When I’m writing and encounter not a writer’s block, but a writer’s bump – where I’m not confident how to proceed or it doesn’t feel right – I’ll take a break. While writing “A Story About Self-Confidence: What’s In A Name?” a month~long story at Eville Medical in the Sammohini Arc of “The Story, that meant either going to bed early or driving into work early. During those drives, I’d often figure out the next section’s solution.
Usually, it’d be something straight-forward.
I didn’t keep track of which ideas I came up with while driving, but there was always a particular bend in the road where the traffic would clear up and my mind would clear up as well. During that stretch and during that bend, there’d be an interesting perspective for me to take that would drive me into the next chunk of writing. As much as I enjoyed spending hundreds of minutes writing, sometimes, those breaks away helped.
Let’s use a hypothetical example.
Say you have a character that’s in the middle of a difficult situation. They might be in the middle of an argument and that argument isn’t feeling realistic for you. You’ve pushed through it a little bit, but you’re not satisfied with the results. That’s when I’ll close down the work. I might go sketch out possible end goals for that chapter. Say the chapter needs to end with the resolution, and you have a 500-word stretch to embellish the argument.
Putting that section on my mind’s backburner helps me.
I can think of ideas later on, such as ‘what’s the repercussion of this argument?’ or the ‘so what?’ question that we must ask ourselves constantly. There were some asides that I wrote out in this novel that after I was done, I felt a little hesitant toward keeping. Two specific parts – the drunk scene and the printer scene – are weird. They push the novel into R territory. I left them in tact but then a similar backburner idea came up.
I was describing the weirdness to someone.
“The novel gets a little weird toward the end, but that’s because it needs to shift focus away from what characters are telling her and getting her to dig into her own psyche so she can figure out why she’s feeling as she does. If she’s just listening to characters, she’s not really digesting what they’re saying, or applying it to her own life and her own opinions during future situations.”
If you can justify it, you should keep it.
If you can’t, then cut it. That’s where driving away from your work can be helpful, too. As I finished Chapter 30, I went back to Chapter 01 and spent a fair amount of time editing and revising. I knew more of the character motivations and I had also developed my fiction writing talents. I also tried editing Chapter 01 as far back as Chapter 05, but that’s not really enough distance.
When I mean “drive,” I mean, get away.
It’s similar to going in for float tank sessions. You leave your car where it’s parked, your clothes where they lay, and you get in the tank as you are. If you have the ‘world’s best idea,’ you could get out of the tank and record it. What I’ll do, instead, is I’ll just keep on thinking of the idea from different perspectives until my hour or 4-hour time is up. I’ll then wash up and capture that idea, more fully developed, and more salient.
We sometimes try too hard to work in new ideas.
When we get away, like that float tank session or while driving where it’s not exactly the easiest or safest to write down ideas, we have to memorize them more. If the character’s argument’s resolution is by saying “you know what, you’re right, I have room to grow, help me learn,” and if that is a whole new direction, then your mind will fill in those blanks as you drive into your parking spot and you turn off the car.
This essay isn’t to advocate for distracted driving.
Quite the opposite. By focusing on your driving, your mind staying in the present moment, these ideas tend to appear during the lulls in the traffic, when the roads are clear, or when you’re in the middle of stop-and-go traffic. During those moments where you might otherwise be stressed out for being late or not quite ‘being there,’ letting something explore the back-end of your mind can leave you feeling more content and more focused.
In this way, driving is like active meditation.
Your focus is entirely on staying safe while you drive, and what I’ve found is that when my focus remains like this for a time, then occasionally a new idea will sprout out, and if it’s good enough, it’ll stick around. If not, then I might not even record the idea, since it’s the same as trying out a new pair of shoes only to realize they don’t fit quite right. It’s OK to return those shoes or let those mediocre ideas back into the pools of your imagination.
I can write while sipping coffee, too.
It’s the sort of notion of taking a break from something, even this essay where some of the previous paragraphs didn’t really take us that far along toward the argument of taking time away from your writing to strengthen your writing, because it’s a balance. Time spent driving is time spent not writing. If you find yourself wasting time in the writing process because the ideas aren’t flowing, then that’s when I’ll go for a drive, sip some coffee, or even just take a break to do something else.
This moment might be an example of that.
I’m not feeling inspired to end on a valiant note, one that inspires you to be alright with not blasting through your writing, but I’m almost there. My word count is within my scope.
Never stop writing, but never sacrifice yourself for your writing.
|Quotes:  Me.|
|Sources: The Story’s Imaginarium, my personal experiences, and my professional experiences.|
|Inspirations: I thought of the title while I was writing the novel but I waited until after I was done with the novel before I wrote this essay. Since I had such bad headaches for so long, I figure my advice is not the best to take after, but it’s still valid advice nonetheless, even if I couldn’t follow it myself.|
|Related: Other 2019 Novel writings.|
|Picture: Having a template picture means more time.|
|Written On: November 30th, 2019 [25 minutes, from 12:38am to 1:03am, Gdocs]|
|Last Edited: December 2nd, 2019 [3 minutes, gave myself a 2-word buffer that I needed to fill in on the introductory paragraph.]|