What exactly is writer’s block? There’s a quote in my Pocket Muse by Monica Wood from someone called Ray Blount, Jr in which he says that “...writer’s block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible.”
Mmmm... Not horrible, exactly, but just not good enough. It’s the fear that I’m going to fail the reader, especially after a book that has magically gone the extra mile (crazy when I’ve written six books since the “special” one that raised expectations ridiculously high). Whatever the problem, I can’t disguise the fact that since I delivered the ms for my latest book – another of those tough ones with a heroine who was all wrong, but just wouldn’t quit -- I’ve been grabbing any excuse to avoid getting down to writing that opening scene, committing myself to one of three story ideas I’ve fleshed out.
The days slip by and the excuses not to write the opening scenes begin to sound like, well, excuses. I really have to post something on my blog. I need to make purse calendars for some events. Then there’s the new website that needs a heap of stuff. And when I’ve done all that, there’s still the sack of bulbs that need planting.
Not one of these things is as important as starting the book – now, if I’m to finish before everything shuts down for the holidays: already I find myself thinking that maybe mid-January would be more realistic.
I’ve got three ideas, each one (well two of them, anyway) ready to take flight. Some interesting characters. That’s too many. If I had only one idea, two characters, I’d be pushing myself to make it work. Instead I’m cleaning my office, ordering stationery, making calendars, thinking about Christmas (actually you can blame that on the Oxfam Unwrapped catalogue which has just arrived in the post). Putting off the decision, afraid that I’ll get three chapters into the book and realise I’ve chosen the wrong one.
Here’s another quote from the Muse (dipping into this is just another way of avoiding the book)...
A college student asked visiting writer, Ron Carlson how one knows if one is really a writer. “... Carlson delivered an entertaining riff about the distractions that writers put in their own way, all the day, all the time: leaving the room to get coffee, check the mail, get coffee, walk the dogs, go to the bathroom, get coffee, look something up, get coffee. Then, dead serious, he summed up the whole enterprise in one line: ‘The writer is the one who stays in the room.’”
Actually, no. The writer is the one who stays in the room and refuses to get distracted by the Muse, the stationery catalogue, PR stuff and whether to buy an Alpaca kit (that’s for taking care of the alpaca, not an assemble yourself job) or a practical Condom Kit as a gift to the world for her best-beloved.
So will it be Princess Katerina, Sheikh Zahir or Count Giorgio whose story I tell? I already know whichever story I decide to write, three chapters in I’ll wish I was writing something else, I always do, and that’s paralysing, too.
I guess there’s nothing for it but to toss a coin, write, “Once upon a time...” And stay in the room until I get to “... and they lived happily ever after.”