The topic of writing roadblocks was inspired by regular commentor Megha, who asked me a couple of separate questions in various comments, which I've smushed together to make this:
"Do you ever feel that your plot is too... big? Too much? I'm scared of starting my novel. It has been planned and plotted properly, and now I'm too scared to start. It's not writers' block, I know. And I know that all the writers go through this. My planning's done. There's nothing LEFT to plan about. I need to start, but I can't."
This is a writing roadblock.
Megha is right - this does happen to most writers at some time or other, for various reasons. In my case I'm usually scared the story is too SMALL, rather than too big. I worry that not enough happens, that I haven't made the right choices to stretch my characters, that I'll just run out of stuff to write after 30,000 words. I worry that it's all flawed because I've missed some huge, vital conflict that would have made everything worthwhile. Hence this Post-It stuck in the first page of my FF notebook:
But being scared that the story is too big, that it's too ambitious, that you won't do it justice, that it'll be too long...those are crippling fears too (I know, 'cos that's The Scary Place I've posted about here, and which I usually enter at around the 50% mark of my manuscript).
These roadblocks are hard to break through specifically because they don't come from the logical part of your brain. They're not based on anything you can put your finger on. They just appear out of nowhere, causing a nebulous sense of dread that makes us feel we'd do anything, even scrub the bathroom clean with a toothbrush, to avoid actually writing.
This isn't about writer's block in the sense that I think writer's block normally has one of several concrete causes (which you can read about here). This is basically about your own fears, your conscious and unconscious worries about writing, getting all snarled up and taking all the fun out of everything. And there's only one cure. One way to kick that writing roadblock to the curb.
If you've read many of my writing posts before, you probably know what I'm going to say next.
The one way to destroy a writing roadblock is to write.
It will NOT go away on its own. You won't wake up one day and find it's miraculously evaporated. You may wake up on many mornings thinking 'This is the day! Today I will write!' and then find yourself making excuses, procrastinating and pottering until it's midnight and you need to get to bed, but that's obviously not very useful. You will never be able to escape the sense of horrible forboding until you punch through it and actually write. And the longer you leave it? The harder it gets.
I know it's horrible! Believe me, I know! But taking charge is the only way.
HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:
- Put the plans/notes/story outlines/folders of maps you've made for this story away.
- Leave your normal writing place.
- Set yourself a time and stick to it.
- Remind yourself that you're just scribbling.
You don't have to start at the beginning of your story. You can plunge straight into that awesome scene from the middle that's been teasing you. You can write a long, rambling speech from that noisy character who keeps muttering in the back of your head. Whatever you want to write and which seems fun. Don't set yourself a word or page target either. You just need to scribble for the required time.
As soon as you've started writing again, as soon as you've defied the dread and the worry and the stressing-out and put pen to paper for fun again, you remember why you actually wanted to do this writing lark to start with.
Don't go too fast - don't put pressure on yourself when you start to feel better. But don't let yourself off the hook either. Keep doing your half-hour scribbling sessions until you get to the point where you're starting to over-run, to not want to stop. Then stretch yourself with forty minutes. Maybe think, 'Today, I'm going to use my forty minutes to play around with opening lines. Opening paragraphs for the first chapter. Hmmm...'
Then one day you'll find you've written for two hours straight and that you've got a first chapter staring at you.
Writing roadblock? Dust.
Right - time for me to get back to my precious. Hope this was helpful everyone - and have a great weekend!