Time Management, Writer’s Block and Hitting the Wall…
Writing is a personal process and sometimes the best tips we can discover are not ones dictating specific format or practical technique but more generalized advice on the process itself.
Ask anyone who knows about writing, and you’ll often hear two fundamental traits of a successful writer are honesty and objectivity.
Personally, I might even put these two above actual writing skill… (especially when looking at some of the more successful books at BAM or movies coming out of Hollywood.)
Back on point.
Honesty allows you to see and capture truth.
And truth whether emotional, psychological or factual is essential to engaging an audience.
Objectivity allows you to work with truth from different vantage points.
Whether it’s your own personal POV, your client’s POV, or your audience’s POV…
And this truth and objectivity applies to not only the work itself but how we work as well. It lies at the core of our time management, our ability to avoid “Writer’s Block”–the ever present boogeyman in the closet–and ultimately meet our deadlines.
Of course, writers live and die by our deadlines–especially mercenary writers (folks who make the majority of their income writing for other peoples’ IPs).
To non-writers, our craft and job is all too simple. We “just” sit down and hammer the keys until we’ve got our script done.
But in reality, of course we know our task is anything but simple. And it can be quite the conundrum at times.
Unlike many professions, writing is unique in that little of it can be done on autopilot, the foundation of our work can’t be derived from stock sources. You can’t copy and paste a scene, you can’t grab Moby Dick or Peter Parker #107 and say “well leme just copy these first few pages and I’ll just change a few words…”
The source of good writing is unique, original and comes from an intangible source of ether deep within us.
As writers we turn to our muse and our imaginations at every step to create.
And this process doesn’t always agree with our deadlines. Sometimes you go to the well and the well is dry.
So how do you stay on track and avoid the dry well, avoid being blocked?
The answer is easy (or not so easy at times), you have to fall back on your honesty and objectivity and really assess your situation for what it is.
There’s two types of Writer’s block.
The first is when you sit down to write and you’re just “not there”, your head’s just not in the game. Maybe your personal life is having problems, maybe you have a toothache, maybe it’s the first gorgeous day in two weeks of constant rain and you’d just rather be out fishing.
My advice to overcome this type of block is simple… go fishing.
A lot of people would advocate pushing through and forcing yourself to get the work done, but I don’t subscribe to this method. Forcing yourself to write when you really shouldn’t be at the desk never produces your best work and it’s more than likely to produce subpar work, which will require additional time to address later on… or worst yet be a complete wash.
“You’re not Dick Jones pushing a contract for the Ed-209. You want your name synonymous with quality.”
As a professional, you have to meet your deadlines. But sometimes the best way to meet your deadline is to simply stop working and get away from the desk.
I equate this scenario to having a 8 cylinder muscle car, with two or three cylinders blown.
Would you take the car to the strip, to race–or would you take it to the shop first and get all 8 cylinders firing?
And when you’re trying to get away from your work, get away from your work. Leave it behind, don’t think about it. Fully enjoy whatever it is you’re up to. If you worry about work while you’re fishing, then you’re really still at your desk… you just brought it out on the lake with you.
[Sometimes I call this the art of doing nothing, because though it may seem like you aren’t doing anything, you’re actually doing something very specific–recharging your creative batteries.]
*** An hour of inspired writing is worth six hours of forced writing. ***
Now, if you come back to your desk after fishing and still can’t get into your writing groove, your facing one of two situations.
- You didn’t do enough fishing or
- You’re blocked not because your head isn’t in the game, but because there’s a problem in the story itself and you’ve hit a wall.
If it’s the former, grab some beers and go look for some more fish.
This is where you need to rely on your honesty and objectivity. You need to recognize the difference between not being in a productive headspace and just wanting to go goof off.
Getting away from your desk when you need it, is a learned discipline and what I consider a requirement for good writing…
Just not wanting to work, is being lazy.
You’re a professional, with your big boy pants on and people are depending on you. If responsibility to get your work done isn’t high on your priorities, writing might not be your profession of choice.
On the latter, if you’ve hit a wall on the writing side of things, this is almost always the sign of a weak or problematic outline. Walls spring up when ideas and direction is weak. Super rarely is it your inability to say what you want to say–that’s a fiction best left to the movies.
So go back to your outline. Pull it apart, see if you’ve missed any structural points, add anything that gets the flow of the story back on track and get back to writing.
If you REALLY hit a wall, if there’s something wrong in the story structure and you just can’t put your finger on it. If you’re spending too much time trying to find the problem, that’s the point to leave the scene, chapter or section basically blank.
Actually, that’s a good point to call in a developmental editor wink emoticon but for argument’s sake of this post, we’ve got you going solo. So, skip it. Put your general notes in there and get back to it at the end or in the next draft.
I personally don’t like this approach, because I like to create tighter first drafts and I like to build off my ideas as the story progresses. But if you get really jammed up somewhere on the path, you can reach the point where it’s becomes more important to get to the destination, then head back later to pick up the things that fell behind along the way.
When you’re trying to finish a script down to the wire, you’re much better off going back and tackling a missing section, rather than trying to complete an incomplete work all at once… trust me on that one. ▪
About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S. Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.
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© 2016 Nick Macari. No reproduction without written permission.