What Block? There Is No Block!

I’ve been lax about updating the website, but that’s a good thing because I’ve been busy making progress on a couple of other projects.  More about that below.

But first, a major announcement:  I have changed the header image of the website to better reflect the current season here in Florida.  I know, I know, I’m excited, too!

Weather-wise, this is a very cool time of the year around here.  Over the next few months we’ll have thunderstorms on a near daily basis.  Lots of rain, lots of lightning.  It’s beautiful and quite inspiring.  That pond you see in the header image is in my backyard, and it will be filled right up to the top in a couple of months.  Side-note:  yes, there are alligators in that pond.  We have an informal agreement – they don’t come up to the house, I don’t swim in the pond.  It works out well for everyone.

The downside of the storms is, of course, that you have to unplug everything just in case a lightning strike hits nearby.  It’s the main reason I buy laptops instead of desktops.  Chances are pretty low, but all it takes is one big jolt to fry your motherboard.  As such, I have to run the computer on battery for a good three hours a day in the summer.

While I eagerly await word on some completed projects, I have been working hard on the first draft of a new one.  I have the first ten-thousand words on paper.  A good start, as the first draft goal is 80,000.  (I typically over-write by about twenty-thousand words knowing I’ll thin out the herd during the editing phase.  That keeps me from editing as I create, a big no-no for me.)

Things were going quite nicely until this past weekend.  I should tell you that I do not believe there is such a thing as writer’s block.  Anyone can write, anytime.  When someone asks what to do about a block, I tell them it’s a sign they haven’t spent the time figuring out what they want to say yet.  That rule applies to me, too.  The good news is there is an easy solution!

Step one – realize writing isn’t something done solely behind the keyboard.  That’s the literal part of writing, a physical act of clicking keys.  But when I’m knocking out three or four thousand words a day, it means I’ve been doing a good job working away from the keyboard.  At night before I fall asleep, I’m working out a piece of dialogue in my head.  When I’m doing laundry (yuck!), I’m thinking about the next plot point.  When I’m in the shower, I write descriptions of a person, place, or thing.  Some of my best work was created sitting in traffic.  Those are the preparations made before I sit down to go through the actual physical process.

Over the years I’ve learned to trust my instincts.  When I have to muscle through the self-imposed daily word quota I’ve set, that’s a sign that I haven’t spent the necessary time preparing away from the computer.  I’ll hit the goal, but most of what comes out will have to be edited or cut outright later.  When I hit a “block” over the weekend, I knew right away the reason was because I hadn’t given the next scene a lot of thought.  Instead of angrily staring at the blinking cursor trying to figure out how to force the words out, I shut down Scrivener and went about my day.  But that doesn’t mean I stopped writing.

In this particular case, the task was to figure out a way to motivate a protagonist to perform a tasteless act without jeopardizing his relationship with the reader.  I knew the act had to happen to further the plot, but I hadn’t figured out the details yet.  And I don’t work well without preparation.  I ran the scenarios through my head over the next few hours and came up with a winner.  Right back on track.  The key was to work it out away from the keyboard.

I’m sharing this thought because I know a lot of people get frustrated by writer’s block.  There are thousands of tips out there about how to beat it.  What I just shared with you is the only one that’s ever worked for me.  Soon as you realize why it happens, you’ll understand why I don’t believe writer’s block exists at all.  It’s not a block, but the understanding that you need to write away from the keyboard more often.

I hope that helps someone out there.  Be sure and let me know if it does!


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3 Replies to “What Block? There Is No Block!”

  1. I think you just changed the writing game for me entirely! I’ve never looked at it this way and have honestly never tried writing away from the keyboard which explains why I have such trouble physically getting ideas down. I try to limit my contemplation time to when I’m actually writing. I’m gonna give your shot a go!

    Out of curiosity, how many pages does 80,000 words equate to?!

    1. That’s really great to hear! I hope it makes a difference for you. Be sure to check back in and let me know.

      As far as word count to pages, that’s a tough one to answer because it depends entirely on the typeset used by a publisher as well as the media type. As a very general idea – and I’m hesitant to even say this – two standard ms pages equals one published page.

      Think about how the size and typeset of paperbacks have evolved over the years. And if you’re using a reader like Kindle, you can change font sizes on the fly.

      If you’re working a specific market, better to pay attention to acceptable word counts for the genre rather than worry about pages.

      1. That’s fascinating! I’ve always gauged my writing by page count (can you tell I’m a novice still lol?!) and didn’t really take into consideration the variants between publishers or mediums.

        I really appreciate the response and will follow up after I try this out a bit!

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