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Putting Words To The Page

Jerry

Scribe
Lately, I have real trouble putting the words in my head and thoughts to the page. I can't write in pen to paper nor onto a computer screen. I don't believe it's writer's block as I don't think that exists. I have always thought writer's block was mainly a creative void because the story wasn't fleshed out enough and you're just stuck until you figure it out. It could be my trouble now, but I have more than enough notes and a few very rough paragraphs and pages here and there so I have written in the past. But, I just can't seem put what I want into words, physical words onto the page. Yet, I know... the irony... I'm doing it right now, but it's just not the same thing. I tried even just speed writing about - well, anything, even scenes from my story and the words just won't come out nor flow. At most, I'm a leaky faucet, with one or two annoying drips every week or so. I feel I've come to a point in my life where the words are trapped and will not come out no matter what I've tried. Age, depression, fear I'm sure may be a part of it all. Anyone ever have days, weeks, even months were the story is there, hot in your head and blood, ready to spill out but when you sit in front of the computer or notebook, it refuses its exit? Perhaps it's a deep, subconscious thing? Help.
 

Heliotrope

Staff
Article Team
When this happens to me it is usually because I'm judging my shitty rough draft too much. My logical brain is busy judging my creative brain. In order to get past this I often have to allow my draft to suck, and set a word goal... say 500 words. I will do word sprints, like "Ok, start and don't stop until you have written 500 words". I do this, allowing the words to be TERRIBLE, knowing I can fix them afterwards.
 
I always write my best when I can’t be writing, heh heh. Or at least that used to be true. When I HAVE to be doing something else I want to be writing soooo bad. I pretty much have my brain trained now, if I sit down with certain music on the headphones, it might take a few minutes, but the brain slips into writing zone.
 

blondie.k

Minstrel
I always write my best when I can’t be writing, heh heh. Or at least that used to be true. When I HAVE to be doing something else I want to be writing soooo bad. I pretty much have my brain trained now, if I sit down with certain music on the headphones, it might take a few minutes, but the brain slips into writing zone.
This is soooo me!
Maybe try running the lines in your head until they sound just right. Then transfer to paper and from there to the screen.
 
Another thing I know I should do but get stubborn about, is to not get set in what I think I’m going to write... Write out of order, write a different POV, write whatever. On several occasions I’ve stared at the computer after chomping at the bit to write X and it just doesn’t happen. It’s hard for me to do, but if I can back myself off and write something else I’m better off. By jumping to a scene a couple chapters ahead, I have found that something kicks in my head that makes what I had planned to write at first was off kilter with what was going to happen later anyhow, and wham! I can go back and write the previous section. The brain likes messing with me.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I've never had trouble writing, but Demesnedenoir reminds me that I do a lot of what I'm doing right now, which is writing fragments in order to sketch a scene.

Especially when I'm in planning mode, I get lots of ideas. Some I can just make note of, but every once in a while there's more to the idea than just an event or note. There's a mood, a feeling. Today it was the notion that my MC keeps gaining allies but losing friends. That's the note, but when I was nosing it around there was a definite feeling that there should be this moment where someone scolds my MC, gives him an attitude adjustment. I wrote a couple pages of dialog (such moments nearly always come out as dialog). I don't know where or even if I'll use it, but there it is. As often as not, I don't use it directly, but the act of writing secures it a place in my author memory, and it comes out in one form or another in the draft.

Another aspect or benefit of doing this is that it helps me find voice--voices for individual characters (because, dialog) but also the narrative voice. I don't think I can really make a good start without having that voice. Having it helps carry me over the places where I get discouraged, helps remind me that there's a story to tell.
 
I have always thought writer's block was mainly a creative void because the story wasn't fleshed out enough and you're just stuck until you figure it out. It could be my trouble now, but I have more than enough notes and a few very rough paragraphs and pages here and there so I have written in the past. But, I just can't seem put what I want into words, physical words onto the page.


Jerry, hang in there. I think writer's block often comes when we have too much of the story set in our mind and are, as Heliotrope said above, judging our first drafts and our attempts to capture it in perfect form.

I'd suggest, if you haven't already done so, try something outside of your current WIP. A flash fiction story, a poem, heck a haiku will do. Something that you have no attachment to the quality of the idea/piece. Use a prompt, a word you love, a fantasy or sci-fi image from the internet, anything. Just pick it and try writing from that place of no expectations and no concerns about where it goes. Five hundred words, a thousand, whatever you are comfortable with. I've found it useful to have more than one thing to work on at a time so that I can pull myself out of a tailspin whenever I bog down.

Here's a favorite of mine. I'll start a letter to someone I haven't seen in some time (this gives me familiarity, context, characters with a history/relationship of some sort) but by the end of the first paragraph, I let it go off the rails and start working fantasy or sci-fi elements into it. by the end of the letter, I'm in another world altogether. :)

Best of luck to you!
 

Jerry

Scribe
Thank you one and all. All of you, very supportive and frankly, therapeutic in your responses - at least, its how I feel about it. It's a struggle. After reading your replies, I did get a sense, an 'urge' to write and just sat down and spilled out whatever was in my head. It was but a paragraph, but I was happy it was something. I don't do that often, perhaps, not often enough. There was more energy there in free-writing and so much less wasted when I wasn't thinking about what I needed to write, nor if it was appropriate as in scene or a time frame, or when I'm judging myself - and I hadn't even realized I was doing that. It was so subconscious. So, I took that and used it against myself and seemed to win a small battle. Your inspiring words made me realize that I am my own worst enemy. I've barely opened and still feel a bit trapped, so is yesterday a fluke or a cure? I still think there's a psychological thing that's preventing me to be creative. I've got issues, no doubt... and they're indeed disturbing.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator

I've seen some of these before. Seeing them again made me wonder if we all ought to advise first-time writers *not* to offer their first draft up for feedback. An author is often at their most vulnerable when it's their first work, most susceptible to those wounds turning into scars. The ideal advice would be to keep working until you've got the draft as good as you can make it, and only then give it out for comments.

At the same time, though, first-time authors are the most likely to keep making the same mistakes, most blind to their own tics, and so most likely to benefit from early feedback. It's what you call a conundrum. :) Just one of many, in this line of work.
 

Heliotrope

Staff
Article Team
keep working until you've got the draft as good as you can make it, and only then give it out for comments.

I would agree with this. I would suggest never submitting a first draft for review (until it is to a VERY trusted crit partner. I have a few of those, who are at a level where they know to critique on structure or pacing, but not on word choice/voice etc), or be VERY specific in what sort of feedback you are looking for.

When I see inquiries in the "Critique wanted" forum, I say those are fair game. I assume it is an author who has worked to the point where they have fixed everything they can see, but need fresh eyes to see it differently.

So yeah, at some point you do have to put it out there.... it's the only way to get better.
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
Usually when I’m having trouble finding words, it’s a sign that I don’t have a firm grasp of what my POV character wants and why. That’s when I toss everything aside and just ask myself what does my character want and why, right then and there. And what do they think about the situation they’re in and what are they going to do about it? I brainstorm answers and possibilities, and usually, something will pop up.
 
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