We’ve all been there. The little spats we have with our writing. No relationship is perfect, not even when it’s with your own project. Here are the steps I take when my stories and I don’t get along.
GOD DANG MONKEY BUTT DOO-DOO HEAD!
When hitting a rough patch, the best course of action should always be to:
Step away from the project. Farther. Farther. Close out the word document. Stick the notebook in a drawer. We all know how you get when you’re angry. Put some space in the relationship before one of you says something you’re gonna regret.
Calm your goddamn tits! Take a shower. Take a walk. Go jogging. Take up cardio boxing. Whatever relieves the tension, go do it. You’ll feel much better afterward.
Are we calm yet? Good. Now, tell us what’s wrong. Use your big boy words. Better yet, write down those big boy words. They could be, “MY CHARACTERS ARE TOTAL DING DONGS WHO CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT!” Or, “I HATE MY SUBJECT MATTER!” Or, “I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SAY!” Good, very good. The first step toward solving a problem is identifying what that problem is. Think about the issue. Articulate it. Then move on to solving it.
DUCT TAPE AND A MONKEY WRENCH
You know what the problem is. The next logical step is to fix it.
Talk it Out
Sit down with your project and have a mature conversation. Or, if your project isn’t talking, you talk and have it listen. Free-write. Get it on paper. Get it all out in a blubbering mess of self-pity. If you talk (or, rather, write) long enough, the wall may crumble and the words will start flowing freely again.
Write Back To Where We Started From
Ran into a wall? Well, why the hell are you still standing there? Turn around! Back up, retrace your steps. Figure out what went wrong. If you accidentally turn down a dead end street, do you just sit there, engine on idle? Hell naw! You run over mailboxes in your attempt at a u-turn and get the frick outta there! Do the same with your writing.
Or Break Down the Wall. Whatever.
Feeling a bit rebellious, are we? Fine. Take out your sledgehammer and break through the wall. Continue on with the direction your project is going, no matter how tough that path seems to be. It’ll be brutal. Your writing muscles will hurt like hell in the morning. But focus on getting through and worry about everything else later.
Have a Fling
(Warning: This one is controversial and may create an impenetrable wall between you and your current work in progress. I’ve been run out of writer’s block self-help groups for suggesting it. But I’ve also witnessed the positive results, so: proceed at your own risk!)
Sometimes, you just gotta see other people. Move on to other writing projects. Try out that one idea you’ve had in the back of your head. You know, the one you were saving until you finished the first idea? Bust it out and give it a go. See what happens. You might realize that it’s better than the first.
But be aware: it won’t last. No relationship is perfect, and you’ll end up facing the same walls you faced with the first one, I promise you that.
Either you’ll have enough motivation to make it through with this project, or you’ll gain a whole new respect for the old. Just don’t be the loser who jumps from project to project, feeding off that beautiful honeymoon phase before bouncing at the first sign of trouble. Have a little self-discipline, goddammit! Have some self-respect! Don’t be like me! Uh, I mean, don’t be like those people. Heh.
Remember the Time…?
Remind yourself why you fell in love in the first place. Take yourself back. What inspired you? A movie? A quote? A book? A phrase? A picture? What are you trying to do with this project? What’s the purpose? Revisit the initial wonder. Try to reignite that spark.
When all else fails, you may have to consider the last resort: shelving your project.
At what point should that be? I dunno. I’ve shelved a few projects in my lifetime. The one thing I noticed is, you really aren’t the one who shelves the project: the project tends to shelve itself. You run off on a fling, and the desire to work on the old project never resurfaces. Oh well, it happens.
But if a project isn’t working, and you’ve gone to the moon and back trying to get it to work, don’t waste any more of your time. Shelve it. Move on. There are plenty of other ideas floating around out there. Catch one. Start over. Who knows? Maybe the old spark will pop back up sometime down the road. In the meantime, stop spinning your wheels. It won’t get anyone anywhere.
Of course, preparation can help:
Cut it Off at the Pass
Something I now do at the start of each project is keep an Inspiration Notebook. In this notebook, I write down everything that inspires me to write the story ~ and not just the initial spark. It’s a journal to myself detailing every single reason why I want to write this story. Every inspiration. Every motivation. As the story takes shape, more gets added to the notebook.
The purpose? So that, when I start banging my head against the wall, I have a ready-made voice of reason to talk me down. The chill Inspired Side of me can converse with the frustrated Writer’s Block Side of me, like, “Yo, man, it’s all good. Here. Remember the good times.” And I read it. And it helps.
Remember: writing takes commitment. It isn’t easy. Doesn’t matter how good you feel at the start, you’re gonna hit those tough spots. Expect this, and know that ~ if the project really means that much to you ~ the two of you will work it out eventually.