More magic cures for writers block Day Two-Ideas

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper
until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
Gene Fowler

So I have been writing about writers block.

I find it to be a fascinating phenomenon.

I know a few writer friends who complain about it.

That’s probably the reason I am writing about it here.

Wikipedia tells me that Writer’s block is a condition, “primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.”

I am reminded by the article of how some great authors have apparently been plagued with

the condition, to the point that their careers were destroyed.

Now it would be my guess that the underlying cause for the writer’s block–things like

anxiety disorders, major depression or alcoholism, were the reasons that the writers

were blocked to that degree. Of course it could be argued that the Writer’s Block

caused the depression etc so perhaps its a kind of vicious cycle. I don’t know for sure.

But I am continuing to address, the subject even if I don’t know if it exists or not.

And today I am addressing the strange bugaboo–

The Idea and how having one or not,

stops writers from writing.

I wrote a post a few weeks back about ideas

In that post I quote Neil Gaiman who says–

”The Ideas aren’t the hard bit. They’re a small component of the whole.
Creating believable people who do more or less what you tell them to is much harder. And hardest by far is the process of simply sitting down and putting one word after another to construct whatever it is you’re trying to build:
making it interesting, making it new.”

But even if ideas aren’t the hard bit I still hear people complaining about them

in two ways.

“I have so many ideas but I can’t seem to get to writing them so I don’t write”

Or

“I haven’t got an idea about what to write about so I don’t write.”

Ok so then two separate cures are in order.

But first, What is an idea?

The dictionary defines an idea in a lot of different ways.

The three that I think are most useful are:

1. a mental concept
2. an impression
3. an opinion, view, or belief:

Usually when writers say that they have an idea for a play, or a story, or a screen play etc–

they are using definition #1 a mental concept. They are thinking of either the narrative,

or the characters or the event, that causes a chain reaction and so on.

Sometimes they are thinking of all of these things–but in a general and conceptual way.

I know writers who can tell you in a couple of sentences what the idea is.

They have a powerful burst of inspiration and they see it all in their mind.

“It’s about a pair of star crossed lovers who would

rather die than be apart–and so they do die.”

But the story or play is not a mental concept and so the idea is not enough.

So if you are this kind of writer and you get the mental concept kind of ideas–

but you are stuck on how to write the actual play or story or what have you–

I think that the cure for you is to immediately begin to outline the idea as quickly as possible.

At least as much of it as you can. You can start from the end and decide what ultimately happens.

They both die.And then go back to the beginning to figure out how.

Some writers start at the beginning and outline the “beats or scenes of the story.

They give the scenes titles.

THE PHONE CALL

MARY RECEIVES THE PHONE CALL THAT CHANGED HER LIFE
Phone rings. We see Mary listen. She gasps and faints.

The outline helps the writer contain that powerful burst of inspiration–

so that it doesn’t escape or fizzle out.

It helps lay out the story and show you what parts of the story you know

and don’t know.

The outline of course can be changed and tweaked and restructured but

it allows you to keep the chaos of possibilities at bay.

And you can work on a scene– in any order, without confusing yourself.

SCENE ONE THE BED CHAMBER OF THE DUCHESS

The phantom pirate climbs in the window with his dagger and approaches the sleeping Duchess–

And then if you are a little shy on the details–you are missing some technical info–

like how to kill a duchess with a dagger perhaps–

or even how to scale a castle wall,

you can jump to another scene.

Some writers tell me they can not work–without an outline.

So hurry up. Take that mental concept of yours and create the outline immediately.

Ok. But then what if you are suffering from the other

kind of not writing.

You might be like me.

My kind of idea is more like Defenition #2 An impression.

I will have a fuzzy emotional or visual sense of something.

Some injustice. Some struggle or paradox.

It’s an idea suggesting itself but it’s not very clear.

I have to write to clarify my thinking.

I am like an archaeologist digging and sifting through the layers, of my own imagination.

I don’t know exactly what I am looking for, but I know it’s there–and I will

recognize it when I write it.

So the cure for me is to write my way to the idea.

So you see if you get these kinds of ideas– or even no ideas at all

the cure is to write your way through to the part of your imagination where the ideas are.

But you know–ultimately I think the only cure for any kind of writer’s block is to write

and keep writing–anything at all and to do it every day–which is what I am about to go

and do right now. How about you?

Magic cures for writers block- Day One. Ask good questions.

In this post I am going to address the notion of writer’s block.

In all honesty I don’t actually get full blown writers block.

I write every day. I am always journalling, blogging, scribbling,

pondering, musing, reflecting, or working out something on paper.

Writing is how I clear my mind, and make sense of the world.

It’s a habit I guess.

However–I do get Writer’s Delay.

I do reach a point where I hit the fabled brick wall.

I stop. I agonize. I worry. I get depressed.

I want to quit- throw in the towel.

I tell myself horrible things and predict dire circumstances for myself.

None of this is useful of course, but luckily I don’t spend a lot of time on this phase.

Eventually I ask myself where do I go from here?

Thing is–I am rarely able to answer this question.

Where do I go from here? It’s not a helpful question.

It is what I call a bewildering question.

A better question is What does my character want right now?

Or What is getting in the way of what my character wants right now?

What is she going to do to get past the obstacle right now?

Sometimes I go deeper– and I ask Why does my character want what she wants,

right now?

Or how desperate-how driven, is she to get what she wants right now?

Is she hiding what she wants from herself? Is it a secret?

What will it cost her if she doesn’t succeed? What will she stand to lose?

Has she admitted to herself or anyone else what she really truly wants?

How does, what she wants, affect her?

Does she think she deserves what she wants?

Does it drive her insane?

Is it killing her to not get it?

Or one of my favourites–What is she willing to do?  To sacrifice?

Who is she willing to hurt, maim or kill?

What is she willing to risk, or lose or destroy?

Do you see what I mean?

Do you see how all these questions focus the story,and move it forward?

Do you see how these kind of questions enliven your imagination?

Do you see how can amplify and intensify the action of the story?

These are the good questions, that will help me write a more compelling story, and better dialogue.

So there you have it. My #1 Magic Cure for Writer’s block or writers Delay.

Ask Good Questions.

Sometimes my plot, theme, and everything else will emerge from these questions.

If I am at the wall, it’s because I have forgotten the questions or I need to ask them again.

Ok Now maybe you are not at the place where you think you even know what to write about.You are not ready to ask what your character wants, because you don’t really knowwho your character is. Or maybe you have an idea but you don’t know what to do with it? It’s a idea that is getting dirty with waiting.

Sometimes I haven’t got a clue what to write about, and I am sure I have

an inferior imagination, or that I lack the intelligence that a writer needs–

see yesterdays post here

and other times I have so many ideas clamouring for my attention–

that I can’t decide what to write about.

So next time I will share what I do when either of these things happen.