words. And pointless because I know I know if I give it some breathing space, the story will give me the right words eventually.

    And that is pure fun.

  4. I have suffered through many a game of Spider Solitaire waiting to hear my characters.

    Some days, they are like the guy you gave your phone number to who says he'll call. Next thing you know, you're sitting by the phone for days on end begging it to ring. Your life is suddenly on hold and all that matters is for that stupid boy to just remember his promise. At this point you are hoping that he broke his fingers and can't dial the phone, because if that's not the case, you will be happy to rectify that for him. After all, you shouldn't have to be the one sitting around waiting for anything. Doesn't he know just how annoying that is?


    Some days, my characters a like my precious kitties, who insist on always being around me. If they can't, then they are extremely vocal about it. They YOWL nonstop.

    My point is that feast or famine applies to writing more than we would like it to, but, yes, it is fun. Having my characters speak to me is amazing. When they reveal who they are, I am in a constant state of delight.

    However, Cursor of Doom, your days are numbered.

  5. Hope you've been enjoying the roller coaster ride lately and that the words are spilling forth.

  6. Hi CJ! Thanks for commenting on my interview with Keli! I had to stop by and am so glad I did!

    I can sooo relate to this post! I am there...the words just aren't coming! I am so close to the end yet can't see through the fog how to make it across the finish line! I'm glad to know I am not the only one who many just seem to plow right through.

  7. Personally, I like to whip the characters into place before I really work on a story. I was thinking about a flash RPG game I played one day, that had several chapters all related to a specific cast of characters. The story advanced in time with each chapter, i.e. the second chapter would be one year later than the first. Each chapter was based on each different character in the cast, with their own stories. It actually made me smile thinking about the development of those characters, how they grew older and how their personalities and appearances changed, and I can't help but think that the person who created the game would be ecstatic at how well their characters developed.
    That's what I want to achieve before I really get to the core of the story, to the action. I want the characters to speak to me, show me their dialects, their appearance, how they would react to, like, I dunno, a giant radioactive spider eating their leg. (For instance, if a giant radioactive spider ate my leg, I'd probably be a little bit discouraged in my conquest to defeat the mutants, but Hart, he would probably shoot it, curse thousands upon thousands of times, and dig his leg out of it's gullet before it's completely digested.) Thus, braindeadness ensues, because my characters closepin their mouths shut and cover themselves with blankets to elude my wary senses, those hooligans. But it'll come to me. I think.


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