I call it a myth… or I used to. I don’t think I’ve ever really considered any break in my writing habits to be writer’s block. I wasn’t ready to admit it now, either, so this week, it went by a different name: exhaustion. It wasn’t a complete lie. Here’s what happened.
The last time I wrote, which was Monday evening after my first day of work and a drink with a friend, the scene I wrote was an angry one. All three of the main characters were mad at one another. Angst! Anger! Aurgh!!! I loved the scene because I love writing confrontations.
When I went to write on Tuesday night, I was tired. Too tired to write. Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t even think about it. The same thing happened on Wednesday. All I could do when I got home was eat dinner and then watch television. Just couldn’t find the energy to write. I was so exhausted.
But Thursday, I knew something else was going on. There was no logical explanation for why I was so tired. It’s not like I normally napped all-day-every-day before I got this new job. I didn’t. In fact, my days were longer, and I was still able to churn out good stuff after work on occasion. What occasion? When I remembered my outline and made myself open up my Pages document to write.
Why was this week different? Because this fight scene I wrote on Monday came out of nowhere. It wasn’t in my outline. Livvy wasn’t supposed to do something stupid. Jon wasn’t supposed to get a bad phone call. Jack wasn’t supposed to cause a scene… and while I liked the reasoning behind the scene– a scene where I wanted Livvy to try to assert her little sixteen-year-old-independence– this wasn’t the way to go about it. I figured that out late Thursday night, I think. I loved the scene. I loved their anger… but it doesn’t belong in this book. Not at this time, anyway. Once I realized that, my brain got to work on how to dig myself out. If you’re a writer who’s just gone through a month of strict word-counting, you know what it means when you have a scene that doesn’t fit.
You have to delete words. You have to lose ground. You have to go backwards. It’s the worst thing ever.
So yesterday, while my little brain was trying to work out the details of a new scene that bridged a gap in the outline without pissing everyone off, and while that same brain tried to convince me that it was okay to delete 1,500 words, I did some mindless work on the first series. It was writing-related stuff that had to get done anyway, so I wasn’t wasting my time away in bed, sleeping, like I had been every night this week. And while I fixed some inconsistencies in the Emi Lost & Found series (ones that my mom thinks no one noticed, and as far as I know, they haven’t… either that or the NY readers are too kind), I figured out that Livvy could still do something stupid, but Jon and Jack could still be the sensible people they are and save the scene.
So today, I deleted those 1,500 words and I wrote 1,850 new ones. It doesn’t make up for all the days I stopped writing, but at least this scene now naturally leads into something I’d been planning to write… something I actually want to write and can’t wait to write. And in all of this brain-reconciliation, I actually figured out something huge that’s really going to bring the two plots together, finally. I hadn’t figured that out yet… but I think that puzzle is solved.
So, maybe writer’s block does exist, but I think it’s a malady that writers bring upon themselves. I created this block by writing something out of character, out of sequence… which generally came out of nowhere… and it made it impossible for me to pick the story up from where I left off.