This last week has been an interesting one with my #TwitterFiction project and in some ways a challenging one.
For the first time since I started working on it, I found myself stuck. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to write, it was more of a case that I wasn’t sure how to write it, or even if I should.
Let me roll back a bit to explain.
When I first conceived of the story, I had a plot point that would tie together the two parallel elements of the narrative. It was quite clear in my head what I wanted to do, but then I started to second-guess myself. What if this seemed dumb? What if it would give away more than I planned to? What if it seemed like there was an idea too close to what I’d written in the previous story in this series?
So I sat on it for a few days and didn’t actually write anything. Part of the brief I had set myself with the #TwitterFiction project was that I would write something every day as a counter to my postulation that I “didn’t have time to write!” when it turned out that of course I did.
The net result was that I didn’t write more than a sentence or two over a four or five day period as I struggled with my brain on how to proceed.
The breakthrough came when I realized that what was feeding me a bunch of what-ifs and holding me firmly in place was good old-fashioned fear. Fear of messing up the story that I’ve committed so much time to (nearly 10,000 words at last count), fear of doing something dumb, fear of committing to a path that I had actually designed into the story a month or more before.
Finally, I went with my original idea. It was like pulling the cork out of the bottle, or, perhaps more graphically, opening the lid on a bottle of Coke you’ve shaken up. The seal was broken, and the story began to flow again.
So what was the moral of this tale of wisdom and woe?
Well, there are two. The first one is to trust yourself. I knew what I needed to do, but I just… didn’t. The second one is to not let your fear get in the way of taking a path that you know is right, but you are afraid of the what-ifs.
Fear itself has never killed anyone. The actions we take out of fear, however, has.
In her newest book Kicking In The Wall: A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts and Quotes To Help You Break Through Your Blocks And Reach Your Writing Goals, Barbara Abercrombie quotes poet and writer Kate Braverman:
“Writer’s block is not a problem for me, ever. It comes from being diverted…by outside considerations, such as self-censoring, fear and accepting the dictates of others….The cure is to do exercises.”
These are exercise prompts from Abercrombie’s book. Keep your hand moving the entire five minutes. If you’re writing fiction, substitute a character for “you.”
“Write about how the weather feels on your skin. Go outside, and write about how the cold, or rain, or sun feels on your face or your hands.”
“Write about a family photograph. What doesn’t the picture show?”
“Write about a time you held your breath. Underwater or not.”
“Write about the best advice you ever got.”
“Write about a time your life unraveled.”
“Write about a moment experienced through your body. Making love, making breakfast, going to a party, having a fight, an experience you’ve had or you imagine for your character. Leave out thought and emotion, and let all information be conveyed through the body and senses.”
Thanks Michelle! It’s funny, I didn’t really see it as writer’s block as I knew what I wanted to write, but in truth it was a form of it. I seem to have broken it now, and the story is progressing well again.
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