This summer I worked on the second draft to my story. Then I went away to Texas for a family reunion. I didn’t bring my story with me for various reasons. However, when I returned to the novel I had trouble.
I struggled to get excited about the plot or the characters. I had to push myself to work at it daily. Writing that novel was the last thing I wanted to do in life.
It wasn’t until I was taking a walk, simply pondering the story, letting my muse frolic, that I had my breakthrough. Immediately my writer’s senses returned to normal, and I was eager to get back to the computer. From that point, I was able to write scenes that had purpose. Give characters a reason to be on the page.
Writing can happen inside your head, without you actively transferring the ideas onto paper or screen. In fact, this blessed opportunity I call Discovery, what others might call brainstorming, is often rich with fresh, unique ideas. Agatha Christie once said, “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”
I think it’s because our muse is allowed to run free, unhindered by our less swift fingers on the keyboard or paper. There is a certain rush when story ideas breeze through your imagination–anything is possible at that point. Your story can really happen. You truly are a writer.
I was once at a workshop where the instructor actually advised against this kind of storycrafting. Insisting that true writing can only take place when a writer is engaged via notebook or laptop, that when it’s time to write, you must actively write for it to count.
No. That is terrible advice. That’s like saying ideas that formulate in your imagination before you have a chance to scribble them down don’t count, that it’s not writing.
Imagining is writing. Stories start in our daydreams. Sometimes all we get are mere wisps. Other times a shadow where time has stopped. Could be a sequence of action scenes or a montage of characters in pain or awakening. Whatever the form, that is the first breath. The next breath is when the story spills from the inner container known as your imagination to an outer container, be it paper, computer, or recording device.
Every moment spent thereafter is another breath of life for your story.
If writing a story feels like you’re bleeding the words, then press PAUSE on everything, and step away from the project for a little while. Allow your mind to wander on anything it chooses. Surrender to the peace of reconnecting your imagination to your story. You may only need ten minutes away or the rest of the day. Keep it positive–don’t abandon the writing in a frustrated huff. Simply tell yourself you’re engaging in some self-care for the time being and that you’ll be back to the project when you’re feeling refreshed.
Wash dishes, take a walk, weed the garden, swim — these are just a few examples of rote activities that are awesome remedies for mental blocks. Not just for writing, but for any time when you’re feeling overwhelmed or unproductive. With rote activities you don’t have to concentrate on the task. Your muse roams freely and uncensored. There is no pressure to perform. Your Inner Critic also tends to quiet down, too.
When you’re actively writing, sometimes your logical mind intimidates your muse. Then your inner critic jumps into the fray and all hell breaks loose. You’re blocked.
Yes, it’s important to stay engaged with your story on a regular basis to keep moving forward. Just remember, giving your muse a chance to work from a pressure-free zone helps to work through snags.
What do you do to free writing blocks?
Have a writerly day!