Monday, September 5, 2011

Writer's block vs. writer's blank

I've been thinking this weekend about why I don't plunge back into the new novel. Do I have writer's block? Do I have writer's blank? What's the difference?

I suffer very little from writer's block, which I define as a psychological state of discouragement, boredom, or restlessness. I suffer very little from this perhaps because I keep a variety of projects going. I enjoy writing short fictional prompts and anything can serve as a prompt; a line of poetry, a physical object, a phrase overheard in conversation, a band name on a poster on a telephone pole. I enjoy writing poetry and keep a running list of poetry subjects. And I can always read about writing. I count that as writing work because it not only keeps me informed but usually energizes me to try out some new ideas of my own.

Writer's blank on the other hand is when we don't know where to take the piece next. And I think that's what's happened to me on the current project. My practice is to always leave an obvious next step in my writing so that when I sit down to work on it, I can move right in. Sometimes that's an unfinished scene, sometimes it's a list of revisions or expansions to work on, sometimes it's a kernel of an idea for what is next.

Unfortunately, this isn't what happened the last time I was on writing retreat. I finished the chapters I had in mind and I had one day of retreat left. Knowing I was coming home to a full-tilt work week, I took that last day off and didn't make any notes to myself or leave myself any ideas. So I'm stuck in writer's blank and will need to remedy that with a list of possible new chapters, some verbal character sketches, maybe some discussion with a trusted writing colleague. And I'll start with reading what I have written.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jill,

    This is incredibly useful to me, on more than just writing: the idea that we aren't always stuck because of a block, but because we haven't properly seeded a path to our next work session on something. Excellent tip to practice today!