Friday, July 8, 2011


Yes, the post is late today. Blame a slightly dodgy internet connection. But better late than never, right?
By Russel D McLean

Some days the words won’t come.

Some days all you want to do is turn off the machine and walk away. Or put down the pen.

Whatever, the way you write is your choice.

Some people call that urge to walk, “writers block”.

I say there’s no such thing. Not really. But the mind is, if you’ll forgive a mild cliché*, a muscle. And like any muscle, sometimes it gets tired or fatigued. Often through overuse. Sometimes through just doing the same thing over and over again.

It happens to us all.

Someone asked me what I do when I feel I can’t get going on a fiction project. “What is your one tip to get moving again?”

It was one my dad gave me, actually. I think he might have read it in an old Writer’s Digest, back in the days when J Michael Straczynski was chronicling the development of some wee TV show called Babylon 5 he was touting to studios and Nancy Kress was writing some of the most common-sense and downright useful columns on writing fiction I ever read.

Maybe it was one of them who had the idea. Maybe it was someone else.

Anyway, the advice was this:

Go switch on the TV.

Really. Go switch it on. Any channel will do.

Write down the first line of dialogue you hear.

Turn off the TV.

Go back to the desk. That dialogue is your starting point. Take it from there. With your own characters. Your own people.

Write the scene that flows from that dialogue.

Why does this exercise work? I think because it gets your brain warmed up again. Allows it to take a new and refreshing tack. Stops it from cramping up.

I rarely use the scene that I wind up with. Most of the time I abandon it halfway through because, out of the back of my head, comes the solution for the other work that I’ve been searching for. Maybe it’s as simple as a distraction technique. That whole thing where if you focus on something else then the answer to your first problem simply presents itself.
Or maybe it’s like I said, sometimes you need to warm up your mind same as any other muscle.

Whatever the case, that’s what does it for me. And you never know, it could be of some help to you, too.

*of course, every so often, only a cliché will do. But please use them sparingly. Or you’ll wind up like me…

No comments: