Posted by: Andy | December 30, 2008

writer’s block

So, as some of you may know, I’ve been working on my first attempt at a longform/novel for the last 2 years or so (JESUS has it been that long?…yes, google docs tells me it has been at least 19 months. fuck.).  And, judging by the fact that I haven’t really added anything of substance since April – just edits & clean-ups – I’d have to say I’m kind of stuck-

– on Chapter 8.  The “road trip” chapter.  Wherein our protagonists travel somewhere by means of car.   There are conversations that need to be had, and I pretty much know what they need to be.  But for some reason whenever I open up the page to work on it I.Just.Stare. Nothing happens.  I can think about/percolate the ideas while I’m walking/busing/driving/sleeping/etc. and have managed to make some internal progress that way, but whenever I open up the file my brain goes blank.  Less than blank actually as I become negatively interested in the whole thing.  It’s really very puzzling for me.

A lot of that comes from how different this process is than my normal creative processes.  I used to (and still rarely) write poetry.  For me, that’s pretty much just a spontaneous process.  It happens because it has to, or it’s gone.  I rarely edit, and only do so in certain circumstances if a particular process calls for – in general my poetry is anti-edit in nature, free thought type stuff that is jargongumbled by looking back upon and attempting to do anything to.  So I don’t have this problem there.  Either I write or I don’t.  I wouldn’t have an open page up to stare at, because I would have never opened it if I didn’t have anything bubbling up to write.  (Of course, me ignoring the urge to write is an entirely different issue.)

The other thing I write is (obviously) blogs.  And blogs come about when something intrigues or annoys or interests me.  If I’m not blogging it’s because a) my life is boring b) my life is busy or c) I just don’t feel like it.  None of these are major losses, because the blog doesn’t have any particular purpose other than just to be there when I feel a need for that kind of release, and perhaps so the 4 people that read it can laugh at/with me.  There is no blog writer’s block (for me) because, like my poetry process, my blogging process is antithetical to the concept of writer’s block.  I don’t need to blog.  I do it when I get around to it, and there is no start or end in sight, so who cares?

From my outline (another foreign thing, but absolutely necessary for me because of how much my brain forgets), it looks like the whole thing will run around 20-24 chapters, so one could say I’m potentially about 1/3 through it.  I have a feeling that, page count wise, I’m less than 1/4. Ch1-5 ran 77 pages, single spaced.  I’m not sure what 6-7 added to that, but a few at least.  So figure I have potentially 300 pages to go – not because I have a page goal, but because that is how big the work is – it’s daunting.

Kind of.  I do think I can finish it, but seeing as how I wanted to finish before I was 30 now I’ll be extending that goal to 35…I can do it.   I think I just have to really learn a new method of working.  I can’t just sit around and wait for things to happen like the do with blogs & poems…I have to actively pursue the damn beast in some way I’m not yet familiar with.

But I will be.  A man’s gotta have goals.



  1. “I can think about/percolate the ideas while I’m walking/busing/driving/sleeping/etc. and have managed to make some internal progress that way, but whenever I open up the file my brain goes blank. Less than blank actually as I become negatively interested in the whole thing.” – Sorry to repost so much but that’s an uncanny description. For. Serious. Even better is how I came to realize what mediums/materials I cannot use. For example, though I love recording conversations, etc (I am a historian as we know), I cannot intentionally record my own voice to remember a line or note. The sound of my own voice turns off the feed. LAME. I can write it down but only on very specific paper. Yellow pad is the easiest but not my romantic preference.
    Working on more than one thing at a time has always been a must, as I do have to be interested in something to continue working on it. But the phase I’m in now is the weirdest. I haven’t written new fiction in …. omg. Over a year. Only the people who know me will really know what a big effing blank that is. I’ve been editing or working on logistical stuff – like Fulbright applications. Zounds.


  2. I have a similar problem with paper.
    I just can’t put anything to paper anymore. I think it’s the idea of the difficulty in editing (I do do instant edits – wrong word choice, current line changes the previous one, etc. – I just don’t usually do like, look at a poem the following day and “fine tune” it) in PnP vs. digital.

    I can occasionally use them – like on our honeymoon – and it’s interesting to see how different my mental process is in that state. It does produce interesting results, it’s just more difficult. Mentally. Because I’m retarded.

    I’ve found as well that the more “adult” things I have to think about (like applications in your case), the less I write in general. It’s not so much that I have less free time, it’s that I’m so “tired” of “thinking” about these things that when I have free time I just want to veg. Back in the good old school days it was fun to think about things, so I didn’t feel all brain drained at the end of a day; in fact I felt invigorated. Now the opposite. Le sigh.

    I’ve never had much luck on working on more than one thing at once – esp. for long things I have to be so “into” them that they are a part of my daily existence – and I don’t think I can do that for more than 1 thing yet.

  3. Man, just when I think I’m not thinking about stuff. There’s that thinkin’ again. My problem right now is that I have four projects in some stage of maturity (who’ve been on the back burner while I coddle the project I’m submitting) – and I’m talking one project that’s going to literally start over. As much as one can with a completed work. To change kinda daunting things like POV and crap. And what keeps happening? Conceptualizing additional projects. Hey, it ensures work. For like. A decade.

  4. I wanted to give this a proper read and not just a scan. So, finally, I’m on a break and gave it a good read.

    It’s a perplexing issue. I like that you guys went on a little road trip to Olympia, hope it gave you new vision and direction for some of the scenes.
    One thing I find when I hit a moment of block is that I need to get out and experience human beings.
    I’m alone a lot, or just around the same few people all the time, and I have to say, I’m not inspired by going to a coffee shop with my laptop, I’m more just reminded of people, human nature, mannerisms, and the like, and it helps to get things going. And it helps to get out of my own head and expand my voice so that all my characters don’t sound the same.

    Hope you have a new technique forming. I’m interested to hear your book concept and characters.
    Perhaps next time we see you guys?


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