Writing Life: Progress & Planning for Writer’s Block

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© 2013 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee

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Writer’s block. It’s part of the writing life,  no doubt about it.  At one time I used to think it was a figment of the imagination, just another excuse not to write, like ‘too tired’,  got the kids home from school,  ‘too busy’ or   “out of ink, I think.”

Not so.  It’s real.  Experience itself, and time, have instructed me that the writing mind does indeed goes blank.  No words are forthcoming, the spring is dry, and for how long, we do not know.  A genuine “had-a-nada” comes to mind.

Text.  That which we seek,   the scribbled note,  the golden word,  evasive text. It comes in dog-eared dictionaries, as single words.   We seek sentences, soliloquies in the dark, parts, bits and  pieces, paragraphs and pages, and it does come when you least expect it. You’re back in the groove, it’s progress. Good, old-fashioned progress.

Is progress in writing ever guaranteed?   No.  Is it  Incidental ? Accidental?    Fortuitous discovery, destiny?  Is it fate, or one of those sudden, turn-on-the-dim-bulb-upstairs events ?

We have all experienced the tilting slowdown, self-doubt,  the pause, the screeching dead  halt, and that solid brick wall–the blank mind.  We have seen the equally powerless screen, the classic blank sheet of the finest paper, the barren white clay of the tabula rasa of old.

As writers, we may  walk darkly, disturbed, unsure in the night,  unless we carry torch or candle. Does the muse herself simply get tired?

To the functioning writer,  amazing collections of words can  line up like  rising stars, brilliance itself;  dewdrops sparkling on a single strand of cobweb across the  dark path to that  dog-eared, coffee-stained copy of “Thirty-One  New Story Ideas for Writer-blocked Dum-dums and How to Write Stuff”

How do you avoid writer’s block ?  You may not be able to,– but we go one better, and accept reality. We can  plan for it.   Can we cleverly plan around, and completely outwit the dearth of ideas? Perhaps not. Can we ensure some progress?
Yes.  Try these logical ideas and actually plan for writer’s block:

  • Harvest ideas when they occur–now, not later, so they are not forgotten. Great ideas are easily forgotten in the middle of the night while you’re sleepless in Victoria, dreaming, out fishing, or in the middle of a boring business meeting. Write, write write! Point-form and fast if necessary, but write them down.
  • When the mind is over- fertile and you are not write-blocked, write all ideas down that occur  for future use–even those you may think you will never use. When you have writer’s block, a couple of unused ideas may precipitate plan B.
  • Record ideas in context–not just miscellaneous words that may be meaningless later. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to recall that genius story line, but the one word you scribbled on the bedpost in the dark  no longer makes sense.
  • Take a notebook wherever you go. Observe people and life around you in the neighborhood, on the street, at sunset in the park, in the elevator,  in the supermarket, and at work.
  • Listen.  People say the strangest things that can not only pique your interest, but precipitate additional great ideas. Pay particular attention to how people speak. Listen to old folks. They are often full of interesting details.
  • Read, read and read, not necessarily in that order. Reading spawns new and creative ideas at the strangest times.
  • Some of the best ideas come from real events, so pay attention to the world around you. Note strange twists or the unexpected.
  • Ask questions. Just as with scientific method, question everything. Details pique the mind, planting seeds.  If you’re too busy to use the idea, again, write it down.
  • Shoebox files  of bits of paper and old serviettes  are a mess and seldom helpful .Barren minds function even less efficiently with disorder.   Use a handy notebook rather than scraps of paper. Organize ideas when  they occur instead of losing them. Time-hopping notes -even those  in chronological order can reveal interesting details when you have adequate time to evaluate them.

All of the above are ‘preparation, or planning’, but is it progress? If you have a notebook crammed with interesting ideas, observations, and concepts when you run into writer’s block, you’ve already got it beat. You’ve made progress.  Pick  and choose.  Now all you have to do is write it.

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Is that Incoming I hear?

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About Raymond Alexander Kukkee

A published author and freelance writing professional, Raymond lives and writes in Northwestern Ontario.
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