Last week I went to a book reading and signing for Ellen Hopkins’ new book, Traffick, the sequel to Tricks (love you, Ellen! xo). Someone in the audience asked her what she does when she’s blocked and she said she doesn’t get blocked too often, but when she gets stuck on a scene, she sometimes checks email or social media. But then she said the thing that works the best for her is getting away from her computer and going for a walk or run.
I find that’s true for me too. Getting out of my current writing environment or doing something completely different can help clear the blocks. But sometimes it doesn’t work or I’m too stubborn to follow my own best strategies.
Thus was the case when I was in the middle of a manic, sleep-deprived marathon of a writing jag for my YA rewrite a couple of weeks ago. I was grooving, I was in the zone. I was euphoric at the way the scenes were just flowing out of me. I felt one with the Creativity Angels, with the Muse, with the story itself.
And then I skidded to a stop. Wham. Smack into a writing wall.
Panic rose in my gut. I couldn’t hit a wall. I had a deadline (self-imposed but still–very important to me that I get it to the group to give them ample time).
I wrote and rewrote scenes over and over, getting more and more frustrated because they felt like “filler,” just something to get down until I got to the climax.
Anxiety rose even higher.
I gave myself permission to skip that section and work on the climax. However, I’d reworked the storyline, leaving my main character home instead of at prom. How to get her there for the big confrontation? I wrote various scenes to get her there, not happy with any of them.
I wanted to scream. I had been doing so well; what had happened to my mojo? My confidence began to falter. Suddenly, the whole manuscript seemed suspect. It all sucked and I was just fooling myself.
Finally, I got up and did what I haven’t done in a while when I’m in freakout mode: I went for the wine. Two glasses and almost a half a bag of Ruffles low fat 🙂 chips later (because I always need carbs with my alcohol), I still had nothing.
And then I thought about my perfectionist tendencies. And the brilliance that is the Wild Writers, my critique group for my novels. And I did something very out of character.
I asked for help.
I gave myself permission to leave a gap. In the space where I knew I needed some scenes and a transition to get us to prom, I asked the group, right in the manuscript, for suggestions. Now, maybe you already do this. I don’t. I feel guilty if I perceive that I’m asking people to do more than what is “usual.”
But I did it. It felt a little selfish, even though I knew they would support it. And I also took myself back to the exact moment when things went south and my anxiety hit–I’d never done that before. But I want to recognize it when it happens again (because it will) and not revert to bad habits when it does. I also want to remember that writing has always ebbed and flowed for me. But I always get my mojo back and I need to trust the process (and maybe get some sleep 🙂 ).
Of course, I still have some wine in reserve. But the chips are all gone. Dang.