Remember when I said I had the dreaded Writer’s Block? I’m going to admit that I was a little glad I had it. I didn’t know where I wanted the characters to go, I didn’t know what the story should say next…it was time for a break. I’m the sort of writer where I will push through and force myself to write that thousand words a day if I have the time (full-time student, remember…), but I’m letting the characters tell me the story. I have a general sense of how I want the story to end, and where the characters should be, but I let them surprise me along the way.
My mom says that I sound borderline schizophrenic, but I’m no Jekyll/Hyde. Which, by the way, I read that book the other day and while I found it interesting, I was a little disappointed. All these movies, all these dramatizations and interpretations that I’ve seen over the years (including Abott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and the Daffy Duck cartoon from the 60’s, both very funny; and then there’s the Julia Roberts dramatic story, Mary Reilly), left me expecting something very emotional, very tragic. Jekyll and Hyde read like a doctor’s prognosis, which, given the fact that the two main characters involved were doctors, I can forgive that. What about the young female who is endangered by Hyde’s ravenous sexual urges? Completely made up by Hollywood? Oh Hollywood, how you failed and misled me again!
Anyway, I took a break for about a week, let my mind (the part we lowly humans don’t use in our everyday activities) mull over the problems. I went through my entire manuscript and re-outlined what had been written. What were the main events in each chapter? This allows me to see all the subplots as they are forming, how details later on tie back to something seemingly random at the beginning. It also lets me see how the characters are changing. With this done, I walked away from the piece. I didn’t even really read anything, except for The Writer and Writer’s Digest, reading up on new hints, on queries, etc. I watched movies, watched my current Korean drama, studied for the GRE, went to my favorite tea place in town, met friends, hung out with my family, and worked on my T-shirt surgeries.
Thursday night, the one night I was tired enough to fall asleep at midnight (I’m a slight insomniac), I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to, but I couldn’t! Why, you ask? Why was I unable to sleep on the one night I wanted to sleep? My muse kept tapping me on the shoulder. When that didn’t get my attention, she began hitting my head. She finally told me to use my cell phone as a light (I share my bedroom) and scribble out all my ideas on whatever paper I can find. As we all know, cell phone menu lights tend to time out, so, I was up until 2am flipping my cell phone open and shut, scribbling what I can before the light turns off. My shoulders, hands, and eyes were very tired by the time all my ideas fell out. But lo and behold, not only did I figure out where the story should go next, a whole section of the sequel came out of nowhere.
I didn’t even know I was going to write a sequel.
So the moral of the story is, if you’re feeling a little lost, try taking a break. Let your mind work on the back burner, and then go back when you’re feeling good again. If you feel bad, your writing will be bad, I’ve read. Plus, you will have the added advantage of looking at the piece with fresh eyes, and a more discerning critic inside you. Don’t dispair when The Block attacks, it is an opportunity for adding another layer of complication to your story! Something you didn’t think was important before, suddenly will be the focus of your piece. Use that Block to your advantage. Be bold. Be brave. Be persistent. Be a writer.