I’ve never been blocked, or whatever. It’s not that I don’t believe writers get blocked. Sometimes I don’t do the dishes for two days, and I love washing dishes. Sometimes my desire for clean dishes does not out-weigh my apathy about washing the fucking things.
Sometimes my love for sitting here tapping letters, trying to fill the void, is out-weighted by being stuck.
I tried the last scene from three perspectives before finally settling on one. This scene? Shit, I have no idea. No clue. Which is usually a sign that I’m writing the wrong scene. My stories are stronger when each scene really wants to be told from a specific point of view. I’ve written every pivotal moment in The Scientific Method from both Will’s and Hugh’s perspectives. I’ve written a few of them from a more removed third person, zooming out, if you will, to see what I was missing. More often than not, if I re-read a scene that is wishy-washy on point of view, it’s in the wrong one.
I know what has to happen next. People got fight, people gotta fuck. Sounds like fun, right? I love writing fights, not fist fights, but aggressive verbal fights with some beats of anger and action and the hint that hings could go Too Far (cue dramatic music). So why the hell am I sitting here blabbling to the blog, when I should be fucking writing in these last precious seconds before kiddo’s up for the day?
Something’s off. When I was a little baby writer, I couldn’t feel myself veer off-course as I did it. Ever. I’d write for two hundred thousand words before I discovered my through-line. A single scene could go on for fifty pages, cause I had no idea what I was trying to say. Then, at some point, after probably five or so novels, I stumbled upon Nicola Griffith’s post on revising. (Which I will find for you, but not now, because: impending toddler.)
Nicola Griffith says pay attention to your body. Which is weird advice for writers, right? Specifically, she says pay attention to your body on that first all-important re-read of something you’ve written. Twinge in the gut? Sudden distracting sensation in your limbs? Go back five pages and read again. The body knows story, apparently, and every time I’ve tuned into this, it’s like fucking magic. No shit. (I have to turn it on, though. Given the chance, my brain will eliminate all physical inputs. My brain’s kind of a jerk. Though I suppose forgetting about the body was a self-protective habit I formed in puberty, and need to now work on adjusting.)
Right now? My body is resisting the shit out of every way I’ve started this scene. It’s the wrong scene.
Years ago, I had to write through this feeling. If I’d ever adopted a policy of waiting it out, I wouldn’t still be writing today. I’d probably still be waiting. (Or I’d have a huge collection of the first ten thousand, twenty thousand words of stories, and no completed work at all.) But now, many, many hours into it? Now I can take a few deep breaths, tell myself the story will resolve, and take a break. It doesn’t always present itself to me, perfectly formed. And sometimes I still have to write my way in. But knowing the difference between “solvably stuck” and “hands thrown up in the air surrender” is bliss.
I’m gonna walk away for awhile and come back. The kid’s about to help me out with demands to play outside, and playing outside frequently clarifies for me what the hell I’m doing in fiction. (Or maybe that’s just seeing the world through toddler eyes. Everything is simultaneously extreme and simple; failing to find a cookie when you want one is tragic, but a peeled green apple is sublime.) This puppy has to start getting unstuck real damn soon or it’s the 200,000 word trenches for me, and the hope that when I come back to it later I’ll know what the hell I was trying to say.