Monday’s Friend: Charles Bowie
Today I am pleased to welcome fellow MuseItUp author Chuck Bowie to the blog to talk about a subject I’ve been talking about myself recently – Writer’s Block. Welcome to Imaginary Friends, Chuck!
Writer’s Block: Myth or Tragedy?
By Chuck Bowie
Ever want something very badly, only to find it just out of reach? Have you ever wanted something, and not even know what it is you are longing for? In career development circles, they sometimes refer to this challenge using something called the JoHari Box, or JoHari Window. The analysis tool was created by a couple of guys: Joe and, you guessed it; Harry. In one of the four circumstances one can find themselves in below, the problem is unknown to you and, worse, you aren’t even aware there is a problem. So, when you think of Writer’s Block, you can console yourself in knowing you are at least aware there is a problem, that being the blank page (screen) staring straight back at you.
Okay, so you know there is a problem: you can’t write. There simply isn’t the passage of ideas from your brain, turning to words on the screen. I confess I’m not one who has suffered the agony of staring at a page until beads of blood form on my forehead. The closest I’ve come to Writer’s Block has been to get to a passage and take a while—sometimes an hour—in an effort to regain my focus. I call it Writer’s Hesitation; I suppose it could be called Writer’s Block Lite. I think we will all encounter it, whether it’s the Hesitation or the full-on Block: I know what I want to say, I merely am not sure how I want to say it. On the solution front, I choose to review a few pages in the hope—in true Pantser mode—inspiration will grab me. I go back five pages, performing a hard edit on them. By the time I return to the accusatory blank screen, something comes to me and off I go.
What do others do about it? Dorothy Parker had the most extreme advice I’ve ever heard on the subject. She suggested “Write something, even if it’s a suicide note.” A bit extreme, you would agree.
Other folks can be paralyzed by WB, though. I was at a mystery writers conference in Massachusetts recently, and Craig Johnson (Longmire) was the keynote speaker. He spoke for a bit about Writer’s Block, and frankly, wasn’t positive the phenomenon existed. He said “Show me a person with Writer’s Block, and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t done a good job on writing an outline.” So, his solution was the pre-emptive strike: set yourself up with a detailed outline before you write the first sentence. It’s a sure-fired, he says, guarantee to prevent WB.
Johnson, who sounds like a Plotter to me, subscribes to the Boy Scout motto: be prepared (with a robust outline.) This is excellent, positive advice. I have a third suggestion. Drop what you’re stuck on, and go write something different. I do not mean stream-of-consciousness babble, I mean write a blog, an essay, a short story, or start that novel you’d been planning to get back to, one day.
So, there you have it. Perhaps one of these three ‘cures’ will fix your Writer’s Block and you’ll be back in action tomorrow. Whichever you choose, let’s all save Dorothy Parker’s advice for the very last. Even better, let’s not go there.
Chuck Bowie lives on the East Coast of Canada. He is currently writing Book 4 in the suspense-thriller series Donovan: Thief For Hire. His books have a focus on international intrigue, and he has been known to insert some of his favourite pastimes into his plots: wine, travel, food and music.
AMACAT, Book 2 is available on-line and comes out in print later this spring.