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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Prune Juice For Writing? What To Do When You're Stuck

I have a cluttered life, with many responsibilities and children begging me for keyboard time. Writer's Block is something I just can't afford. Usually, I wrote at my keyboard, on scraps of paper during minutes caught here and there, and after a big splurge and a gift from a friend, typing on my IPad.

If I get stuck on something, I begin my writing time by spewing my frustration and lack of motivation on the page, all my excuses, all my struggles with the writing. Usually two or three pages of that clears up the blockage. If not, I do it the next day, and on and on until I'm all cleaned out, just like eating dried figs keeps me clear with all that constipation matzo at Passover.

But trust me, I'm not perfect. As I posted to a new member of She Writes, a poet and professor named Brande McCleese, I've been stuck on something I started writing eight years ago, then stopped abruptly, perhaps when a baby was born. The writing shows a very clear vision, the characters pop, it's funny and different, and it's also an exploration of ethical approaches to life. You know how you can reread your work after a long time and it's startlingly fresh? You sort of remember writing it, but all the insecurities of yesterday's page--is it good, does it work, did I solve the problems--they're all gone and instead, you just read and enjoy, like it's somebody else's book?

And then, I stopped. About eighty pages in. Though I do remember the overarching plot I had, I have no idea what I wanted to do with two subplots. I've been researching ideas for one, but I've hesitated with moving in and doing the work. The vision was so clear, the characters seemed alive. Like real people. I don't want to "get them wrong," a mind-set that is the kiss of death when you're doing anything creative, because in creativity, there is no "right" way. Picking up Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper and having them talk to one another, using that four-year-old pretending voice, "how bout if you are the baby and I am the big sister," playing in the mud and coming up dirty really are the only answer to a creative struggle--making mistakes, trying this, trying that, saying the magic words--"what if?"

Instead, I've been thinking I had to buy an old keyboard for my old computer to see if I had any notes,
or spend more funds to get somebody to pull drafts off two old computers, a used laptop that's from that time or the desktop. Honestly, that's why I've been blogging almost every day. I have submitted my massive, complex manuscript to my dream publisher as well as a delightful and hard-working agent with vision, sending my great hulking baby off into the deep, echoing tunnel of not knowing their response. I have been working to research and query at least one other agent a day. (Though that's not always possible, I love research and learning about people, so it's actually interesting and fun--and nerve-wracking, of course.)

Maybe, though,  I just need to hit my existing keyboard several days in a row and write out my frustration. What if the two almost sisters are really. . .

What do you do to when you're stuck? Anybody have any suggestions?

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