Build Your Own Writing Block

I enjoy reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s business blog posts, when I have the chance. They aren’t always pertinent to me, and are often quite lengthy, but worth following. The quieter half of that partnership, Dean Wesley Smith, is more focused on other things, it seems, but when I see a new post from him I pay attention.

Like this one, on the damage we writers do to ourselves. Deadly problems, indeed! I’ve done a couple of these DIY writer’s blocks, and then had a devil of a time extricating myself from the maze I’d set up to hinder my own ability to write. He followed up his initial post with an illustration drawn from his personal experience, on how a series he wrote for fun broke out and made money… nine books in.

As I am struggling to regain the writer’s brain and write daily again, I’ve been poking around under the hood of my own mind, trying to figure out just what makes me tick. I don’t expect to learn anything comprehensive – the human mind is a mystery, and probably always will be – but, well… I learned last week that my car has a cabin air filter. I learned this because I took the car in for an oil change and state inspection, and in the process of that, was asked when that filter had last been changed. The answer is never. I didn’t know it existed. Turns out, it’s up and behind the glove box, bridging the compartment where people go, and the engine cavity under the hood. Mine was full of what looked an awful lot like a mouse nest. The tech showed me, and commented ‘your AC is going to work so much better now!’

She was right. And just in time for the Texas heat to start swelling toward a crescendo. I’ve been feeling like that. Running ideas through the filter of ‘what book am I supposed to be writing?’ has been choking off the airflow to my brain. In particular now, when I’m on restricted time, mental energy, and so much stress that just eases up before Blam, it hits me with another wallop. When I’m not reeling and about to go down for the count? That’s when I can focus the necessary energy on the books that I should complete to tie up series in a tidy bow. Friends who I trust to speak into my life keep reminding me that for me, right now, writing is a hobby. Have fun with it. Play with it. It’s not about trying to support your family, it’s your retirement plan, remember?

In other words, yank out that filter filled up with the grass clippings and lint balls of the past writing. The names of characters you can’t remember how to spell. The loose plot ends you meant to weave into book two, or even three. I’m going to set all that aside, and run with a clean mind. A blank slate of fresh air… and maybe that will fire up the internal desire to delve deeply into a tale. Given enough time. And more coffee.

(header image: ‘Time to Run’ by Cedar Sanderson)

10 comments

    1. There are days it’s easier said than done, tbh. I’m having one of those days where I’m muppet-flailing at life. It’s futile, but better than sitting here reading webcomics for an hour, yes?

      1. Yeah. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself. I’ve been doing that (the flailing) for a week or so now. I did get some work done on my co-authored piece, and I went back and looked at the piece I’m expanding from MOTE prompts, but I still feel like I’m just turning in circles.

  1. Getting older doesn’t help either. I can distinctly feel my brain turning into mashed cauliflower.
    Not enough sleep and I’m a zombie and unproductive.

    Part of this may stem from having children since each baby is born clutching a chunk of mom’s brain. Three kids = three chunks of missing brain that grows back very slowly and now I’m 61 and the brain doesn’t grow back so fast.
    But we persevere.

    Keep persevering. This too shall pass.

  2. At least four or five idea seeds jumped me while on vacation. This was the first vacation in [years] when I couldn’t write – no writing surface, no time alone. So I took notes, waved at the ideas, and moved on. But they’re still there.

    (Yes, I’m back, mostly rested, and wondering what sort of curses have been hurled at the two pieces of machinery that caused a 13 mile back-up on a major US highway. Whoever gave them their oversize and utility-moving* permits and said, “Sure, travel during business hours on Saturday” is probably going to find a full voicemail box come Monday.)

    *As in, the power companies had to lift some lines for these pieces of equipment.

  3. I see he doesn’t like beta readers, or workshops, when something is in progress. I… I have to waggle my hand and say “it depends.” For example, the last work I wrote in part ot amuse a set of friends during a very bad year for us all, and the encouragement and the reactions from getting each bit out certainly helped finish it, despite all the times I wanted to chuck it in the round file.

    Right now, I’m writing something that started with the silliest possible proposition, because friends, and hyperbole and over the top grumbling… and is actually growing into a rather serious project. And again, the ability to snippet at friends, and to glee over details, and bounce ideas off them, is massively helping. It’s not a group-written project, not like a hollywood screenplay, but it is certainly richer for the sounding boards.

    1. I saw that too and like you – mixed feelings. I certainly bounce off alpha readers and my Evil Muse. But I had a major project hang fire for two years because someone who mattered didn’t like it. So I see that it’s more developing a thick skin. And having fun. It’s fun to bounce around a story with friends!

  4. It can sometimes jar things loose when you try to write in a genre you have very little interest in. The werewolf story . . . not too bad . . . The romance . . . no. Just . . . no. But then I had no trouble getting back to my usual Science Fiction/Science Fantasy/Portal Fantasy.

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