Is This What They Mean By Writer’s Block?

I’m ashamed to say that I’m supposed to be writing my book right now. Or rather, editing it and rewriting as necessary. Having found the perfect location to work on the project, and having spent the last two days reading through the 87,000 words I put to rest back in the summer, I am intimidated by the prospect of digging back into the words. So this blog post is emerging as a vocalisation of that concern.

The book as it stands was poured out during the course of this spring, to the exclusion of all else. It’s been so surprising and eye-opening to read it back. It’s shown how deep within the mindset of retrospection I’d had to sink. The storytelling is enjoyable to follow (if I do say so), but complicatedly involved in itself, as if the author had effortless access to a vast library of material in which to wrap the sequence of events that forms the main storyline.

I’m so far away from that place, now, that I feel the need to write about myself as an author in the third person, so little idea do I have of how to go back there. What I’m now doing — standing poised with a scalpel over a piece of work I no longer fully understand — feels futile and presumptuous.

How can I get back to a zone where I feel that my edits, deletions and additions will improve the book, rather than destroy or erode its original essence — where I feel that I am once again master of my own subject matter? That’s a question to which I have no answer, and why you’re reading this blog post.

Perhaps a good place to start would just be to write afresh, without any reference to the existing text. Attempt to write what I think needs to be written, do what’s necessary to write it well, and then look later on for a way to somehow plumb the old into the new, assuming that such a way will eventually show itself.

Yes. That is what I’m going to do.

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6 responses to “Is This What They Mean By Writer’s Block?”

  1. Speaking from my own experience as useful as it could be to you- I found that I learnt some things from my journeying — experiences that highlighted particular ideas and each thing I learnt it was possible to communicate it fairly concretely. I would say a lot of it is learnt because its a particular time in my life and in retrospect I have already learnt and built upon the experiences I went through in the past. I understand your desire to make a good book. I would surely say that bold editing without cutting out the personal juicy bits. A lot is told in the film, so what do you want to additionally tell in the book? And if like me, a lot of the learning processes happened in the past, then how well can you return there to represent them in the context of you then, if thats at all possible or maybe its too late to do that well and its a case of writing it from now in terms of you having digested those past experiences. This is more how my second book is working out.

    1. That’s really useful. Thank you. With a series of journeys like this there is a definite set of fundamental lessons which I think everyone who takes such journeys has little choice but to learn. As you say, the art of communicating them is to take the reader through the same lessons, BUT via the events that created them, else risk them becoming irrelevant.

      I wrote the vast bulk of the book before seeing anything of the film editing or script development, so it was never a case of ‘augmenting’ the film’s messages and content, or writing it as a bolt-on — it was the book I’d been germinating for about 18 months. In fact, I think that’s why it’s become so difficult now — I’ve had my eyes on the film for so long that my head is swamped with its intricacies, and I’m always looking at the book in that light. Time for a break, perhaps…

  2. I’m probably not the right person to give advice on this matter, though I am wrestling with a manuscript myself. I have been away from it for about half a year, and that has actually been good, as I am now less connected to it. That sounds odd, but I find it easier now to distinguish paragraphs that are interesting for me only from sections that might have a general interest. It hurts when I cut out entire sections, but when I read it later and hopefully experience a better flow in text, it is quickly forgotten. Another issue is some of my boring and way too long descriptions. By condensing some of them into one or two sentences, they build atmosphere much more efficient and powerful. But, boy, it’s tough and slow going 😀

  3. Starting from scratch wouldn’t be a bad idea — don’t lose heart! Many works are revised and completely rewritten numerous times before they are ready for publication, and it only improves them each time. You find what is unnecessary, the points where you begin to stray from the topic, and it allows you to make it a more powerful piece. I look forward to reading this in its finished form, so keep at it!

  4. Why don’t you post a chapter for us that follow your blog to have a read? Get some reviews from someone else, it seems a lot of effort to start again?!

    1. Hey Sean. Thanks for the ideas. I’m not planning to start again entirely — just to rewrite the bits that need work from scratch rather than trying to modify what’s there.

      At the end of the day, though, I won’t publish it until it’s the book I wanted to write — however much effort it takes! So for that reason I’ll hold off a bit longer before leaking chapters 🙂

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