Getting through those difficult chapters

Sometimes the words don’t come. It’s not a matter of not having ideas, it’s that the ideas won’t come out. You sit down, place your hands on the keyboard knowing you need to get something done … but nothing happens. You don’t have any words.

I’ve had a few of these nights recently as I’ve tried to get back into the swing of things. Six weeks away from writing ended up being far too long. As I previously blogged, for me routine and momentum are absolutely vital in staying productive. Short breaks are fine, but those extended breaks can put a real damper on your ability to get back into a productive frame of mind.

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. With a little practice and a willingness to train yourself you can bully your way through difficult spots and get something on the page. No, it might not be pure spun gold, but one of the first realizations any writer should come to is that not every sentence will be gold. Progress is progress. Just get something done. You can make that scene sing in the revision process, when you’re really feeling the story.

Some writers advocate skipping to another scene, one you really feel instead of the one troubling you. That’s fine, I’ve certainly done it myself, but it’s also a territory in which I tread with caution. For the easily distracted such as myself, it’s a recipe for habits that encourage a wandering mind rather than focusing on the task at hand. Once your mind starts wandering to other chapters, other stories, or other projects, you’ll find yourself well on your way to developing a whole stack of unfinished projects. From there you’ll have opened the door to what one discussion forum called “cat vacuuming,” which is looking for something to do, anything to do, that is not writing.

In other words, avoiding the work you should be doing.

If a scene has me stopped dead in my tracks, the best thing I can do is to just keep pushing forward. To just write the damn scene. Waiting for “inspiration” is an amateur’s excuse for not writing. I try my damnedest not to fall prey to it because once you allow yourself that excuse, anything goes. One excuse follows another, and pretty soon you’re just another schlep talking about writing instead of doing it.

So what happened during the difficult writing sessions I’ve had recently? I wrote anyway. It was a struggle, but I wrote. I got the chapter written I needed to write. It’s not a great chapter, but it’s a solid framework around which to build later. When I’m in the groove and the words are pouring onto the screen I can go back to it and use that framework to turn it into something good. In the meantime, I avoided stopping my story dead in its tracks. I’m still moving forward. Still heading for the finish line. And that’s what’s important.

Lots of people talk about writing. But writers write. And that means no excuses. No justifications. Just writing.