by Allison Maruska
I saw an interesting quote on Facebook this morning.
“Some days you don’t feel like doing your job. But there is no ‘teacher’s block’ or ‘dentist’s block.’ I can’t figure out why we have created this mysterious phrase..only for writers..which only means ‘don’t feel like doing this right now.” Lois Lowry
I’ve been chewing on it all day and decided maybe “The Block” is reserved for creative pursuits – creating something from nothing can go off the rails sometimes. Are Painter’s Block and Quilter’s Block a thing?
Allow me to offer my answer with a little story.
I was “blocked” for more than a year with my upcoming novel, The Seventh Seed. Or at least I thought I was…
What really happened was I wrote about a third of it and put chapters in my critique group as I went. One chapter needed significant rewrites, which happens. It doesn’t usually happen while still writing new material, however. I couldn’t decide if I should fix the broken chapter or keep on keeping on with the new stuff.
So I did neither. Instead, I stopped writing Seed and focused on Drake and the Fliers, a book I was closer to finishing.
Then, I got the rights back for the Project Renovatio trilogy and spent the next year getting those books published.
And Seed patiently waited on the back burner for me, even as I told it I wasn’t going to finish it.
I felt better when I removed the “I should finish that” pressure from my brain. At least for a little while. My writing partners seemed kinda bummed when I told them.
I believed I was blocked with it. I’d stopped with a broken chapter after somewhere around 30,000 words. I had to fix that before moving on. The fact that it was out there, unfinished, nagged at me, especially when the other books were out and my plate was clean.
Brain: Now what?
Me: Well, I have these other ideas for new stories–
Brain: You never finished Seed, you know.
Me: Do I have to??
Brain: Not right now but you will eventually.
My brain knows me too well.
I couldn’t leave 30,000 words out in the literary abyss doing nothing. My characters were left hanging. And I remembered a couple of choice quotes I’d read over the years.
I wanted my book to be a book, not a brick in the road to unfinished manuscript hell. So, I opened the file, blew the dust off, and vowed to finish my shit.
I’m not gonna lie: it was hard to get rolling again. I started by reading through the old chapters, cleaning them up a little. Then I fixed the broken chapter. Then came the new stuff. I managed to get the remaining 50,000 words down in about three months (give or take a few weeks). But it was finished.
So what’s the take away here?
I was blocked, but I also had four convenient excuses (other books) for staying that way. Once The Seventh Seed was the only thing looking at me, I could break through the block. Until then, the motivation to get unblocked just wasn’t there.
For me, writer’s block was a matter of “not wanting to do it right now.” But that’s just me.
Guest post contributed by Allison Maruska. Allison likes to post in line with her humor blog roots, but she also includes posts about teaching and writing specifically. Check out her website for more of her work.