Staring blindly into space
With all the twists and turns this journey has taken, one thing has remained constant: my need to write the stories that populate my head. That doesn’t mean the stories always cooperate.
My current work in progress, Gazing Into the Abyss, book four of the SpiritSense trilogy (I know, I keep saying I’ll change that to the “SpiritSense series,” but it’s fun to say), has been resisting my efforts for quite a while. I haven’t done any substantial writing in that one for a few weeks.
I had a friend, another writer, who spurned the concept of writer’s block. Wayne viewed it as, simply, procrastination. When a writer encountered difficulty writing a project, he needed to just soldier on, write anyway, write something else. He was a prolific writer, of novels, short stories, poetry and very clever Facebook posts, so he obviously took his own advice.
Alas, cancer took Wayne several months ago, the cruelest writer’s block there is.
I respectfully disagreed with his belief about writer’s block, though, or at least with his narrow definition of it. It’s not as if I have been unable to write anything in the last few weeks. I have done other writing, including weekly blog posts. But the scene I had been attempting to finish kept eluding me.
I often tend to have trouble when a scene calls for heightened emotion. It’s easy to make such scenes trite or melodramatic, and I’ve seen too many writers fall prey to that, so I try really hard to keep them realistic.
And that’s where the block comes in. I start second-guessing myself, wondering if what I want to write is too histrionic, or if, on the other hand, it’s not quite emotional enough for the subject matter. When I get to that point, it’s difficult for me to write anything on the scene in question.
This scene involves a character confronting her alcoholic mother after years of estrangement. Plenty of room for melodrama there, and the introduction to the scene has sat open on my computer for quite some time, mocking me every time I read through it, hoping to get into the scene. But each time, if anything, the most I would be able to do is make an adjustment to a phrase, rewording something I had already written.
As I often do, I discussed the scene with Linda, my muse, and I knew where I wanted it to go. That wasn’t the problem. It was just getting it there without the narrative or the dialogue being too hokey or exaggerated, or, on the other hand, not infused with enough emotion under the circumstances.
Something that helped me, though difficult, was to call up memories from my past. They say to write what you know, right? My in-laws from a previous marriage were alcoholics, and I had a store of memories about dealing with them, my mother-in-law in particular.
It didn’t gush out in a wild literary effluence. Instead, I started by inserting descriptions into parts that I had already written, memories of clutter and odors, of the uncomfortable feelings I’d get in my gut when I was with them.
After that, though, the rest of the scene came pouring out, and before I knew it, it was done. I’ve read and reread the scene, and I’m happy with the way it turned out.
Wayne might even agree it was worth the wait.