Fact is, I haven’t written a blog post in two whole weeks. Why the silence? I’m wondering the same thing… Sometimes I find it really easy to come up with a topic and other times, I struggle for days or even weeks. At the moment, I’m in the “weeks” phase. It’s the same with my writing (as in fiction). I keep thinking about it with a vague sense of desperation; I know I should be doing it, and I want to be doing it, but when I sit down and open any kind of word-processing document, I freeze. If I’m looking at something I’ve already written and want to continue or edit, my brain goes into automatic “this is shit” mode. I don’t like the tone or the fact that I chose to write the story in first-person present tense (why??? Why would I even do that to myself?). Or maybe it’s the characters themselves who annoy me.
((“Oh no,” you might be thinking. “This is the classic blog post on writer’s block from the writer who is suffering from said block and wants to force him/herself to write, but can’t find another topic.” Well, maybe. But hey, at least I’m writing and if that’s what it takes, I’m willing to fall into such clichés. So bear with me.))
If I consider writing something new, this overwhelming sense of helplessness starts to paralyse my creativity. Where should I start? Starting a novel with little or no planning is almost-certain suicide for me (although it does work for some people and it did work for me once in the context of NaNoWriMo – although that novel is only half-edited and it’s one of the aforementioned works that makes me cringe when I look at it), but the thought of sitting for hours on end, world-building and character-developping kind of scares me. I’m happiest when I’m in the thick of the action, pounding away at the keyboard and making things come to life. While inventing names of towns and different kinds of magic is fun, I tend to do that on the go rather than in a specific session where I do nothing else. If I try my hand at planning, I tend to get bored after a while. The characters I’m fleshing out start tugging at my sleeves, demanding that something happen to them.
All this contributes to this overwhelming fear: what should I do? What should I be writing?
Well, last night, I realised that the answer to that is simple. I should be writing what I really want to write.
Okay, but what’s that?
Well… haven’t figured it out yet (hence why I’m writing this blog post… I’m procrastinating by doing the easiest of two difficult things, which I suppose is better than nothing). I sat for a while in silence last night, staring into space and asking myself: what’s the story you really want to write? I think I’m pretty certain it’s also the story I most want to read, but apart from that, I’m not really sure. I would like to write something amazing that grips me as much as Robin Hobb‘s books do, but that’s probably because I just finished Fool’s Assassin after a 10-year wait and I’m still caught up in the amazingly vivid world of the Six Duchies. If you haven’t read Hobb’s books, check them out, starting with book one. You’ll want to laugh, cry, slap the main character and give him a hug all in the same paragraph. It’ll change your life. 🙂 You’re welcome.
I’d also like to be able to write a sprawling epic like Patrick Rothfuss‘s as-yet-unfinished trilogy The Name of the Wind, taking the art of story-telling to new hights of awesomeness. Equally, I wouldn’t mind cooking up a seven-book bloodbath like the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin (he hardly needs introducing nowadays, but hey ho), just in the hopes of achieving some of his incredible depth of character (think Tyrion). And of course there’s Harry Potter, good ol’ Harry (and I’m not going to insult you by putting any links here)…
… but as much as I love all those books (and many, many more), I want my own book to be something unique, something… well… “me”. So I don’t want to do some sort of collage where my favourite authors’ best characters romp around in thin disguises, walking the paths of overly-trodden plots like they’ve got nothing better to do.
I want to write something that will give at least one other human being that slight lifting sensation in their chest. You know, the one often accompanied by excited toe-wiggling and snuggling further under the covers to read “just one more chapter”, just like those authors mentioned above gave me.
But where do I start? Well here maybe, or here, or here (it makes me very happy that Anne Lamott, who was going to be my third link all along, is also one of the 13 authors in the second link). But ultimately, I will need to find a place within my head where I can plant the first seed of that story and let it grow. And then, MOST IMPORTANTLY, I must water it and make sure it doesn’t wither and die. When it starts to grow, I will prune it (where necessary) and keep coming back to it until it’s a big sturdy specimen that can mostly look after itself in the ruthless world of book-trees. One day, maybe.
So no, I still don’t know what I’m going to write about, but being forced to think about it in different terms can only help, right?
Everybody who writes wants to write something interesting. Even if it’s not life-changing, it has to at least be meaningful. But before you start, ask yourself this: do you actually want to read a book about this subject? If you don’t, chances are you won’t stick to the writing. But if you do, make it into the story that will blow you away before anyone else. People will be able to tell that you had a blast writing it and they will love your book (and you) all the more for it. But you are your first reader, don’t forget that. After all, you’re the one person who’s going to stay with this book the longest, even after it’s all done. It will always be your baby, and at least you have a proper say in how this one turns out in life.
So happy writing. I hope inspiration strikes all of us like a lone tree in the middle of a desert thunderstorm (writing is painful, did nobody ever tell you that?).