Saturday, April 2, 2016

Writer's Block

It happens, so others tell me unconvincingly, at a bar at some con or other.  Then they relate their harrowing tale of being unable to write, lacking ideas, failing to craft a first line, or think of a gripping ending for whatever nascent tale they insist they are unable to write.

To all of these I've given an incredulous ear, doubting that any pro writer would ever fail to come up with an idea for a story, that they would not be able to craft concrete reality from the fluff of dreams and hone it to their liking. I likened their talk of blocks and mental fatigue to a form of bragging; something to disarm the claims of successes of whomever they are addressing.  I had never lacked for a story idea, a hook, a perfect ending line, an engaging plot, or interesting characters.

Such was my foolish belief for too many blessed years.

That is, until the dreaded block finally struck.  It's just exhaustion, I told myself after a year of intense work on three (3!) novels and eight or nine short stories, some of which actually sold.  Maybe it's just burnout, I imagined.  Give your mind a rest, I said and started delving into the backlog of books-to-be-read on my shelf and Kindle, blazing through the Nebula list and then the Kindle's, occasionally opening an actual book for the novelty of turning pages.  Three weeks of that and I felt ready to face the deadly blank screen once again.

But what to write?  My fingers hesitated over the keyboard, unable to decide which one to press.  Is it fear that I could not possibly equal the writing skills of those I'd just read.  No way I could craft such engaging plots.  Nor could I expect to breathe life into my characters in such an elegant way.  My basic writing style has been plodding, not soaring to elegant heights of description.  The best I can do is write more or less transparent sentences that have little complexity or nuance.  Accepting my limitations I applied myself to the task of pressing that first key that would open the door to my story.

Only I had no idea of how to start, or even what my subject would be.  Am I destined to become one of those writers who complains about writer's block at bars?

I hope not.


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