New Territory

If you follow me on Identi.ca (an open-source microblogging service), you know a lot about what a day in this writer’s life is like. My posts on a typical day look something like this:

— Writing.
— Stuck.
— Pithy thought about what to do when I’m stuck.
— Comment on something I bought from the office snack machine.
— Comment on something I found on a blog while avoiding being stuck.
— Attempt to regroup.
— Wow, this piece/revision I’m working on is taking a lot longer than I thought it would.
— Real progress! Woot!
— Stuck.
— Pithy thought about what to do when I’m stuck.
— Rinse and repeat.
— Piece is done! Woot!
— On to a new piece…

With experience, I’ve learned to be dismayed by this process a little less. I’ve also learned that pretty much the only way I can get through those stuck places is by employing some trick to get past the blank page hurdle. Over the years, I’ve amassed a large quantity of tricks, but here’s the weird thing: they expire. A trick that seems surefire for some number of years suddenly loses its magic, leaving me to flail like a n00b.

My most reliable magic trick for quite some time was to write fast, and then fix the words once they were on the page. I’ve also tried writing slow, making sure that my hand moves even slower than my brain. Lately, my trick has been to start writing at the end, and basically work at a piece from the end as well as from the beginning. When I get stuck in one, I switch to the other.

The specifics of my tricks aside, it’s mysterious to me how writing makes me treat every piece as entirely new territory.

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One response to “New Territory

  1. I know what you mean about the stuck-unstuck-stuck-again thing. I’m stuck, and no time today or tommorow to work on it. I’m trying to tell the story through the first person, thinking that the character herself might help, since she (yep, it’s a girl) “knows” the ending. It worked for me once before. Turns out, this time she doesn’t know much more about her story than I know, so maybe this is like the “expired” techniques you described. I’m not ready to give up on it yet. I think I might have to do a better job suppressing my own thinking, and just let her talk.

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