This past week I’ve been trying to make time for my writing, ha! (with the whole family on the lose in the house, good luck with that), to concentrate on my debut novel for which I’m sad to say is getting as much attention as a bill-collectors mail. Typing away on fictitious characters and places and cranking up plot is not happening often enough. Having some bad times up in here, trust me. But there’s good news. My little twelve year old brother just shipped off to Youth Camp for a whole week, the little always-talking pain in the you-know-where. Oh, there’s nothing like a good old church activity to save a brother some space. I mean, it’s hard enough trying to stay focused with all the distractions on my hand, to be added to by a curious twelve year old. Anyone with a little brother knows what I’m talking about.
So I thought, with all the uninterrupted time I have on my hand, I should make good progress. And so last night I picked up my laptop and set my fingers ready to type away, made me a nice cup of coffee and sat in front of the screen for half an hour with nothing to show for it. I rubbed my chin, run a hand through my hair, rubbed the nape of neck, did some arm exercises, and still had the same word count from three days ago. The story was as it was then, stuck in the middle of chapter four. The plot wasn’t moving along, the characters weren’t saying anything, and I had no idea how to move it. It was as if I had hit a wall and there was no roundabout way. I thought perhaps I should take a break, you know, clear my mind for a minute or two. I set the laptop aside and turned on the TV, watched a couple of uninteresting programs.
I realised I had hit writer’s block. OMG!
I’ve never been able to understand what this block is. I mean, I write a lot of essays and articles, and when I set up shop for any of these activities I don’t close till am done. I just sit and write and write and write. True, essays and articles are hardly 80,000 words long, and its more to do with facts and the writers observations and analysis of a topic social or personal, but it’s still writing, isn’t it? I’m yet to read of a journalists tale of writer’s block, you?
But writing fiction is different. It’s fictitious (yeah, genius). You’re trying to bring into existence something that is not. Characters, sometimes places, unheard of ideologies, made up religions, new planets with blue people and what not. And the hard part is, even when you’re using your imagination to create a story, often you have to take care that you don’t become the story, or the story doesn’t become you, whichever way you want to look at it. Cause the truth is that’s been threatening to happen to me a lot. And I hear it happens to first-time writers a lot. You’re up to here in sweat writing about a psychotic serial killer lose in the countryside and before you know it’s turning into an autobiography. Yet you’re creating characters with the kind of personality traits you hate, you write dialogue for a Chinese character trying to speak English, get into places you’d never get into in a million years. Sometimes you just get stuck.
And that’s what happened to me. Somehow I didn’t know what my lead character should do or where to turn. And then I thought, “You’re the god of this story. Make something happen.” And that’s what I did. I just wrote whatever came to mind. I shipped him off to Youth Camp like my little brother, and made him talk trash about it. Three pages of pure genius. I felt good, and thought to myself, “Next time a better idea comes to mind, I’d just change it.”