I hate writer’s block. In all it’s maddening forms.
And there are lots of forms.
Sometimes it can be a problem with a particular scene that just won’t work. Or the frustrating, hair-pulling search for that single, perfect word.
It can be a character who keeps trying to deviate from the plot, coming up with their own dialogue or ideas.
And sometimes writer’s block looms over a whole story, like a bouncer at a nightclub door, denying access to the action going on inside, and telling you you’re wearing the wrong shoes.
I’ve been coming up against the bouncer for a while now.
It started a few months ago. I was several chapters into my new story, with the ideas flowing and the characters growing, and then suddenly…
It was as though my characters all said “See ya!” and went into the nightclub without me.
I tried to follow. There were moments when I’d get close enough to sense the excitement, see a flash of colour and movement and hear the music. But every time I’d inch my way forward the bouncer would appear, blocking the view, and I’d have to step back behind the velvet rope again.
So while my characters partied on, I decided to ignore them. I turned my back on the bouncer, and turned off my laptop. I thought maybe if I took a break, things would right themselves. But I was wrong.
Weeks went by and there wasn’t even a whisper from my characters. And they didn’t respond to my attempts to get their attention. I suspect they’d turned off their phones and changed their address. So I decided to re-work the story, make some big changes, give it a fresh location and a different opening, but that didn’t work either. The first chapter read like a Year 7 English assignment. And not a very good one.
It was ridiculous. I mean, I already had several chapters written and I knew where things were headed, but for some reason I wasn’t privy to, the words had stopped coming.
Then I decided to abandon the story all together. Which was a shame, because I liked the characters. And their story, with its romance and mystery, had intrigued me. But it obviously wasn’t going to happen and my imagination had gone dryer than the Simpson Desert, so it was time to say goodbye and let it go.
I toyed with a few other ideas that had been lurking in the back of my mind for a while, sketching out rough drafts and doing some reasearch, and then one morning recently, out of the blue, my female lead came back, and gave me a nudge.
“I have an idea,” she said shyly.
“Oh really? After all this time?” I was all scepticism. “This should be good. Okay, lets hear it, then.”
“What if you keep the essence of what you’ve got, but instead of making me the new girl in town…”
I can’t tell you the rest because that’ll spoil the story. Because now, at last, there is a story to spoil!!
And the answer wasn’t anything dramatic. No big changes. It was just a simple shift in focus, looking at things from a different angle, that did the trick. But suddenly my characters are back and the words are flowing.
It’s like the nightclub has opened its doors wide and the bouncer has unclipped the velvet rope, stepped aside and ushered me in.
He’s even offered me a free cocktail!
But I’m not falling for that. Instead I’ve grabbed my characters and run. Away from the glittering disco ball, to a sandy beach, where we sit in deckchairs beneath palm trees, aqua water lapping at our toes, while they tell me their story and I write it down.
And there isn’t a bouncer in sight
It’s nice to be back