Saturday, October 21, 2006

BLOCKED?


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.”

12 comments:

Magaret McDonagh said...

I'm reading blogs while having my lunch because I am procrastinating, too. I have every sympathy with your plight, but vastly more faith that you will soon be launching into another winner. I have blank first page syndrome. Sitting staring at the screen, knowing what I am meant to be doing, where I am meant to be going and, amazingly, with characters who want to get there! And a screaming, looming, horrible deadline that has paralysed me with terror. Yet my fingers hesitate over the keyboard and that first page is still blank.

I sincerely hope your coin toss or some other method gets you moving and you are soon on your way. I know all three stories will be fabulous, whichever you decide to write first. And if you find a foolproof way to get going, do let me know!!

Best wishes,
Mags

Jopee said...

Goodluck Liz! Whichever it is you do decide to write, I'm sure it will be wonderful. Reading the 3rd Bella Lucia book at the moment... they're beautiful reads, especially the first one. Looking forward to Feb and your conclusion :)

Michelle Styles said...

Liz --

YOu seem to be suffering from the crows of doubt.

They need to zoom away immediately.

I am sure which ever story you decide to write will be full of your wonderful story telling magic. Why? Because every story I have read by you has had the Liz Fielding touch. It is your voice and it doesn't vanish. Honest!

Phillipa said...

Liz - Nothing wrong with Christmas shopping to distract you - best way of clearing the writing doubts perhaps? I know you bought a camel last year.:) I bought schoolbooks. But have you read that animals are in short supply as so many have been purchased? There are lots of other great ideas though. I favour the bog kit! Hope your muse points you in the right direction: It always does for me as one of your readers.

Anne McAllister said...

I don't know, Liz, I think the writer who goes downstairs and puts the washing in and then comes up and writes a paragraph and then goes down and puts the dogs out, and then comes up and writes another bit, is a writer, too. The trick is to keep coming back up the stairs!

I know the feeling, though. As soon as I send my revisions off tomorrow I'm going to be wondering which book to pick, too!

Or maybe I'll just assemble an alpaca. I rather like the idea.

word verification: qvophvt (which looks rather like something an alpaca would say. Especially the 'phvt' part)

Anonymous said...

"So will it be Princess Katerina, Sheikh Zahir or Count Giorgio whose story I tell?"

You could always ask us to vote on it. (I like the sound of Sheikh Zahir)

Janet ch.

Sierra Donovan said...

Liz, I hear you on this one! I've even contemplated working on two books at once. Fortunately, I came to my senses -- one book at a time is the most I can handle.

As for Ron Carlson's comments, I say the writer is the one who keeps coming BACK into the room, until the words eventually come. And I know they will for you.

Here's hoping the story you pick is the one you'll be happiest with. Whichever book you choose to write, I have every confidence that your readers won't be disappointed!

Sierra

(P.S. My word verification was "fenbd". Which sounds a bit like something for an alpaca to sleep on.)

Julie Cohen said...

Did I tell you already that Monica Wood is the sister of my favourite high school teacher? Small world.

Julie Cohen said...

And you will be fine. You can't keep talent down!

Anonymous said...

Hi Liz

Write the sheikh. Please! Your last sheikh was great!

Mind you, I'll be happy with either of the others too.

Cheers, Reb

Priscilla said...

I've only just starting reading your books ,I just finished "The Sheikh's Guarded Heart" and I came to your web site hoping to find out if you were writing the book about Sheikh Zahir . I sure look forward to your next book and I hope it's Zahir's story.I'm planning to look for another book written by you today.Thank you so much for so much enjoyment .

Sincerely ,
Priscilla Clark

Liz Fielding said...

Hi Priscilla!

Thanks for loving Hanif and Luc's story and thanks, too, for taking time to stop by and tell me. The good news is that Sheikh Zahir has just met his match -- a zingy working class girl; quite what he'll make of her I don't know. Should prove fun!