Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Around the Block

We can't go back, can we? So springing forward would seem to be our only choice, and since that vernal equinox a few weeks ago signaled the official end of the winter that wasn't, I'd better get springing. The Thousand Excuses have played me well. I've added a page to a short that I will finish, even if I continue to dislike it. It's one of those "seemed like a good idea at the time" stories, based on a real incident in a short newspaper article from a couple winters ago. I guess the challenge to me is to find the angle that will make it feel like a good idea again. I'll explain.

During a very cold and snowy winter, one day an old couple was found outside, in their back yard, dead on the ground in each other's arms. It appeared, best they could tell, that the woman had slid on ice and fallen, and her husband, in an attempt to lift her and carry her in, had suffered a fatal heart attack. Did she freeze to death in his arms? Was she already unconscious, or did she lie there terrified, unable to move as her husband died inches in front of her? What prompted her to go out into the cold in the first place?

Now that story could be written as the sweet but tragic romance that a certain very successful author specializes in, the old lovers dying in each other's arms. But being as I tend to lean more toward the macabre, or at least the darker side, possibly with a bit of twisted humor, I tend to think there might have well been something more there than those romantically inclined discoverers saw in the clutch of the wizened lovers. Or were they still lovers at all?

It isn't as though I've hit a block. I just go to it, write a bit, and find myself not grabbed by it yet. Lazy writing, of course, is the culprit. I could just plow through the obvious story, finish it, and put it someplace where ants would devour the syrup. Something, though, in my twisted mind won't let me do that. So I pause, think of the devious turns, the little niggling annoyances that might have added up to a moment of something diabolical. Yes! But what, exactly? I'll think about on the drive home, in the shower, in the garden, tomorrow at Tara.

A couple of blog posts this past week have discussed writer's block and what it is--or isn't. I'm in agreement that it isn't. Chuck Wendig is most emphatic that it is a lie (#4 of 25) writers tell themselves. Banish it! Rachel Lewis has never succumbed to it, although she's slogged through the occasional writer's mud, and haven't we all? As every writer knows, some days are easy, the words soar, characters surprise, and we end a session at the computer almost buzzed. Other days are like, well, knowing there's a way out of the forest, the mud, over the wall, but we don't see it, so we pull one. word. at. a. time. until our wheels are back on solid ground and we're rolling again.

I'd like to say that I do that on a daily basis, but I'll admit to just staring at the wall, or the bog, for days on end. Not that I'm doing nothing. Always thinking about it. Always churning the cream looking for the butter to solidify. But I don't see that as being blocked. Lazy, sometimes, self-indulgent, sometimes, and sometimes just allowing for space to let the good stuff surface. I've reached a place where so many characters needed to come together from where I'd placed them in their various perils that I felt I had set loose I group of unruly schoolchildren. I knew where I wanted them, but getting them there in a natural, logical way eluded me. I wasn't blocked, just challenged. Sometimes weeks went by, I'd push out pages and scrap them all.

The thing was, is, that I never felt I was blocked. maybe I'd hit a wall, but a wall can be got around, or over, or dug under. It may take time. It definitely takes, no, requires perseverance. If we don't acknowledge that, if we beat ourselves up because it isn't easy, or give up and blame it on writer's block, we just aren't doing our jobs. Sometimes the walls are many, almost as though a maze has been thrown up around us. There's that story to finish, going back to querying that novel, or deciding to shelve it and move on, or not to shelve it but still move on, and, oh yeah, establish a presence on the various social media, and, and, and...

The cortisol soars instead of words. So many walls, so little time. I know, I'll go pull some weeds, plant some perennials, take a walk, have a drink. But then it's back at the keyboard or yellow legal pad. One wall at a time.

I do wonder how that old couple will have ended up dead in each other's arms in the snow and ice. I'll know soon, and I'll share it. Somehow, I think it wasn't as pretty as it looked. I just need to work my way around that little wall . . . around the block.

What's your way around the walls, around the block (which, of course, doesn't really exists, does it?)