Given the fact that American readers are mostly wrapped up in election issues, I figured no-one there will read this, so I could give vent to the far more scatological sense of humor that the English world outside of US to have. We’re pretty immature, really. Honestly when I was a kid and there was an American movie on – and someone said something about ‘needing the bathroom’ – the movie theatre would be full of the laughter of 8 year olds who found the idea of referring to a toilet as a ‘bathroom’ hilarious (the two rooms were very much separate in most houses in those strange and far off days.) Americans make jokes about sex more casually than Brits. (Except about sheep. All the commonwealth countries make jokes about their neighbors and sheep. The English make them about Scots, the Scots make them about the South Africans and the South Africans make them about the Australians and the Australians make them about the Kiwis. I am sure the Kiwis make them about someone. I asked but couldn’t hear above all the bleating that was going on.) Anyway, back to literary constipation…
Quite a lot of people are stuck up about literature. Never really understood why. Are the books they devour not providing them with sufficient roughage? Are they made with low-fiber paper? Are they avoiding devouring them and merely displaying them on their coffee-tables? Is it the sheer turgidity of their choices? Do they need to hydrate better while reading? Beer is good for this. I do not know, but it seems it is a widespread problem, commonly associated with pretentiousness.
However, that wasn’t what I was going to write about, but rather the problem of writer getting stuck (as far as the literary pretentious are concerned, my output is sh!t so I may as well enjoy making fun of it. It’s not going to change their attitude or my readers attitude). Part of this is that I am uptight about a bunch of things, aside from writing. I need to loosen up… seriously, a lot of mental processing power goes on solving problems in the current book. If I am worrying about petty bureaucrats and their threats, or even obsessing about some political shenanigan or world affair, I’m not focused on my current book.
Normally, if I get stuck, I go and some manual job that needs doing — there is always a huge list, and while I am pulling weeds or putting water in batteries or putting up a fence… my mind is working away at the possible answers to the problem… so long as it does not get distracted onto other problems. I’ll wake at night and hack away at different possible and probable solutions. Distraction is my chief enemy. Once I have those solutions, it’s just a matter getting it written down in a coherent form. That’s when the discipline of just sitting in front of a keyboard and writing matters to me. If I am stuck on motive, or background or inter-relationships between the characters… I can sit in front of the keyboard until I turn blue. I have to motives for the characters, the motives have to interact, and I have to understand the motives, and they have to be logical — at least logical ways that character would behave given how they think and their perception of the situation. Once I have that, I can move forward, it just takes discipline.
I have deep admiration for people who can just sit down and write. I wish I could. I’ve spent most of the last couple of weeks struggling with the new WIP (not wipe) because while the characters are interesting and have various drives, I needed to do much, much more research into how widow’s pensions worked, and how the base situation needed motives for each of the characters to behave in the way I wanted them to. I had to change their circumstances and backgrounds until these gave them motives which would logically make them intersect. Once I had finally worked it out and made my poor wife listen to my progression and tear into my logic wherever she saw a flaw that made it less than plausible, I finally got to point where I just HAVE to write it. Now. Stay not.
It’s not easy getting there, but quite a relief when you do.
And my American friends, I hope you have a similarly satisfying election with logical outcomes, and not ones that leave you muttering about ‘bathrooms’.