It happens to everyone. Really. There’s no need to feel embarrassed. It’s perfectly normal and natural from time to time.
And no, I’m not talking about incontinence. So far as I know, your bladder is perfectly fine. Nobody told me anything. Truly.
But is there something you’d like to tell me before you come in and lounge all over my new couch?
Okay then. Let’s move on to the actual topic of this blog.
I hit the wall last weekend. And I was a mess. I paced, I read through my notes, I exercised, and played hours of Bejeweled and other extremely productive games. I wrote and deleted so many times I wasn’t really sure I knew the difference anymore. I watched my word count go up and then right back down when I realized the scene was all wrong.
But let’s take a few steps back. To really understand what the wall is, you have to go back to the writing process. When I write, I basically sit down and let my characters lead me to where they want to go. I know where I think the day should take me, but they are the ones who actually call the shots.
And I try to keep up. But every now and again, they’re either not in the mood, or they woke up wrong because a dog threw up on their pillow during the night—it happens—or some other thing that puts them off. In those times, they look to me to drag them along through the story—sometimes kicking and screaming.
I can do that for a while, but sooner or later—don’t know why I couched it, it’s always sooner—I need their input or everything comes to a screeching halt.
AKA, the wall.
It happens to writers who outline, too. Those times when the next step eludes them for a while. Their walls just get hit a little earlier than mine.
All writers hit the wall. Even Stephen King, who is my go-to for writing truths. But I’ll never take dating advice from him again—that’s a story for another time. In his book, On Writing, he tells the story of when he was writing The Stand. He hit the wall and didn’t know where to go next. It wasn’t writer’s block, which is a fictional construct anyway, because he could still write. He just couldn’t progress in this story. It was a temporary setback that he got through, and today The Stand is considered by many to be his Mona Lisa.
So, what do you do when you hit the wall? You keep writing. Keep pushing against it until it falls over. It will, so long as you don’t give up and call it a block. Don’t believe the tsunami of self-doubt and recrimination that always, always, always comes with it.
And whatever you do, don’t sing the Pink Floyd song.
I’ve heard you sing.
Hum if you have to, but for the love of all that is holy … just don’t.